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.