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Book Review: The Ferris Wheel

March 12, 2024

On one side of the world, a boy looks out his window to watch colorful fireworks burst in the sky. In another part of the world, a girl presses her face to her window as she sees rockets and bombs strike her neighborhood. Their lives are so very different, yet in the Turkish picture book The Ferris Wheel, their stories intertwine and run parallel to one another in what is one of the most moving picture books I have read in recent memory.

Published in an English translation late last year by Interlink Publishing Group's children's imprint Crocodile Books, The Ferris Wheel is written by beloved Turkish children's book author Tülin Kozikoğlu and illustrated by Bulgarian born artist Hüseyin Sönmezay. As the book begins, both the boy and the girl leave their homes with one of their parents. Both parents—the boy's mother and the girl's father—hold their child's hand as they walk. Crossing the road for the boy and his mother involves being mindful of the cars that drive by; for the girl and her father, there is a tank rumbling in their path.

The children continue on their journeys, the illustrations showing the differences in their circumstances. The girl and her father cross a river on a makeshift raft to eventually join a passport control queue, while the boy and his mother cross a picturesque bridge and join a ticket line into an amusement park. Sometimes the text accompanying the contrasting illustrations is the same, word for word, using repetition to great effect.

The girl and the boy arrive at seemingly the same place, underneath a Ferris wheel. Both children ask to ride, and after hesitating, their parents assent. Under a shared night sky, the wheel turns "around and around, trading places/until everyone understands they are all riding the same Ferris wheel." Here The Ferris Wheel makes its salient point: no matter where we are from in the world, we are more alike than different. We set out with hope, sometimes with longing (represented in the illustrations by the goldfish the girl leaves behind, which follows her and father throughout their journey), in search of what we need to not only survive, but thrive.

The Ferris Wheel is a timely and needed book in 2024. It asks us to recognize that children in the midst of war fleeing with their families in search of safety are just as deserving as our children. Author Tülin Kozikoğlu never makes this argument outright, however. In fact, the text is short, no more than two lines on any given page. A longer author's note reveals that the book was inspired in part by Turkey's location "at the crossroads of East and West," where nearly everyone has a story of coming or going, sometimes involuntarily. As Kozikoğlu explains, the book is meant to spark conversations "about the dreams that we share, and our universal right to seek safety."

Hüseyin Sönmeza's illustrations are captivating. I found myself gazing at the expressions on the children's faces. Happy, playful, or unsure, they make the reader see the world through their eyes. He uses bright color somewhat reservedly, to great effect. The girl's red outfit, for example, and the boy's yellow raincoat draw the reader further in to the action and emotions at play.

If you are a parent or caregiver whose child has questions about war or displacement, I highly recommend The Ferris Wheel. It has social emotional learning applications around issues of empathy, compassion, and migration. Although the text is not complicated at all and is an ideal density for even children of preschool age, the subject matter may be more immediately appropriate for children in grades Kindergarten and above. But war, as we know, does not spare even the youngest children. They too deserve a witness.

*This review was adapted from a blog post originally published at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog.

Klem-Mari Cajigas


In a former life, Klem-Marí was a Religious Studies scholar. She much prefers being the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life! She wants you to read and share books with the children in your life, and for those children to see you to read as well. Originally from Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí also enjoys her cat, baking, yoga, and the works of Octavia Butler.