Lord, Cynthia. A Handful of Stars
May 26th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Lily's dog, Lucky, is her main connection to her mother, who was killed in a car accident when Lily was very young. Lucky is mostly blind, and when he runs away across the blueberry barrens, he is fortunate to be caught by Salma before he gets to the woods. He eats Salma's sandwich, and Lily feels bad. Her grandmother suggests taking a special casserole to Salma's family as an apology and thank you. Salma's family lives in a migrant worker camp while they are harvesting the blueberries, and Salma is rather tired of always being in a different place. The girls make a connection, and soon Salma is helping Lily paint bee boxes to sell to raise money for eye surgery for Lucky. The girls plan on selling them at the local blueberry festival, and also decide to sell blueberry enchilladas. Lily's former best friend, Hannah, is bound and determined to be the blueberry queen at the festival for the second year, but is helpful when Salma wants to enter the competition. There are problems along the way, but in the end, there are some innovative solutions that make everyone happy.
Strengths: The conditions under which Salma's family lives are interesting, and there aren't a whole lot of modern books (this brought to mind Blue Willow) that cover this population. Lily and Hannah's relationship was very well portrayed, and the setting of the small, close-knit community and the supportive grandparents were an endearing touch .
Weaknesses: While the overall tone of this book was as cheery as the very nice cover would indicate, the underlying feeling of Lily's sadness over her mother's death was an unnecessary detail. Lucky's plight was sad enough, and given the age of the dog, I was surprised he survived the book. Why interpolate so much sadness when it's not necessary?
What I really think: Will buy because of the cultural diversity and the dog on the cover, and will use it when the 7th graders need problem novels.