“Five Stars for ‘A Handful of Stars’ by Cynthia Lord”

ARCs (advance reader copies) of books are a publisher’s way of promoting and spreading the word about an author’s upcoming work and believe me when I tell you, I consider myself a truly lucky reader whenever I have access to one. It’s like being in on an incredibly awesome secret when I get to read a copy of a yet-to-be-published piece of writing. Usually I acquire ARCs at regional and national conferences, but every once in a while, I am fortunate to personally communicate with an author, which makes reading their stories even more special.

Such was the case when I responded to a post on social media by Cynthia Lord, author of Rules, Touch Blue, and the Hot Rod Hamster and Shelter Pet Squad series.  Cynthia had received a few ARCs of her newest book, A Handful of Stars, set to be released on May 26th this year. She proposed the idea of a book vine, sending the ARCs “on tour” to lucky readers willing to enjoy them for two weeks and then pass them along to the next reader on the list.

Last week, I received a copy of A Handful of Stars from my “nerdy book friend,” Kate Sullivan, who was ahead of me on the book vine.  I eagerly opened up the package and began reading right away. One thing I’ve learned from reading Cynthia’s books is that I like to have my writer’s notebook nearby. I have a whole section dedicated to capturing memorable, powerful quotes from my favorite authors. As I turned the pages of her latest book, I was glad I had notebook and pen handy.  A Handful of Stars is a story filled with inspiration, friendship, and bravery.

Lily meets Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, in Maine for the blueberry harvest, quite by luck- her dog, Lucky, that is. When Lucky, Lily’s blind black lab, takes off running across the blueberry barrens, the only thing that slows him down is the smell of Salma’s peanut butter sandwich.  From there, a friendship is born.Lily and Salma share not only a friendship, but a sense of life’s losses and the hope of being ‘just a little bit braver than [they] are scared.” It’s hard, though, when an old friend of Lily’s re-enters the picture and Lily feels torn between her new friend Salma, who’s helping her raise money for an operation to restore Lucky’s sight, and Hannah, who’s been a bit pre-occupied lately, but has been her friend since the first day of kindergarten.

Will Salma harness her strengths and be named the first migrant queen of the blueberry pageant? Does Lily raise the money for Lucky’s surgery and is she brave enough to tell Hannah how she really feels?   As Lily’s Pepere says, “Giving up and letting go are two very different things… 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.”

Yup, that’s in my notebook. 🙂

As I drop the ARC into its mailing envelope and affix the address label to send it on its way back to Cynthia, I smile, and flip from the quote section of my notebook to the section titled, “My Book Bucket List.” I add A Handful of Stars and draw five tiny stars beside it.  I can’t wait to share it with the young readers in my school this spring!


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