A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

A Handful of Stars9780545700276_p0_v2_s260x420A Handful of Stars

Cynthia Lord, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, May 26, 2015

Pages: 192

Suitable for Ages: 8-12, Grades 3-7

Themes: Blueberries, Migrant workers, Hispanic-American children, Prejudice, Blind dog, Friendship, Multicultural

Opening: The only reason I ever spoke to Salma Santiago was because my dog ate her lunch. 

Synopsis: Two girls from different cultures meet when Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, takes off across the blueberry barrens of Maine. Salma, a migrant girl, grabs her peanut butter sandwich and lures Lucky before he runs onto a highway. Lucky is Lily’s last link to her mother who left them with her grandparents when she was two. Lily and her grandfather thank Salma at the migrant camp with a pork dinner pie. The girls bond over their love of dogs and painting.  Salma helps Lily paint wooden bee hives to raise money for an operation to save Lucky’s eyesight. When Salma decides to enter the Blueberry Queen Pageant, something a bilingual Hispanic migrant girl has not done before, Lily becomes aware of the town’s biases. Through their enduring friendship, both girls find their own inner strengths .

What I love about A Handful of Stars:

Cynthia Lord delivers a magical and richly textured story about an unlikely friendship between Lily, a French Canadian, and Salma, a Hispanic-American.  She draws her readers into the story with that great opening sentence (above) that begs the reader to want to know more.

I love that Lord continues to use her home state of Maine as the setting for many of her stories. She paints a vivid picture of the blueberry barrens of eastern Maine. Readers will learn a little history about the Mason bees that pollinate the blueberries and gardens, the raking of the wild Maine blueberries by migrant workers, and the top of a blueberry is shaped like a star. Readers will also gain insight into the lives of migrant children and how hard it is to be uprooted.

Lord is a master at developing memorable characters. Readers will easily connect with Lily and Salma’s struggles, longings and hopes. Lily and Lucky live with her grandparents. Lily feels the loss of her mother, who is deceased. Lucky is Lily’s last link to her mother, so she is determined to earn money and save his eyesight. Salma is imaginative and artistic, but secretly longs to belong and stay in one place.   Their friendship will test and carry them to a new self-confidence and healing.

The plot is realistic with the right amount of tension that will keep readers turning pages. Lord seamlessly weaves many themes into this touching story: migrant families, cultural differences, biases, community, loss, letting go and accepting change. There is a wonderful twist in the plot of the story, so readers will be pleasantly surprised with the ending.

A Handful of Stars is a perfect summer read. The cultural themes will encourage many lively discussions. Visit Cynthia Lord at her website.

Cynthia Lord is the award-winning author of Rules, a Newbery Honor book and a Schneider Family Book Award winner. She is also the author Half a Chance, Touch Blue, and the Shelter Pet Squad chapter book series.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

28 thoughts on “A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

  1. I posted my goodreads review on this last Friday. Absolutely loved the story full of layers and wonderful themes that young children will love. And the ending is magical. Great review, Pat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved this story too. It was layered with many themes. I was drawn to the migrant children, because of my interaction with migrants many years ago in NW Ohio. Will have to check out your GoodReads review.


    • Craig, this is a perfect summer reading recommendations. It touches on so many themes and is beautifully written. I am a fan of Cynthia Lord’s work and look forward to her deeply moving stories.


    • Yes, the opening grabbed me from the start. I love to study openings. This book is full of humanity. The migrant aspect was of interest to me because in my early newspaper days, I used to write stories about the migrants in NW Ohio and frequently visited the Migrant Rest Center there. It is a hard life for children.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I can imagine how hard it is for children. We were Irish migrants in the UK when “No Irish Need Apply” signs were all over The Labour Exchange. We were dirt poor and disliked. Perhaps this is what prompted me to go to work in Africa. We had it much better that those who live in refugee camps.


      • I didn’t know that about you. You have an understanding and your work in Africa makes sense. Can’t imagine living in a refugee camp. Migrant housing isn’t always the best either, from my memories years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds such a beautiful read. Your review is so moving Pat I just have to look for it. I so want to know what happens but also I love her writing. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Since my copy had just arrived from the library, I waited until I had finished reading it before reading your review. As you can see, I didn’t have to wait long! What a wonderful book. Cynthia’s books always take me to a higher plane when I’m reading them. What a talent she has.

    I haven’t been able to visit blogs much lately — I hope to somehow do better in months to come. I’m very glad I came and read your review of this marvelous book. Thanks, Pat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your description of Cynthia’s talents. She does take you to a higher place and you don’t want to come back. Read the last few chapters over again because I wasn’t ready to let go of the story and the characters. Thank you for visiting!


  4. I just finished this one last week and hope to get a review up sometime in the next month. You actually said everything about what makes this book special. It”s a great one for girls dealing with trying to combine old and new friendships. The diversity factor here adds to the layers of storytelling. It also has a great cover!

    Liked by 1 person

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