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The Great Wheel

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,140 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Your fortune lies to the west. Keep your face to the sunset . . . and one day you'll ride the greatest wheel in all the world.
When Aunt Honora reads this fortune in his tea leaves, Conn Kilroy knows he is destined for greater things than his small Irish village can offer. A letter from his Uncle Michael in America offering Conn a partnership in his New York contracting co
Paperback, 180 pages
Published 1994 by Scholastic Inc. (first published 1957)
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(showing 1-30)
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Amber Scaife
A sweet little story about a young man who helps build Ferris' big wheel for the Chicago World's Fair.
The details of the wheel's logistics were neat, and the parallel story of the young man immigrating to the U.S. was a nice complement.
Jun 04, 2015 Preston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early this year I came across a list of "100 Books Every Boy Should Read". The Great Wheel was one of the books on the list that I had apparently been deprived of as a boy, so I decided to correct the situation. This was a great find. Although it is written for younger readers, the story was uplifting and fun to read.
The life of a young Irish immigrant is changed in many ways when he is employed by Mr. George Washington Gale Ferris in the construction of the first Ferris Wheel for the 1893 Worl
Story Revolution
Your fortune lies to the west. Keep your face to the sunset . . . and one day you’ll ride the greatest wheel in all the world.” When Aunt Honora reads this fortune in his tea leaves, Conn Kilroy knows he is destined for greater things than his small Irish village can offer. A letter from his uncle Michael in America offering Conn a partnership in his New York contracting company sets Conn on his western adventure. Just a few short months later Conn’s Uncle Patrick lures him even farther west to ...more
Aug 18, 2016 Janell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable JF on the building of the first Ferris Wheel for the World's Fair in 1893. Admittedly, I've read other books on this Ferris Wheel so I'm not sure whether I'd have enjoyed this book as much if I didn't already have background on the events surrounding its construction. Enjoyed this one, though, and wish I could have taken a ride on this Ferris Wheel myself!
Feb 20, 2015 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-book
I really enjoyed it. Loved learning so much about the design and engineering of the ferris wheel. Also about irish immigrants, mr. Ferris, and the chicago world's fair. Loved the way the author wrapped it up too, but won't say more so as not to ruin the book for someone else.
Jadd H
Mar 23, 2017 Jadd H rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was SO hard to read. This book is 180 pages long, and probably some of the most boring 180 pages of my life. This book is about these main characters who help Mr. Ferris with his upcoming book project. Unfortunately, the people do not have enough money to fund the wheel, so they have to build it themselves. This book spends a lot of the time describing the "adventures" of working on the wheel. The wheel later gets finished and people start celebrating and enjoying themself. And thought ...more
Jarm Del Boccio
May 05, 2017 Jarm Del Boccio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Your fortune lies to the west, lad. Keep your face to the sunset and follow the evening star." From Ireland to New York to Chicago to a farm in Wisconsin, this classic award-winning tale slowly revolves and resolves as Conn follows his dreams and destiny: to work for Mr. Ferris on his fantastic wheel at the World's Columbian Exposition, and find Trudy- the girl with the blond braids, blue eyes and Dresden-doll complexion he met in steerage on his immigrant's journey to a new land. The center po ...more
May 25, 2017 Jersc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young adult historical fiction telling of how the first Ferris Wheel came to be at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago at the turn of the century. Parts of the book were slow, but overall it was a nice little story with a budding romance worked in. My sons both liked it (ages 10 and 12).
Christa R
Jun 02, 2017 Christa R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-aloud, alex, erik, me
It was interesting to see how much things had progressed just since the Civil War. Having visited Chicago, it was interesting to learn this history.
Laura Verret
I thought that this story would be from the perspective of an attendee of the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Instead, it tells the story of one of the men who helped build the Great Ferris Wheel!

The Story.

Cornelius Terence Kilroy has never dreamed of going west – but the west is calling his name! His Uncle Michael has offered for Conn to cross the Atlantic Sea, leaving his home in Ireland to live and work in New York City.

Conn agrees and the next day begins his journey to New York City. He enjoys his
Becky B
Our story starts with Conn, a young man in Ireland, who is told by his aunt that he will journey west following the evening star and ride a great wheel. Conn soon does find himself going west, called to join his Uncle Michael in a successful sewer and drain business in New York City. Conn quickly learns the trade and is a great help to his uncle who starts talking about making him a partner, but Conn isn’t sure he wants to make drains all his life. He keeps thinking of his aunt’s fortune for him ...more
Apr 14, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Great Wheel is the story of Conn, who helps build the world's first Ferris Wheel. It's also the story of his family, friends, and fellow immigrants, and each character is distinctive, colorful, and lovingly drawn. Take his Uncle Patrick, who assures Mr. Ferris that for every 1/16 of an inch wrong in the measurements, that amount should be sliced off his nose. Or Martin Brennan, master rigger, who jumps aboard the derrick raising the largest piece of steel ever forged - the size of which was ...more
Christopher Bunn
Robert Lawson is a superb children's writer, responsible for books such as Smeller Martin, Ben and Me, and Rabbit Hill. He's consistently good. The Great Wheel does not deviate from his high standards. It follows the story of a young Irish immigrant who comes to America and ends up working on the construction of the world's first Ferris Wheel at the World Expo in Chicago.

