A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

When Lily’s blind dog Lucky runs off across the blueberry fields, Lily panics. She’s terrified that he’ll run into something and get hurt, like a car. But Lucky is saved by Salma Santiago and her peanut butter sandwich. Salma and her family are migrant farm workers who spend the summers in Maine during blueberry season and then move to another harvest in another state. This accidental meeting leads to an unlikely friendship as the two girls discover they share a love of art and dogs.

Lily is trying to earn enough money for Lucky to have cataract surgery by selling hand-painted bee hives in her grandparents’ shop. Salma, a talented artist, helps to paint the boxes and even has an idea that Lily should have a booth at the Blueberry Festival. Salma has plans for herself too. She wants to win the Blueberry Queen pageant because first prize is a $5,000 savings bond for college. Inspired by Salma’s courage, Lily decides to go for it so Lucky can see again.

Cynthia Lord, author of the Newberry Honor book RULES, has given us a window to a world that most of us will never see. How many of us have been to the wild blueberry barrens of northern Maine? Or how many of us have been friends with a migrant farm worker? Down to earth, safe and straight-forward Lily is the warm pastry to Salma’s fresh, tart blueberry filling. Together the girls make A HANDFUL OF STARS as sweet and satisfying as a warm-out-of-the-oven blueberry pie.

I’ve always been a fan of character-based contemporary fiction and Cynthia Lord is a master of including all the relevant details that make the characters so real that they live on in the imagination long after the final chapter. This is recommended to any reader who enjoys a fulfilling friendship story. It would also be a welcome addition to classroom libraries as a way to give young readers a glimpse into the lives of migrant workers.

A Handful of Stars is available at Amazon and other retail stores.

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