Sunday, February 23, 2014

Diversion: Poetry and Middle Grades Fiction -- Robin Herrera, HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL

Middle-grade readers and the people who choose books for them -- librarians, parents, teachers -- have a new treat with Robin Herrera's first book, HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL. For 10-year-old Star Mackie, struggling in school in a new town where she's the only kid who comes to class from a trailer park, life is jammed with confusing mysteries. Why does her teacher hate her? How can she find a friend in this group of kids who range from weird to mean? And when is her father going to start sending her things, like the birthday card her older sister Winter received, or the old truck Winter now has?

This isn't a mystery, but it's a darned good novel, and Star is heart-warming and courageous. She won my applause over and over for how she handles ordinary but painful crises. And I'm particularly mentioning it today because we're just five weeks away from National Poetry Month -- and what eventually turns Star's life around is poetry, from reading Emily Dickinson to grappling with a Shel Silverstein poem to grasping what metaphor brings to her situation. I'd recommend this for middle grades as an encouraging and enjoyable novel, but also to high school classrooms where the story and the clear, smart writing can carry skeptical teens into realizing how poetry works and why it's worth their time.

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