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?
A HUGE thank you to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, who awarded SELLING HOPE the 2011 Crystal Kite Award for the Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri region. Thank you, too, to the National Homeschool Book Award, who nominated SELLING HOPE as one of four finalists. (Click here to see a photo of one of the wonderful homeschool groups touring a vaudeville theatre after reading SELLING HOPE!) My gratitude also extends to the Gelett-Burgess Center for Creative Expression for naming SELLING HOPE one of the top books of 2011!
From Booklist, 11/15/10, a starred review!
Tubb, Kristin O' Donnell (Author)
Nov 2010. 224 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover, $16.99. (9780312611224).
In 1910, Halley’s Comet caused quite a pandemonium. Thirteen-year-old Hope, a smart and smarty-pants heroine, travels the country on the low-level vaudeville circuit with her magician dad, but she desperately wants to ditch the show and stay in Chicago. To do that they’ll need money, and in a flash of inspiration, Hope whips up a side business selling “anti-comet” pills (thinly disguised mints) to hysterical people convinced the comet will bring any number of horrendous calamities with it. She gets help from another kid in the show, Buster Keaton, who, aside from being adept at slapstick, is handy at bringing a blush to Hope’s cheeks. Tubb deftly ingrains a thoughtful ethical question into the story (is Hope really helping people by assuaging their fears or simply ripping them off?) but never overdoes it in this bouncy tale populated by a terrific cast of characters. The well-synthesized period flavor extends right down to the one-liners that punctuate Hope’s earnest, easygoing, and perfectly pitched narration (“This morning’s gravy was so thick, when I stirred it, the room spun around!”). In the end, though, it’s Hope’s relationship with her father—a sort of proto-hippy-dippy naturalist who often seems more of a child than Hope—that steals the spotlight with a gentle and well-earned tug of the heartstrings.
— Ian Chipman
From School Library Journal, December 2010
Tubb uses rich historical material well in this clever story whose time line is a 17-day countdown to the comet catastrophe. Not only are Keaton and his family part of the scene, but so are Bert Savoy, a comedian in drag; Benjamin Franklin Keith, an impresario; and the Cherry Sisters, a dull act regularly pelted with rotten fruit. Wisecracks, most of them vintage, are interspersed in a way that makes readers feel Hope is muttering them in response to what is happening.
From The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, December 2010:
Tubb, Kristin O’Donnell Selling Hope. Feiwel, 2010[224p]
Reviewed from galleys RGr. 5-8
Her father’s job as a vaudeville magician has kept Hope McDaniels on the road for much of her thirteen years, and she wants nothing more than to settle down in a real home, attend a real school, and make some real friends. The imminent arrival of Halley’s Comet, due in a mere seventeen days—May 18, 1910—may just be her ticket to better times. Mass anxiety over the comet’s threat to life on Earth is steadily rising to hysteria, and Hope, no stranger to vaudeville-style flimflam, seizes the
opportunity to raise a few month’s rent by selling “anti-comet pills” (paste-covered Sen Sen breath mints) to gullible people desperate for deliverance. Assisted by young fellow vaudevillean Buster Keaton, Hope watches the quarters roll in, but whether she can convert her riches to a stable lifestyle depends largely on her ability to shield the operation from the unscrupulous road manager and convince her father to leave his act, which has become surprisingly successful now that he has incorporated patter (which he truly believes) encouraging the audience
to use their collective will to alter the course of the comet. Even though readers will anticipate the benign outcome of the fateful date, they’ll find themselves drawn in by the countdown to possible doom and intrigued by Tubb’s subtle examination of the fine line between offering hope and dealing deceit. Kids bemused by the notion of mass panic might want to ask their parents what they did to prepare for the turn of the millennium. EB
“[An] oft-engaging, pleasantly romantic romp through a fascinating time in America’s entertainment history.”