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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

(MMGM) Robin Herrera, author of Hope is a Ferris Wheel {Review, Interview, Giveaway}

I'm stoked to have Robin Herrera stopping by today to chat about her book, Hope is a Ferris Wheel! Plus, you can check out my review and enter to win one of ten copies...

Hope is a Ferris Wheel
by Robin Herrera

Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future.
With an unforgettable voice with a lot of heart, Hope Is a Ferris Wheelis the story of a young girl who learns to accept her family and herself while trying to make sense of the world around her.

Robin Herrera’s Hope is a Ferris Wheel is a profoundly honest, sometimes starkly so, yet inspiring and hopeful coming of age story about one girl’s search for acceptance and truth. Real and immensely moving, with a wonderful heroine, Hope is a Ferris Wheel is such a lovely, memorable middle-grade contemp.

Ten year old Star Mackie has just moved to a new town with her mother, older sister Winter, and her mom’s best friend Gloria. Made fun of at school for living in a trailer park and for her layered (totally not a mullet) blue hair, not even Winter, who Star adores, can solve her problems. In hopes of being accepted by her peers, Star starts an Emily Dickinson club and ends up finding the friends, truth, and self acceptance she never realized she needed.

While appropriate for its intended audience, Hope is a Ferris Wheel is far from a simple, cutesy middle-grade read; it has surprising and captivating depth. Herrera deftly explores heavy topics (poverty, bullying, teen pregnancy, abandonment, etc), through the eyes of ten year old Star, with honesty, heart, and humor. There’s so much about this story that is relatable! Even if you’ve never lived in a trailer park or struggled financially, Star’s self-doubt, longing for acceptance and love, and need to make sense of the world around her, are things that we all grapple with.

Herrera has given Star such a memorable, pitch-perfect voice! There’s just something so real and refreshing and endearing about Star. I love her determination, creativity, and compassion. Winter, Star’s sixteen year old sister, is a firecracker of a character: she’s feisty, witty, wise beyond her years, yet desperate for many of the same things Star longs for. The relationship between Star and Winter is probably my favorite aspect of the book, so it’s a good thing it’s so fantastically crafted and developed! The love, respect, and mutual need between these two girls is so deeply felt. I must also mention Genny, one of Star’s classmates and eventual friend, because she is too awesome. I absolutely love this sweet, plucky, funny girl!

And as a wordnerd, I’m so thrilled that Herrera gave Star a love of poetry! The interaction between the members of Star’s club (and there are some surprising members), as they smartly discuss poetry, are some of my favorite scenes.

My Final Thoughts: Star’s story isn’t sweet or simple or wrapped up in a pretty bow, nor should it be. It’s honest and real and relatable and surprising in its complexity and depth. Hope is a Ferris Wheel is a palpably felt middle-grade contemp. that left me hopeful and thoughtful.


What three words best describe Hope is a Ferris Wheel?
Funny, poignant, and hopeful.
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Hope is a Ferris Wheel a try?
It’s a hilarious trailer park soap opera! I honestly don’t know if that would get anyone who’s not me to read it, but I think that sums up the book pretty well.
Grab a copy of Hope is a Ferris Wheel and answer the following:
favorite chapter?
Chapter 5. Through all the drafts of this book, that chapter has remained my favorite, because I think it perfectly describes one of the main conflicts in the book: the conflict between Star, her sister, and her mother. I refer to it as “the hot dog chapter.”

favorite page?
Page 17, because it has my favorite vocabulary sentence on it. (Hysterical)

favorite poem discussed in the book?
Langston Hughes’ “Dreams,” which is one of my very favorite poems, ever.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser?
“Denny glared at me like it was all my fault. I tried telling him Genny had given it to me, but my mouth was full of organic chocolate pudding.”

What inspired Hope is a Ferris Wheel? How did the story come to be?
This question tends to get a very long-winded answer. :) Basically, when I was in college, I wrote an adult novel about sixth-grade delinquents. The main character of that book had a brother, so I decided I should do a book about his exploits when he was in the sixth grade. I made up a bunch of classmates for him to interact with, and one of them was Star Mackie. I thought a lot about Star Mackie and how she ended up in a class full of terrible sixth-graders, and that’s what inspired me to write Hope Is a Ferris Wheel.

