A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord — book review

cover-handful-of-stars Friendship sometimes comes in unexpected places at unexpected moments. Lily is trying to catch her old and nearly blind dog, Lucky. Salma realizes what’s happening and uses her peanut butter sandwich to slow Lucky down and get him away from traffic long enough for Lily to catch up.   They’re from different worlds – Lily’s grandparents and guardians run a small store, and Salma’s family are migrants working in the blueberry barrens outside town.   Lily and Salma both feel like outsiders, though while painting bee houses and planning for the blueberry festival, they get to know each other and become friends.

This is a pretty quiet book, but it covers a lot of ground. Lily has never thought about how the migrant workers who come to her community really live, although they’ve been coming there and shopping in her grandparents’ store for years. Lily’s oldest friend, Hannah, is changing and becoming a little obsessed with “Amazing Brandon.” And Lily is worried about losing Lucky, one of her last links to her mother, who died in a car accident long ago after a fight with Lily’s grandmother.

I don’t know of a lot of children’s fiction that includes migrant workers, aside from Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadotha. It’s something many of us, like Anastasia, don’t really think about as much as we maybe should. Who picks those blueberries we find in the store?  How do they do it?  What do they do when blueberry season is over?  What’s it like to move so many times in one year?  There are a lot of questions, once you start thinking about it.  This might be one place to begin that conversation with kids.

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