Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who's the Grownup Here? The Same Stuff As Stars by Katherine Paterson

If you know some kids who have seen and liked the movie of Bridge to Terabithia this week, here's a fairly recent book by Paterson, The Same Stuff as Stars, which I can enthusiastically recommend that they read.

In this story, eleven-year-old Angel Morgan and her troubled seven-year-old brother Bernie are dumped by their restless mother in rural Vermont with a great-grandmother whom they do not know. Grandma Morgan lives on a depressing and decaying farm and is kept alive, as she says, by "meanness" and the help of a mysterious trailer tenant of hers whom she calls "Santy Claus" and who buys her meagre groceries. Angel has to take charge of her brother and her grandmother, with a little help from the local village librarian and the mysterious renter she names "Star Man" after the astronomy lessons he gives her in a nearby field.

When "Star Man" tells Angel that she is made from the same elements that make the stars, she gains a mind-altering understanding of the connectedness of the world. With a poor and absent mother, an almost shut-down great grandmother, and a father still in jail, Angel manages to gain some control over the downward spiral and to somehow pull together the almost broken strands which make them a family.

This novel was hard to put down. Paterson has a way of taking the most distressing circumstances and the most vulnerable, yet resilient, characters and telling a story which makes the reader believe that we all are made from "the same stuff as stars." She has a gift, and her books are a gift to us.


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