I made it middle-grade because I’m planning on doing that with the original sixth-grade delinquents story anyway, and because I was focusing so much on Star and her feelings. The adult book had been sort of a “Look How Terrible Kids Can Be” narrative, but now that I’ve spent time going over my old drafts and notes, I’ve changed it to “Here Are Some Bad Kids and Why They’re Bad.” The difference is pretty subtle, but it works better in middle-grade to have the characters be somewhat sympathetic. (Which they weren’t in the adult version.)
There are some memorable characters in Hope is a Ferris Wheel (I especially love Genny!) you have a favorite? What do you love about him/her? Did any of your characters end up surprising even you with the way they turned out?

I’m glad you like Genny – her character has pretty much stayed the same since draft one. She’s always been easy to write. My favorite character is Eddie, mostly because of things I know about him that didn’t make it into the story. (If you want, you can read more about Eddie and how he came to be here:
What I love about Eddie is that, to everyone else, he’s a bad kid. He even believes it himself. He doesn’t really care about other people’s feelings, but that starts to change a bit over the course of the book, and begins to step out of the “bad kid” shell he’s been stuck in his whole life.

The most surprising character in this book was probably Langston, though. Langston started out very mean and quiet, like he was spending all his time plotting something terrible. He also wasn’t as close with Eddie as he ended up being. Plus, he didn’t have a name until the second draft! But once he had his name, things began to come together. I realized he wasn’t the criminal mastermind I was trying to make him, he was just a goofy kid with terrible habits and a crappy home life. He likes attention, which makes him obnoxious, but in a charming way. He’s a lot of fun to write, now!
In Hope is a Ferris Wheel, your main character, Star, starts an Emily Dickinson Club...what kind of club would you have wanted to belong to in the fifth grade?

I actually did belong to a Stamp Club in fifth grade, which sounds completely boring, I know. But it was a lot of fun! In fifth grade I would have jumped at the chance to be in a painting or drawing club. I used to draw comics/write stories about a character named Super Robin (obviously) who got super powers after getting hit by a falling piano, so a comics club would have been pretty great, too!
As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade?

I think kids need books to read that mirror their own experiences. This is why I love contemporary books so much. They can be as escapist as fantasy and sic-fi for kids whose lives aren’t stable. But I also love historical fiction, which can give kids a better understanding of a time period and empathy for not just past events, but current events. When children read about something like racism in the past, they compare it to the present. They’re able to say to themselves, “Things got better,” or, “Wow, some things are still the same.” And they get that drive to make sure things keep changing for the better.

What I love most about middle-grade, especially reading it, is how whimsical it can feel. Middle-grade can be pretty out there in terms of story and plot, but if you go into it with the right mindset – your ideal reader’s mindset, basically – and your imagination is open, you can believe in anything. I like that idea, and I have a very big imagination, so that’s why I like writing it as well.
What is your all-time favorite middle-grade book, middle-grade hero, and middle-grade heroine?
Favorite book: Holes by Louis Sachar
Favorite hero: Curzon from Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Favorite heroine: Violet Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at making stuff up in my head. Seriously, I think I am the master. I started at a young age, so I wouldn’t be bored in church.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t read anything by Diana Wynne Jones. I KNOW, OKAY, I KNOW. I KNOW.

The last great book I read was THERE WILL BE BEARS by Ryan Gebhart. Humor, heart, and a great multi-generational relationship. And bears!
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Hope is a Ferris Wheel, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

What a cool question! Donuts play a fairly big role in the book, and I love how bright the colors on the cover are, SOOOO, I think the cupcake would be maple-bacon flavored with bright blue frosting and lots of colorful sprinkles. The wrapping would be tinfoil, of course, in honor of the tinfoil man. And I’d call it a Hope-cake.

Thank you so much, Robin, for stopping by and chatting today!

