Ferris by Kate DiCamillo

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As is so often the case with Kate DiCamillo’s wonderful books, I finished reading Ferris, her newest offering, and I felt immediately that I need to go back and read it again. It left me with a satisfied feeling that everything will be alright, even when things don’t work out like you’d want them too. In this middle grade novel, the titular main character Ferris has just finished fourth grade and her summer is shaping up to be a unique one, where all sorts of new experiences add up to a changed feeling about growing up and about dealing with the future.

Ferris’ town felt very similar to the small town in DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. It was a safe place for a soon-to-be fifth grader to roam freely, and her little sister also seemed to explore and imagine throughout town without supervision. This type of 1980s-ish summer is a wonderful format to tell a story about a growing child, someone who is finding herself and discovering how events and people relate to each other.

Just as Winn-Dixie began with the foreshadowing of events by stating that these things happened because of the dog, Winn-Dixie. Ferris begins with a list of the unusual things that happened that summer, including a ghost haunting her grandmother Charisse, an uncle moving into the basement, and her friend playing the same song on the piano. The story tied together these events into the theme of togetherness and love. Although at the beginning of the summer people weren’t quite unified, by the end of the summer and with Ferris’ help, she and her friends and family were united in helping the ghost, which seemed to have a desire of it’s own. And that desire wasn’t taking Charisse to the world beyond thank goodness.

Ferris has the Notice and Note signposts throughout, making a great book for discussing words of wisdom, comparing and contrasting, repetition, universal questions, the importance of memory or flashbacks, and so forth. It feels easier to read than Winn-Dixie, but the togetherness themes, feelings, setting feel very similar in my mind. Ferris’ story wasn’t quite as endearing to me, but it is certainly going to be cherished and loved by middle grade readers because of the fantastic characters and engaging “ghost story”-ish plot.

Reviewed on July 1, 2024

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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