#189 – The Universe of Fair by Leslie Bulion

5 Stars
The Universe of Fair
Leslie Bulion
Frank W. Dormer
No. Pages: 264   Ages: 8-12

Inside Jacket:  For young science whiz Miller Sanford, an eagerly awaited day at the Fair turns into a wacky adventure with more twists and loops than the BlastoCoaster!

Hopeful that this year his mom and dad will let him enjoy the annual town Fair alone with his best friend, Miller works hard to show his parents how responsible he has become, including being nice to his annoying little sister, Penny.

When his mother can’t attend the Fair and his father has to cover her volunteer booth hours as well as his own, Miller ends up with more responsibility than he bargains for. Instead of enjoying a freewheeling day on his own, he’s drawn into a series of mishaps involving a string of tagalong first graders, his dad’s prize-worthy lemon meringue pie, and flying death heads!

Miller wants this year’s Fair to be the one where he finally gets to run around with his friends and not his family, and especially not his annoying six-year-old sister, Penny. Miller has been extra nice to Penny and trying hard to show his parents he is responsible and thus able to attend the fair with friends. Little does he know that his responsibility-abilities will be tested. Mom is stuck at work looking for a run-away teen, dad is working double volunteer shifts at the fair, and the neighbor recruited to take the kids is stricken with a migraine.

Hour-by-hour Miller watches the Fair slip away until he takes matters into his own hands. He has been looking forward to fair food, fair games, fair rides, and a fair ball cap. By day’s end, Miller will have not seen any of those fair items he savored. What he did get was the responsibility he eagerly tried to show his parents. Miller, and best friend Lewis, spend the day hustling around three scattered six-year-olds, honoring the first grader’s demands, and soothing the youngster’s stomachs with the fair food he himself rarely gets a sample of.

I enjoyed reading The Universe of Fair, devouring it in one evening. The pages kept on turning and I kept on reading. Full of crisp tween humor and pathos, the story is a wonderful look at sibling relationships and the power of fate or karma. One theme of the story is be wary of that which you wish for—as it just might fall in your lap, and at the worst possible time.

When reading, I could hear the fair’s background noises; a mixture of laughter and screams by the rides. Oh my and the rides, The Gravity Whirl reminds me of the spinning hell I rode once, and only once. Miller cannot wait to get on this ride, but his three charges have other ideas. You have to feel for Miller. Ms. Bulion captures that fair feeling, the giddiness, the hectic pace, and the excitement in the air. She also captures Miller’s disappointment, and his first encounter with real responsibility with equal expertise. A sense of community shines in the pages with dad and his jack-of-all-trades volunteerism.

And then there is the pie. Dad bakes pies daily trying to find the prizewinner. Then the pie is taste tested. So when there is a pie on top the fridge, Miller slices it up. Only when there is but one piece left does Miller realize the pie was THE prizewinner he is to enter for his volunteering dad. Not knowing what to do, Miller enters the one piece into the pie competition, hoping to explain.

Frank Dormer’s illustrations are quirky, like the story. He uses line drawings that look like old-fashioned cartoons. I like the simplicity and the expressions in each drawing.  While there are 25 such illustrations in The Universe of Fair, I would have loved to see many more. The illustrations help set the tone of the book.

I love how Ms. Bulion gets into the psyche of each kid. Did she have a brother or sister like each one of these six kids? She knows them so well. I laughed and groaned more than a few times. Each character is well written, exquisitely detailed, and likable. From quiet Lou Ann to in-your-face Penny, the characters are everyday kids who can be both funny and poignant. Boys and girls will both like this tale of friendship, family, and fair freedom for one kid on one important day of the year. I loved The Universe of Fair and wonder what Halloween and Christmas are like for young Miller Sanford. I am hoping Ms. Bulion will let me know in a follow-up book.

The Universe of Fair

Author: Leslie Bulion   website
Illustrator: Frank W. Dormer   website
Publisher: Peachtree   website
Release Date: August 1, 2012
ISBN: 1-56145-634-5
Number of Pages: 264
Ages: 8 to 12


17 thoughts on “#189 – The Universe of Fair by Leslie Bulion

    • Okay Erik. Tell me why. Why do you like the title “Universe of Fair?” I thought you would be interested in the string theory and The Theory of Everything Leslie explained in the interview. Miller’s exhibit is about The Theory of Everything.


  1. Pingback: The Universe of Fair Illustrated by Frank Dormer « Kid Lit Reviews

  2. Pingback: Q&A with Author Leslie Bulion « Kid Lit Reviews

    • Yes, your daughter would love this book. And it will make a great Christmas present. If you don’t want to wait that long, the Great Pumpkin can always stop by with a copy of The Universe of Fair, which sounds like a “Fair” deal to me.

      Welcome! Welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading the review. I hope to see and read your comments again.


    • Thank you, Leslie. It was a real pleasure having you here at Kid Lit Reviews, even though it was in a virtual capacity. It is always nice to talk to another social worker and then to have that person now writing kid’s books, it’s really more than I could ever dream to have on my little site.

      Thank you for answering my questions that were not part of the interview. Oh, and those questions, too! 😮


    • Thank you Diane. If my review makes you remember times of yore, reading the actual book will have your mouth drooling. You’ll crave fast and loopy rides and your heart will start beating fast. The crafty person who lives inside of you that loves to sculpt and paint will insist upon being released to submit this year’s winning piece.

      If that isn’t enough, there is a mystery involving a cemetery, an old man who knows just when to appear, and a psychic who will call you out in front of dozens of your closest classmates.



  3. This looks like a fun, fun book! So much chaos going on. When I was a guide dog pup I got to go to the State Fair a couple of times and Whew!! It is chaos! But so full of excitement. The food – Yum!. The smells – enticing! The games, the rides, the people! Just from your description, I can just feel how much Miller wants to enjoy all those things. and the pictures look just perfect. I think I will be checking this one out! Thanks!


If you like this post ... Why?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.