Win 1 of 10 hardcover copies of 
Hope is a Ferris Wheel!
The awesome folks at Amulet/Abrams have donated ten copies for ten winners.
-US only
-ends 3/31
-ten winners will each win one book
-must be 13+, one main entry per person
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-all entrant emails will be collected by Abrams. By entering the giveaway, you are subscribing to the Abrams Kids eNwsletter. As a subscriber, you'll be the first to know about new titles, upcoming author events, just released videos, teaching guides, exclusive giveaways and so much more!


Anonymous said...

I love this: "They can be as escapist as fantasy and sci-fi for kids whose lives aren’t stable." Thanks for a wonderful interview!

Carl Scott said...

This sounds like a very worthwhile read. Kids have issues and they're not small ones by any means. BTW - I collected stamps too when I was a kid. No club though but I thought it was fun.

Brenda said...

"Hilarious trailer park soap opera", love that description. I collected postcards of places I went, they always turned out better then my pictures.

Jillyn said...

I'm a huge fan of Emily Dickinson, and I'm really excited to see how her works come into play in this story (and I love the cover!).

Unknown said...

I have been looking forward to this bbok for a while now. I love these coming of age types of stories. I requested it on Netgalley and got denied so I am so excited to see this giveaway! Thank you!

Michael G-G said...

Hi Robin,

I cannot wait to fete you at your book release party at Powell's. Yay you!

Unknown said...

Thank you Robin for this book with some Emily Dickerson in it, I think that it will be fun to follow Hope in her journeyof acceptance of who she and her family are. Thank you

Unknown said...

What a lovely-sounding book. I am impressed by the inclusion of Emily Dickinson in the book. She's such a wonderful author and has written so many beautiful poems that are appropriate for the age group. I had teachers begin to read her work to me as early as second and third grade. This type of novel can be so influential in a child's life. Children can be really mean. Discovering an appropriate escape can make a huge difference in a child's life.

Irene said...

I hope I can get my hands on this book, it sounds like something I'd fall in love with. I don't usually read coming-of-age stories, but I recently finished one that I really enjoyed and I'm eager for more.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Robin!!!

alicia marie said...

I've heard such good things about this book, I've got to read it!!

Kirsten! said...

Blue hair?! I wish I was that cool when I was 10 :P
This books sounds really neat- I mostly read fantasy, so I almost never hear about contemporary books (even though I do tend to enjoy them immensely), so thanks for introducing me to it :D

Charlotte said...

This sounds like a lovely Kristen said right above me, I read mostly fantasy so it's fun to see what else is out there!

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

I love the cupcake question! It's so fun to see what these authors come up with. I really like the sound of Hope is a Ferris Wheel, I don't read a ton of MG contemporary but maybe I should.

Jill the OWL said...

You talked about the main character's voice and how well done it was. That's always the thing that turns me off from a MG book - when they get the voice wrong. Glad to hear this one got it right!

Unknown said...

(This is Darith L)

I'd love to read this! It sounds like a good MG contemporary! :D

Melanie Conklin said...

I've heard the voice in this novel is fantastic, and I can't wait to find out what happens in the story!

Anonymous said...

This book is one that I am GREATLY looking forward to reading this year! This interview is lovely. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I review this book over on my blog and also interviewed Robin and love reading your interview as well! This is such a refreshing and fun MG book--I'm definitely recommending it a lot to both young readers and teachers!

Orchid said...

Ooh, I am definitely intrigued by this one; a middle grade book with a great character voice and sisters who get along. I am going to have to read this as some point this year.

D.E. Malone said...

I've heard so many good things about HOPE. Looking forward to reading this, and I'm in love with this cover!

Barbara Watson said...

This is another I'm excited to read! Thanks also for the chance to win this one.

Jessica said...

This authors inspiration for writing it was neat! And I love her answers to why she thinks MG is important and the cupcake question, too! This book looks good, and I love the cover of it! :)

anne s. said...

everyone who has read this book raves about it! what glowing reviews on goodreads!would love for a chance to win!

Lisa Shafer said...

Emily Dickenson and Ferris Wheels? I'm in!