Author: Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Publication: Feiwel & Friends (November 9, 2010)
Description: 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?
My Thoughts: This was a nice work of historical fiction. Hope was a character in search of a home. She was on the vaudeville circuit with her father who was a magician. She acted as his assistant. She was very tired of the constant travel and wanted to have a home. When they got to Chicago amid all the fear and confusion of the impending arrival of Halley's Comet, Hope comes up with a way to make some money to provide some security for herself and her father. Her anti-comet pills offer hope to many frightened people. At first, she is just in it for the money but she quickly sees her customers as people in need of hope.
I liked the descriptions of the vaudeville life including the dirty boarding houses, the shabby theaters, and the train travel. I thought the evil manager was a good villain for a middle grade book. He held power over his acts and was a thief too. Hope's father wasn't very parental. He treated Hope more like a partner than a daughter and didn't watch over her very closely. Both were grieving for Hope's mother in their own very different ways. I know that Hope was looking for financial security. I think that Hope's father was just hoping to outrun his grief.
I liked the one-liners that Hope punctuated the story with. I think my favorite was "That gal's mouth is so big, she can whisper in her own ear!"
I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction who like to read about feisty characters.