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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 7 years, 4 months ago

7 August 2015 A HANDFUL OF STARS by Cynthia Lord, Scholastic Press, May 2015, 192p., ISBN: 978-0-545-70027-6


“Seems like I’m not here, it’s like I don’t mean nothing

Like glass, I’m clear almost like you can see straight through me”

-- Jennifer Hudson, “Invisible”


“‘Do you have to live here to enter?’ Salma asked.

Why’d she ask that? I tried to catch Salma’s eye, but she was looking at Hannah.

‘No, last year there was a girl from New Hampshire in the pageant,’ Hannah said. ‘It’s easy to enter. You just have to copy the form off the festival website and bring it to Mrs. LaRue at the Congregational Church. Then the night of the pageant, you wear a fancy dress, answer some questions onstage, and do a talent.’

‘Oh,’ Salma said. ‘I don’t have a fancy dress with me.’

Whew. That solves that. Salma was pretty enough to win a pageant. But the Downeast Blueberry Queen was usually blonde, like Hannah and Mama. And white. But I couldn’t say that. It would sound like we were prejudiced.

And maybe there was some of that? Or maybe the judges simply thought blondes were prettier. But either way, there was something shameful in saying that, and I didn’t want Salma to think I thought that way.

‘I’m getting a new dress for this year,’ Hannah said. ‘So I could loan you my dress from last year.’”


Twelve-year-old Lily is an orphan, living with her grandparents above their general store in Maine. Salma Santiago is the daughter of migrant workers, living in a camp near town while they’re employed for the blueberry picking season. Thanks to the antics of Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, who sniffs out and eats Salma’s lunch one day, Lily and Salma become friends. Lily’s particularly happy to have a new friend, since she’s lost much of the connection with her lifelong friend Hannah, who seems to be going boy-crazy.


When Salma learns from Hannah that the prize for becoming Downeast Blueberry Queen at the annual blueberry festival is a $5,000 savings bond for college, and that Hannah can lend her a dress for the pageant, she decides to enter the competition. Overcoming her initial hesitancy, Lily gets excited and hopeful for Salma. Meanwhile, the new friends also dream up a plan for raising money to get Lucky cataract surgery.


While things might not turn out for the girls exactly the way they envision, I like the way in which this coming-of-age story portrays young friends empathizing with and caring about one another. It also provides a portrait of hard-working migrant farm workers who, in many instances, can seem invisible to us.


YouTube makes a great companion for A HANDFUL OF STARS. I learned so much about blueberries and blueberry picking from reading the story. Then I watched a video of someone wielding a blueberry rake to harvest blueberries, and a video of a wild blueberry packing line in action.


We’ve been bringing home fresh blueberries from the weekly farmer’s market, and now I can appreciate better what’s gone into filling one of those plastic clamshell containers with fresh berries.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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