Fair Weather: A Novel
Thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett has never strayed further from her family’s farm than a horse can pull a cart. Then a letter from Aunt Euterpe arrives, and everything changes. It’s 1893, the year of the World’s Columbian Exposition—the “wonder of the age”—otherwise known as the Chicago World’s Fair. Tucked inside the pages of the letter are train tickets to Chicago, because Aunt Euterpe is inviting the Becketts to come for a visit and go to the fair! For Rosie, it’s a summer of marvels—a summer she’ll never forget.
Granddad emits a strangled sound, 13-year-old Rosie pitches right off her chair, and young Buster just vibrates. What event catapults the Beckett family into such a state? The arrival of a letter from distant Chicago—and not just a letter, an invitation from Mama’s elusive, wealthy sister Aunt Euterpe. She decides that it’s high time for the children to see the world beyond “the four walls of a one-room country schoolhouse.” And what better opportunity than the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, to honor the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America? Spanish nobility, President Cleveland, and Ferris wheels, oh my! Richard Peck, Newbery Medal-winning author of A Year Down Yonder, paints a charming portrait of a 19th-century farming family turned upside down by a visit to the big city. Narrator Rosie is friendly and funny as she describes the instant (if not entirely successful) citification of her family, encounters with Buffalo Bill himself, and her own delightfully eccentric Granddad who named his horse after Lillian Hellman (which is just fine until they meet her at the fair). This wonderful, witty glimpse into 19th-century America—sprinkled with historical photographs—concludes with an insightful essay on the Exposition. Heartily recommended. (Ages 10 and older) —Karin Snelson
Barnes and Noble
The author of the Newbery Award-winning novel A Year Down Yonder offers another witty tale of history and hysteria. Once again employing his hallmark fish-out-of-water theme, Peck tosses a seemingly naïve and countrified family into the heart of Chicago society, where everyone learns that first impressions can often be far off the mark.
The year is 1893, and 13-year-old Rosie Beckett, her 17-year-old sister, Lottie, and their 7-year-old brother, Buster, lead a hardworking and simple lifestyle on their family’s farm. Their prime source of entertainment is the antics of their somewhat eccentric grandfather, at least until a surprising letter arrives from their wealthy Aunt Euterpe, from whom they haven’t heard a word in years. Included in the letter are four train tickets and an invitation for the kids and their mother to come to Chicago for a visit so they can attend the World’s Columbian Exposition. Mother can’t go, but she sends the kids to the city, unaware that Grandpa, who was explicitly not invited, has stolen the extra ticket and hidden himself on the train.
The arrival of the kids and Grandpa throws Euterpe’s household into chaos and launches a series of hilarious misadventures. The Exposition offers an amazing variety of sights and experiences that keep the children spellbound and greatly expand their worldview. But the greatest change in their outlook will come not from the Exposition or their exposure to city life, but from crazy old Grandpa, who has a few eye-opening surprises of his own.
Peck tells this warmhearted tale from the point of view of young Rosie, whose wry observations, wide-eyed wonder, and occasional cynicism lend the work its charm and humor. Adding to the appeal is Peck’s inclusion of several real names from history (some with accompanying photographs), including the legendary cowboy Buffalo Bill, the entertainer Lillian Russell, and the inventor George Ferris, creator of the Ferris wheel. (Beth Amos)