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The Great Wheel

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,530 ratings  ·  99 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 ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Walker Childrens (first published 1957)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,530 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent historical fiction. A little laudatory, a smidge 'racist,' (not to worry, but do let your children know that people from Ireland generally don't want to be called 'Micks' for example), and a bit draggy in the middle for those of us not fascinated by every detail of engineering.

But it also has plenty of Lawson's distinctive illustrations, and a more interesting people story towards the end (which, to be fair, might be more boring to those who liked the heart of the book about the constr
Luisa Knight
I really enjoyed this historical fiction!

Learn about the vision and construction of the first Ferris Wheel. It was quite the engineering feat and one in which all of the engineers of its day thought wouldn't work - all except George Washington Gale Ferris. He had the vision and the brains to figure out just how to present the world with a ride they would never forget!

Told from the point of view of an Irish immigrant who worked on the wheel from start to finish, this book will be a fun read for t
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Fitzgerald
A nice historical fiction story. I'm not sure I agree with the choice of cover images, since it is a spoiler (the first 50 pages or so have us wondering about what this "great wheel" could possibly be). Lawson's drawings of Conn seem to make his head too small. ...more
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lawson's Great Wheel is one of his very best novels, and alas, his last. He tells the story of the building of the Ferris Wheel at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892 through the eyes of an Irish Immigrant, Conn Kilroy. There's romance, adventure, excitement and history - this is the kind of book that makes the reader want to know more upon finishing it. A truly charming book, and winner of a Newbery Honor ...more
Amber Scaife
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson is a uplifting book with a powerful ending. Although the beginning is a bit slow it evens out and is really good.
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 rated it really liked it
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! ...more
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting story about the construction of the first Ferris Wheel for the Chicago Exposition. My children and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the historical information, as well as the charming story woven throughout about a young man in search of his destiny.
Once upon a time Conn lived in Ireland and his Aunt Honora told him he'd go west and ride a great wheel. Soon after his Uncle Michael sent for him to come help with his sewer company in New York. Conn was given all kinds of advantages but apparently didn't want that so his Uncle Patrick gave him another opportunity to head to Chicago and build a great wheel. Mr. Ferris's wheel, to be exact. At this point there are many engineering descriptions that don't really make a lot of sense without any un ...more
Mary Ann
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
My 6th and 2nd grade boys and I read The Great Wheel together for our homeschool curriculum. We really enjoyed it! The story was both educational and engaging.

Conn is a poor young Irishman who leaves his home to come to America to work for his uncle in New York. But Conn knew that he had more of a journey ahead. Before leaving Ireland, his fortune-teller aunt told him that he will go to the west and ride the greatest wheel. After successfully working in NY for a while, Conn has the opportunity t
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-to-my-sons
The first half of this story was honestly very boring for me to even read to my sons, and I nearly gave up, but didn't want to, since I thought the subject matter would interest my sons. The problem I had with it is that the accents given to people are hard for me to even understand (and believe me, I read them using accents, which I did pretty well, but the way the words are typed up made it difficult).

Conn seeks his fortune from Ireland into NYC to work for an uncle, when another uncle picks
Jadd H
Mar 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
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 Boccio
May 05, 2017 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
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I first read this charming story about 55 years ago. Upon rereading it yesterday I found that I remembered some of it but had forgotten a lot. Of course I now know much more about the historical context of the 1893 World's Fair and about late 19th-century immigration. That added to my appreciation of the tale about a young Irishman's experience as a crew member who built George Washington Gale Ferris's great wheel, one of the marvels of the World's Columbian Exposition.

Robert Lawson's pen-and-in
Heather Benza
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
My boys 9 & 12 got a little bored with the super specific descriptions of the actual nitty gritty building details. Overall we found it to be a really fun peek into the grit of a boy leaving Ireland to make his way as an immigrant in America.
Quite a bit of opportunity to discuss racist words and descriptors. This may be a turn off to some, but I appreciate the opportunity to dissect the ways thoughts and assumptions are subtly ingrained without conscious acknowledgment. The hope being my childr
Steve Ward
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery-award
This was an enjoyable book for me to read because it concentrated on the creation of the giant Ferris wheel for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, something that has intrigued me for many years. I think the author created a good mix between the engineering story and the human interest story about the handful of main characters. Both were well done which led to a wholly satisfactory reading experience. I'd recommend this book to any reader 8 and older especially those interested in immigration and bi ...more
Maximilian Lee
I might of not liked this book because the first Ferris Wheel might have been crudely built (at least I think so). I also think the Ferris Wheel was a big wastes of time (in a way) because some people destroyed it after the world's fair. This book was about a boy named Conn and his fortune in the U.S. Overall, this book is very informational about the time when the first Ferris Wheel was getting built. ...more
I like to read Newberry Honor books from the past. I enjoyed the description of the building of the Ferris wheel, but I had a hard time getting past the way they talked about race in 1957 when this was published. They described the Scandinavian workers as "square-heads," and it seemed like the only folks that prospered were the white English speaking workers with connections. An accurate view of the time, but not a book that my diverse students today could relate to. ...more
Jim Collett
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
An older young adult novel, the book still remains quite readable. The central focus of the story is a young Irish boy who immigrates to America become part of the crew constructing the first Ferris Wheel at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Readers learn a great deal about the wheel (and a bit about the fair) while remaining involved through the story line. I found it a nice read to learn a bit of unique history. Fun ending!
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Great Wheel is a very captivating book. It is about the Ferris Wheel being created and all the problems that came along with making it. A boy named Conn is one of these workers. I like the mix of historical and fiction in this book. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in construction and adventure.
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
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).
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sonlight
I had never heard of this book before we got it with Sonlight E. My daughter and I both thought it was very interesting. It was a little hard to read aloud in places due to the dialect, but over all it’s a great story of hard work and not being afraid to follow dreams that others may call crazy.
Jenny Yahn
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a good read that required a little bit of Irish background information to get going for my 5th grader. Armed with that information, the book was a delight, full of interesting information and story about the first Ferris Wheel. It was a great read in our homeschool.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
I rather enjoyed this one. I loved the excitement and thrill of successfully building something that people said couldn't be built. It was fun to read about the time when a Ferris Wheel was a crazy notion. ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and its characters SO MUCH but I would need to reread it to articulate exactly why. The MAJOR plot twist is incredible! It made me so sad every time they talked about tearing down the wheel. The ending was amazing!
Vincent Darlage
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this for the history of the Great Ferris Wheel of 1893... and I loved the little love story attached to it. The author captured the dialects well and made a great story out of the building of that first Ferris Wheel. Also neat that the author illustrated his own book.
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading this to the family, great characters and a go-getter attitude to life's challenges. Loved the natural humor weaving its way through the story. We all thought we knew how it would end, but ended up surprised! ...more
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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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