A Handful of Stars
Author: Cynthia Lord
Published May 26th, 2015 by Scholastic
Goodreads Summary: This powerful middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author ofRules explores a friendship between a small-town girl and the daughter of migrant workers. When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season. After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant—and possibly win? Set amongst the blueberry barrens and by the sea, this is a gorgeous new novel by Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord that tackles themes of prejudice and friendship, loss and love.
My Review, Teachers’ Tools for Navigation, and We Flagged: Salma and Lily quickly become star friends (friends who may not always be together, but will look at stars to think of each other). Salma is different than anyone that Lily knows. Not only because she is a Hispanic migrant worker, but because she is carefree. Lily, on the other hand, is a rule follower, and Salma may be just what she needs and vice versa.
Every Cynthia Lord book I read, I am reminded of why I enjoy her writing so much. Her stories are always touching and find sweetness and love in situations that are not always examined. She also paints her stories with such beautiful imagery. “Our feet crunched the reindeer moss under our feet, as loud as if we were walking through autumn leaves. The only other sounds were the mind blowing the little American flags on the soldiers’ graves, the buzz of insects, the chirp of birds, and the occasional rumble of a car driving down the gravel road past the cemetery.” (p. 109) Beautiful. She always transports me.
As an art museum director’s daughter, I always appreciate some art love also, and Salma really shares the importance and immense greatness of art. Great quotes about art: p. 151-153, 156
Other favorite pages: p. 60, 74, 94-96
A couple other things I loved: Another wonderful grandfather in a book, the reference to Blueberries for Sal (p. 112), and the look at adolescences and how hard it is the grow up.
A Handful of Stars was also my informal Twitter book club’s August book choice. Some of my favorite things said from the chat were:
“I found I was absolutely connecting to the characters and story but having to stop and just be in awe of certain lines.” Carrie Gelson
“But somehow summer fills up & flies by…as August wore on, I couldn’t help feeling sad pangs.” A favorite quote shared by me and Michele Knott
“I love how @Cynthia_Lord talked about how being in a friendship can be lonely – ‘lonelier than if you were by yourself.’ pg 56” Carrie Gelson
“She just is such a great example of living in the moment, being true, taking risks. [About Salma]” Carrie Gelson
“I loved the differences in the approaches to art.” Michele Knott
“I think this would be a perfect pair with the Cesar Chavez PB.” Leigh Anne Eck
“And that there is more than one road to happiness and therefore, different kinds :-)” Carrie Gelson
This is a book that screams to be read with/by kids. Such a quiet, important book with so much within.
Discussion Questions: How was Salma different from Lily’s other friends?; How are Salma and Lily different?; What do you think will happen to their friendship?; How did Salma influence Lily? How did Lily change throughout the book?