Book Review: A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

A Handful of StarsA Handful of Stars
Cynthia Lord
Scholastic Press, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-70027-6
Hardcover

Simply stated lessons about friendships, both fleeting and forming, blend beautifully with little lessons about tiny blue bees and Wabanaki blueberry legends.

A mature little girl, Lily (because “Tigerlily” is a weed, not a name) spends her summers helping in her grandparents’ general store….which is to say the only store in a blueberry-harvesting Maine town busy with migrant workers, locals and tourists from America and Canada. Painting bee houses at her very own table, Lily earns money for an operation that may help her cherished Lucky see again.

“People want us to come and work, but they want us to be invisible.”

The beloved bond built on the unconditional love between girl and dog is artfully illustrated in this book. It is a vibrant thread throughout pulling Lily to Salma, the young migrant worker who shares the affinity for dogs and the sorrow of loss. The girls aren’t exactly alike. Lily’s bee houses are carefully stenciled where Salma’s are impulsive and colorful.

“That’s what I like about art. It lets me become more like myself, not more like everyone else.”

Lily is engagingly open-minded and inclusive with a bit of a stubborn streak. Her growth, while not monumentally exponential, is enlightening and reassuring. Realizations are sluggish; but sweet and hopeful, like a slowly waking rose bud bursting open to brilliancy.

While this is clearly a compelling, captivating story for young readers, it should not be pigeon-holed as a “children’s” book. I honestly and truly believe that every single person deserves to experience the magic of an unapologetically honest, delightful friendship and the benefit of shifting perceptions.

“(Tigerlilies are weeds) only because somebody said so. Lilies are proud and sassy. They don’t know they’re weeds.”

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2015.

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