Title: Selling Hope
Author: Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Concepts: entrepreneurship, working conditions, wages, consumers, unions, poverty, savings, child labor
Review: 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.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children