Part coming-of-age, part romance, delightfully humorous and full of colorful, finely crafted characters, this book is a keeper
I picked this up totally on a whim because it was sitting on an endcap, and had that bright, shiny Newbery seal on the cover. It was a new version with a celebrity foreward by Richard Peck, and I didn't realize until I cracked the cover that it was actually written in about 1950. I found it pleasant enough, but without much of a hook. It's the story of an Irish boy of about 18, circa 1900, who goes to America to seek his fortune, first working with his uncle laying sewers in New York, then recru ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it
This fun book from 1957 is about an Irish immigrant who comes to America and helps build the giant Ferris wheel for the 1893 world's fair. This is my favorite type of read aloud: we enjoy the story, learn some history, learn about amazing people who were not afraid to try the "impossible", and follow an innocent romance. It's amazing what men could accomplish back then without all of our bulldozers and modern technology. This was Robert Lawson's last book, and it was named a 1958 Newbery Honor a ...more
Jan 23, 2014 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-honor
Not terribly impressed. The author throws around engineering vocabulary when explaining the building of the Ferris wheel without explaining the meaning or function of those parts. And I didn't find it interesting enough to want to learn the meanings. Granted, I read this on the heels of several Newbery Honors by Holling C. Holling, who is peerless in his explanations and illustrations of machinery, among other things. Still, there was nothing particularly gripping about the story or characters.
Aug 23, 2013 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-books
I think this is supposed to be a children's book. It's on reading level 5, but there were many engineering words in it that I didn't know, so I'm wondering if a 4th or 5th grader would understand.

This book is about a young man who comes to America from Ireland and ends up helping to build the world's first ferris wheel.

I really liked learning the history of the ferris wheel. I liked the first part of the book and the last part, but I got kind of bogged down in the middle where it told a day-by-d
This is a superb book about Conn, an Irish emigrant who crosses the great ocean to build sewers with his rich uncle and perhaps take over the business because Uncle Michael has no sons. But when big breezy Uncle Patrick comes and tells Conn of a better way to work, Conn decides to follow his star. Perhaps even as far as Wisconsin, and ride the greatest wheel of all. Well written and entertaining, with delightful illustrations by the author.
Monica Fastenau
Read the full review here:

This Newbery honor book was a pretty interesting look at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It follows Conn, a young Irish man who moves to Chicago to help his uncle build the first Ferris wheel in time for the fair. I do wish women weren’t relegated only to a romantic role throughout the book, but it’s still a fun read.
Thomas Bell
Pretty good book. The story of the building of the first Ferris Wheel for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair was really good. The story of a boy traveling to the United States on a prophecy and a dream and then working hard for that dream was good. The story of falling in love with a beautiful german woman he met once as a boy and then saw her again as a rich girl and married her was not really that good.
Jan 28, 2009 Lorena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lorena by: Sunlight
Shelves: for-gabriella
This was a good book it's the story of a worker who contributed to the building of the first Ferris Wheel, we got to know a little bit of Mr. Ferris and the way the working conditions were at the time. I loved that the story is voiced by a young immigrant who pushes the bounderies and finds happiness in a new country.

This was a great to round the units we are doing on the years post civil war, the go-getters and the foundation of America as we see it today.
Oct 11, 2012 Kayla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my practicum class this semester with my group of fifth grade readers. We definitely made the most of it but I felt like it wasn't necessarily a clear book for students to understand reading concepts and we did a lot of locating places on the map with it... they definitely learned some locations of places! My students were really interested with the fact it was a real event. Overall, it was an okay book...
Interesting blend of immigrants, building with steel, learning a trade, and romance. Got better after a chapter or two.

See: Devil in the White City by Larson (non-fiction) which covers some of the politics and construction of the Ferris wheel and picture book, Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Davis.
Jul 13, 2016 sudsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed it, but I'm a little bit sad that they don't end up living in the carriage anymore. I love at the end when it's the last day of the fair and he describes it... it's kind of sad, but it's really happy, at the same time. It was such a hit! The fair, not the book. The first time I read it I did not like it. The second time, like, five years later, I enjoyed it much much more.
Our library had this book shelved in the Young Adult section, but I can't figure out why. It is the story of the building of the first Ferris Wheel. It was historically interesting, but a little dull at times. I especially liked the immigration aspect at the turn of the century. I'm planning on having Calvin (12) read this during the next school year.
Dec 14, 2012 Jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book is easy and fun to read. I read it aloud to my two elementary-age kids. The characters are entertaining and we laughed through many parts. Robert Lawson's detailed and brilliant illustrations add greatly to the story.
We enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Fictional biography of the Ferris Wheel. George Washington Ferris was actually a bridge builder who used his structural engineering know-how to invent and build the first Ferris Wheel for the 1893 Chicago World Fair. It was 250 ft. in diameter, and each car held 36 people!
Apr 19, 2016 Abigail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile, newberry
I liked this book for it's historical value. Both learning about the Worlds Columbian Fair and about the 1950's racial attitudes. But it is also the plethora of racial stereotypes that make it so I would never choose this Newberry winner as a book to recommend to today's 10 year old reader.
Jan 09, 2015 Ginger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We read this book together as family. The story quickly engaged all of us and held us to the very end. A great story about finding your destiny, your life passions, and the risks you have to take to do so. Plus, the historical aspect was an added bonus. Highly recommend it.
Mar 19, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Sonlight Curriculum
This is a fun, light, historical fiction book about a fictitional Irish immigrant, Conn, and the building of the famous first Ferris Wheel at the Chicago World Exposition in 1893. Full of hope and youthful optimism, humor and of course, a happy ending.
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Born in New York City, Lawson spent his early life in Montclair, New Jersey. Following high school, he studied art for three years under illustrator Howard Giles (an advocate of dynamic symmetry as conceived by Jay Hambidge) at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now Parsons School of Design), marrying fellow artist and illustrator Marie Abrams in 1922. His career as an illustrator began ...more
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