I love a good dog story. I also love a good cat story. In a Handful of Stars, which I just finished a few days ago, Lily’s dog is blind and she is his only guide. Cynthia Lord, the author of Rules, which earned her a Newbury Honor, released Stars last year, and it is such a great read. Lily lives in Maine with her grandparents. She doesn’t know her father, and her mother passed away when she was really young. All she has left of her mother is this dog which she had before she died. During the summer, in preparation for the blueberry festival, she befriends another you girl named Salma. Salma is the daughter of migrant workers, in the area to pick blueberries for the season.
They are introduced when Salma saves Lily’s dog from being hit by a car. They have little in common, as Lily has lived in Maine her whole life, and Salma has lived all over the place. Though she calls Florida home, Salma and her family move up and down the east coast, following spring and summer harvests. Lily’s grandparents own a story that locals and tourists frequent. In order to raise money for a surgery that could restore Lucky’s eyesight, she paints bird houses to be sold at the store. When Salma hears of Lily’s work, she spends the summer helping paint more, and as a talented artist, her work becomes quite popular.
Salma was strong and brave, and helped Lily to raise money for Lucky’s surgery. This story about these two young girls really got to me. Maybe I was having a rough day, but when I got to the end of the book I just cried. Her grandfather and Salma have a very close relationship, and though he supports her mission to save Lucky, he has some advice for her. He tells her this:
“Giving up and letting go are too very different things, Lily. Giving up is admitting you’re beat and walking away. Letting go means you’re setting something free. You’re releasing something that’s been keeping you stuck. That takes faith and more than a little courage.”
The summer is life changing for this 12 year old. She learns about love, friendship, and letting go – in ways that she couldn’t have expected. I loved this story, and the way that these two girls, from very different backgrounds, were able to connect.