Eleven-year-old Miller’s favorite day of the year is Fair Friday, the opening day of his Connecticut town’s annual fair. This year, the science whiz is trying to prove that he is responsible enough to go to the fair with his best friend, Lewis, not with a parent—a struggle for independence that middle-grade readers will doubtlessly relate to. But even before Fair Friday arrives, things start to go wrong: Miller accidentally serves his father’s pie (which was intended to be entered in a baking contest at the fair) as an afterschool snack. Then, due to parental work and illness, Miller gets stuck taking his six-year-old sister and her two friends to the fair. Ghost sightings, lost first-graders, and Miller’s attempts to get his father’s mostly eaten pie into the contest make for a very different Fair Friday than Miller expected. Bulion (The Trouble with Rules) captures the boisterous, chaotic nature of the fair, as well as its primacy in the grade-school social calendar. Dormer’s characteristically sketchy and childlike illustrations match the upbeat mood of this entertaining story. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
- Suzanna E. Henshon
What exactly is a fair universe? In this comical novel, Miller Sanford, a science whiz, would not know. Despite his prowess in the laboratory, he ends up taking his little sister Penny and her friend to the fair. What could be worse than watching your kid sister all day long, while your friends go on rides and enjoy themselves? Miller tries to be upbeat, but one mishap haunts his conscience; he made the mistake of serving his father's lemon meringue pie to his friends, not knowing it was intended for the town fair baking contest. With just one piece of pie left, Miller debates whether to tell his father or not. Deciding not to confess his culinary sin, Miller heads to the fair and enters the remaining piece of pie to the contest. Then Miller spends the entire day worrying what his father will think when the baking contest occurs. At the end of the day, Miller's sister disappears into the crowd. Suddenly he realizes that nothing could be more important than finding his six year old sister, and at the end of the day he finds her hidden in a pumpkin. Young readers will enjoy this tasty story, which contains delicious illustrations and wonderfully funny scenes.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Miller's family is deeply entrenched in the annual town fair, and Miller has been planning and saving for months for a day of games and rides and fair food while his parents volunteer at events. The 11-year-old has always been under vigilant adult supervision, and this year, he fervently hopes to have some freedom to explore. However, he inadvertently feeds his dad's entry for the pie contest to his sister and friends, his mother has a work emergency that forces his dad to double up on his duties, and Miller finds himself babysitting his sister and two other children. He takes them all to the fair, hoping for some windows for fun and quickly learns what is involved in being responsible for the safety of three active youngsters. Thankfully, his sudden experience with responsibility reaps him some rewards in the end. Dormer's occasional drawings add a sense of quirky humor to the story. Bulion's book is simply told, in realistic kid language. The author has a sense of how a child thinks and processes the world, and this insight comes across clearly in her story. Readers get a detailed view into a typical day at the fair-the sights, the sounds, the smells. The book is not filled with daring adventures, faraway lands, or animals in clothes, but it is a bird's-eye view into the experience of being an 11-year-old.Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
In 11 1/2-year-old Miller's town, the fair is the central event of the kid year. He's been saving and planning for months, and finally, it's fair time. He and best pal Lewis plan a day of rides, games and fair food and work hard to make his parents believe that he is responsible enough to go without them. But then best-made plans go sadly awry. He accidentally feeds most of his father's pie entry to his 6-year-old sister and her friends. Then his parents suddenly can't take him and won't let him go alone. Miller, despairing, rounds up his sister and her two friends and brings them to the fair, believing he can still manage some time for fun. Miller can fret with the best of worriers. As the day slips away, with no rides, no fabulous fair food and most of his money going to care for the little ones, concern for their safety washes over him as he begins to fully understand the true meaning of responsibility. Accompanied by Dormer's slightly surreal black-and-white illustrations, this winsome effort not only lovingly celebrates the color and magic of the fair, but endearingly depicts the inner landscape of a maturing child encountering his first taste of the adult world. A cheerful and totally entertaining look at fairs, friendship and the value of family. (Fiction. 8-12)