________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 16. . . .December 23, 2016


Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel.

Charise Mericle Harper. Illustrated by Ashley Spires.
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2016.
120 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-544-63063-5.

Subject Headings:
Best friends-Fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Christine McCrea.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



After breakfast I get ready for school, then give Sammy an extra-big hug before I leave. He watches me from the living room window and I wave from the sidewalk. Suddenly he’s barking. Why? I look around, and then I see what he sees. The new girl’s across the street, with her dad, walking in the same direction as me. She’s going to my school!

At the corner, I speed up and cross the street. Then, I sneak up on them, just like Sammy does with squirrels. Now I can hear what they’re saying. The new girl’s nervous.

Her dad holds her hand. “It’s okay. You’ll find a new friend.”

I smile. The new friend might be me.


June is always open to making friends, and when Mae moves in across the street, it looks like a perfect opportunity. But potential friendship is almost thwarted by the disagreeable April, a girl who is not prone to sharing.

     So goes the roller coaster of the primary school social scene. June, like all little girls, wants to be friends with the other little girls. But June has a close friend already – her dog Sammy. June and Sammy are more than just girl and dog. June knows what Sammy is saying (although no one else can hear it), and the two of them are almost constant companions. Together, they are seeking a friend who is “fun, friendly and full of adventure”.

     June has another advantage as well. Grandma Penny, “the best present giver in the whole world”, has sent her a Wonder Wheel. The Wheel is a bedroom-sized Wheel of Fortune and comes complete with a chalk board and envelopes full of instructions. After dividing the wheel into a pie chart, June and Sammy spin the wheel each morning and dance to its sweet sounds, (“tackity, tackity tackity”). Then they must carry out the actions prescribed on the wheel.

     One day, June must choose an animal and make it her spirit animal, taking on its animal traits to guide her actions. Another day she must start a collection. All of these activities elicit participation and commentary from the children at school and ultimately lead to fun, friendship and adventure.

     The Wonder Wheel is every young child’s dream. It builds excitement into every day, and June is always ready to take on the challenge. It’s also a great way for June to build her friendship with Mae. After Mae has a semi-disastrous playdate with April, Mae and June discover that perhaps their friendship is meant to be.

     This early chapter book will appeal primarily to 6-8-year-old girls. Narrated by June, herself, the book speaks directly to girls who will identify with June’s happy explorations and her dismay at the small slights of her classmates. June’s day-to-day adventures reflect the realities of school life for young children. Even her relationship with Sammy is believable, notwithstanding their ongoing conversations.

     A child’s affinity for her pet is part of this novel’s theme: friendship, whether with classmates, pets or imaginary friends, is a cornerstone of childhood and plays a significant role in a child’s psyche. Indeed, friendship is the central focus of Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel.

     Adding to the text are Ashley Spires’ gentle, cartoonish watercolours which appear in black and white throughout the book. Illustrations combine with the feel-good nature of Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel, making it a perfect chapter book for budding readers.


Christine McCrea is a children’s librarian at Richmond Public Library in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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