Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Handful of Stars: A Review and Audio Book Giveaway!

I think I can honestly say that I've never read a Cynthia Lord book that I haven't enjoyed. From her picture books about a wild and wacky hamster, to her sensitive middle grade book Rules about an autistic boy and his family, Ms. Lord has a way of telling stories that entertain, teach, and delight readers of all ages. 

So, when I had the opportunity to review an audio book for Recorded Books and A Handful of Stars was one of the selections, I jumped at the chance.  

I wonder if elementary or middle grade teachers asked their students who the protagonist of this story is, who would they choose? Would they pick Tiger Lily, who has lived with her French Canadian grandparents in a small town in Maine ever since her mother's death when she was a young girl? Young readers might (correctly!) identify that Lily's desire to save her beloved dog Lucky's eyesight is a central problem; the conflicts which Lily faces over her dog and being the right kind of friend makes her the protagonist. 

Or would they pick Salma, a migrant farm worker in town to pick blueberries for the summer with her family, who not only shows Lily a truth she didn't want to see about Lucky, but also teaches her about art, courage, and what it means to work hard to follow your dreams? 

Then again, I can imagine a spunky fourth grader volunteering that the true protagonist is Lucky. Because if he hadn't run away from Lily, she might never have met Salma. He was responsible for bringing the two girls together in an unlikely, but special friendship that is central to this story. 



There you go. Now that you have some teasers, here are a few favorite parts:

In order to save money for Lucky's eye operation, Lily sells painted bee houses in her grandparents' store. She stencils on three different patterns and carefully paints each one to realistically resemble blueberries, leaves, or flowers. When Salma volunteers to help, she thinks outside the stencils. Her blueberries are pink or purple and the results shock Lily. When Salma says she loves art because there are different ways of looking at the world and there are no wrong answers, Lily's thinking is challenged.

Proof of the pudding is when Lily goes outside her normal way of painting a bee house and decides to paint a Tiger Lily (first wondering if it a flower or a weed) without using a stencil. When she is done, she admits it's not perfect, but signs her name anyway. This time she created art. 

Another favorite plot point is the empathy Lily develops when she learns that her mother, a French Canadian, struggled to feel as if she belonged in the little Maine town. Understanding her mother's history enables Lily to see the obstacles facing Salma as she competes in the local Blueberry Queen pageant. 

Finally, she remembers her grandfather's advice to be brave and passes it along to Salma at the pageant: "To do brave things you don't have to be hugely brave. You just have to be a bit braver than you are scared," is so delicious that I have to include it here too.

This would make a great holiday gift for a young girl in your life (ages 8 and up.) I am giving away the audio CD through this issue of Talking Story. Leave a comment here for one chance to win; leave a comment through the newsletter and I'll enter your name twice. Contest is up December 7 so enter now! And make sure you leave your email address if I don't already have it. 




17 comments:

Deborah Allmand said...

I loved RULES. Can't wait to read this book! Great review and teasers.

Carol Baldwin said...

First one into the giveaway. Thanks Deb!

sheri levy said...

Thanks, Carol, for sharing this! So excited to learn about Rules and A Handful of Stars. Her writing sounds inspiring! I'd love to know about how and why she did an audio version for that age group.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. If you don't win this book, you need to check it out of your local library. Excellent read!

Rebecca Flowers said...

I'd love to win a copy!

Carol Baldwin said...

I'd be happy to add your name, Rebecca. Please leave me your email info.

Linda A. said...

Carol,
If I should win, I will gladly donate this to a teacher in a public school who reads to her students. I know she would share it with her class and possibly pass it on to other teachers on her grade level. Sounds delightful. Thanks for reviewing so many quality books.

Jo Hackl said...

RULES is one of my favorites. Thanks, Carol, for this great review. I'm looking forward to reading HANDFUL OF STARS and appreciate your sharing the details.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. I added your name to the growing list!

Carol Baldwin said...

Yep, RULES is great also. I'll add your name to this giveaway list too.

Rosi said...

I do love Cynthia Lord's books. Thanks for telling me about this one. Don't put my name in the hat this time, though. I'm not an audio book person.

Maureen Ryan Griffin said...

Excited to share this with two young girls in my life! Thanks for sharing it with us ,Carol!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
I love the cover. Don't enter my name. I'd rather it go to someone with children.

Great review!

Sincerely,
Joan

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Just stopping by to say, "Cynthia Lord 'Rules!'" :-) Thanks for featuring this wonderful author. Your thoughtful reviews are extra special, Carol. (Don't include my name for the drawing.)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks folks for taking the time to leave comments. Maureen-- you're in. Clara, Rosi, and Joan--thanks for letting someone else win.

Connie said...

This sounds like a wonderful read for grandmother/granddaughter time! Thanks for this great review and giveaway!
Bkessings!
Connie
cps1950 (at)gmail (dot)com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Connie. You're in!