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by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Selling Hope is an inventive middle grade novel about a girl who wants a normal life and how she sees Halley's Comet as her ticket out of the vaudeville circuit.

It's May 1910, and Halley's Comet is due to pass thru the Earth's atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe.

Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a "normal" life -- or as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents "anti-comet" pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, she's joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?

“[An] oft-engaging, pleasantly romantic romp through a fascinating time in America's entertainment history.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Download Selling Hope epub
ISBN: 0312611226
ISBN13: 978-0312611224
Category: Teen
Subcategory: Literature & Fiction
Author: Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Language: English
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (November 9, 2010)
Pages: 224 pages
ePUB size: 1358 kb
FB2 size: 1550 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 410
Other Formats: lit lrf lrf txt

In 1910, Halley's Comet caused a panic. Thirteen-year-old Hope, a spunky and smart girl, travels the country with her magician dad, but what she wants most of all is to find a way to stay in Chicago. They will need money in order to do that. That's when Hope gets an idea. She sells anti-comet pills which are actually mints, to hysterical folk who are ready to buy anything. A young Buster Keaton is in the show and he gets in on the act. Hope is taken with this young man, (he makes her blush.) This is a perfect blend of history and fiction. The narration is amazing with cultural depth similar to Mark Twain's. A great read for boy or girl.
Like many of the other performers in the vaudeville circuit of the early 1900s, thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father Nick had few skills that could land them a higher-paying factory or office job. So they stuck with the vaudeville tour despite the low pay and poor working conditions: seedy boarding houses, abysmal food, endless train trips, and uncertain job security. Hope actually felt relieved when she heard that Nick's magic act, for which she served as an assistant, might get cut from the lineup after their month-long stay in Chicago.

Hope longed to stay in Chicago, which she considered home. All she needed to do was save up enough to pay the $2 to $3 weekly rent charged for the typical furnished room that she and Nick would need while they searched for jobs. A fortuitous set of circumstances brought the perfect opportunity to earn this kind of money. Earth would pass through the tail of Halley's Comet in two weeks, and people wielded all sorts of irrational fears. Hope figured she could sell these people some new hope in the form of Anti-Comet Pills to relieve their anxiety. At 25 cents a pill, she could make some easy money. But was it right to take advantage of vulnerable people, some of whom had financial circumstances as tenuous as those of Hope and Nick?

This novel provides readers with a unique storyline and interesting historical setting. Cleverly intertwined throughout the text are important themes in economics, including entrepreneurship, working conditions, savings, and child labor. While the main character seems overly mature for her thirteen years, the book ranks highly on substantive content and an entertaining plot.
It's May 1910, and people around the world are working themselves into a near frenzy over the coming of Halley's Comet. Astronomers predict that the Earth will actually pass through the tail of the comet, and despite assurances from scientists that no harm would come to people on Earth, many are panicked, thinking the end of the world is at hand.

Author Kristin O'Donnell Tubb,taking inspiration from the centenary of this Halley's Comet hysteria, has written a delightful historical novel for middle grade readers. The story centers on 13-year old Hope, who tours with her magician father in a "small-small-time" vaudeville troupe. Hope alternates between serving as a magician's assistant for her father and playing the role of a child medium with Cross-Eyed Jane, her roommate and mother-figure on the vaudeville circuit (Hope's own mother having died some years before the story begins).

The book's narrative begins on May 1, 1910, "Seventeen Days Till the End of the World." Hope's got more immediate worries than the impending comet however; it's about time for the annual blue envelopes, in which the road manager, Mr. Whitting, hands out notices to those who are being fired from the show. Hope secretly wishes that her father's act will be cut, so she can live in one city and one house, like other children. But Hope is always practical, and she knows that if they're out of a job, they'll need money, and fast.

And the comet provides her with the perfect opportunity, when she is struck with inspiration, "almost as if the tail of the comet reached out and tapped me singly...Money. Medicine. Mints. Yes, these people needed hope. And I was just the one to sell it to them. In pill form." And who will help her with her scheme but the young Buster Keaton, appearing with his parents on the same vaudeville program as Hope and her father. Soon she and Buster are raking in the money from Chicago residents of all ages, those who "need hope more than money." And she's even invited by Buster to an elegant comet party at the swanky Palmer House Hotel. It will take more than anti-comet pills, however, to make Hope feel safe and secure, as she struggles to figure out what home and family mean to her.

Tubb does a terrific job of capturing the atmosphere of the comet panic, making effective use of actual news headlines from the period to begin each chapter. She also vividly portrays the "small-small-time" vaudeville circuit, peppering Hope's first-person narrative with suitable vaudeville one-liners, giving a real sense of life on the vaudeville circuit. We also learn lots of vaudeville jargon, like "coin," for customer, experience life in a cheap boarding house with its awful food and dirty rooms, and meet real-life vaudevillians in the novel, including not only Buster Keaton but other actual performers as well.

The author provides a brief list of recommended reading on various topics touched on in the novel, as well as an Author's Note that provides some additional background on the Halley's Comet appearance in 1910 and vaudeville.