Cynthia Lord's juvenile novel, A Handful of Stars, is a warm, touching story about loneliness and the
gift of friendship. It's a story about opening your eyes to change and differences and imagination. It's a lovely, thoughtful book.
Lily lives in a small town in Maine with her grandparents, living in an apartment above their general store. And, she never would have met Salma Santiago if her dog, Lucky, hadn't run away one day. Lily was scared because Lucky was a "blind, old, black Labrador", but she refused to back down, ignoring the signs saying don't go through the blueberry barrens in order to catch Lucky. But, it was Salma, a migrant worker from Florida who caught Lucky, attracting him with her bag of chips. And, it was Lily's grandmother who pushed Lily back to the migrant camp to give a gift of thanks.
Twelve-year-old Lily seemed to have lost her best friend to a boy, so she was grateful when Salma showed up at the store where Lily was working. Every day, she painted and tried to sell houses for mason bees so she could get an operation for Lucky. But, Salma saw the houses differently, and created imaginative houses of bright colors that sold quickly. Salma saw art as creative, and a talent, and when she decided to run for Downeast Blueberry Queen, that was the talent she picked. But, all along, Lily worried for her friend. Would anyone want a migrant worker for queen?
Cynthia Lord is not heavy-handed with the story. It deals with prejudice, and perception, and people who only see the world one way until someone shows them the world can be different. Lily and Salma and Lucky are all lonely characters. It takes Salma and Lily's grandfather to show Lily and Lily's grandmother another way of looking at the world. But, it's done carefully, as part of the story, and not as part of a pointed lesson.
A Handful of Stars targets the eight to twelve-year-old audience. However, Cynthia Lord's latest book is a warm, enjoyable story with a message for all of us.
Cynthia Lord's website is www.cynthialord.com
A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic Press. 2015. ISBN 9780545700276 (hardcover), 192p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.