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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Maas

I was drawn into the soft charm of this book before even the first chapter. Several appealing quotes set the stage with the theme before introducing the three main characters.

Chapter 1 starts with Ally. She lives in a remote camping area with her parents and brother. Her parents have prepared years in advance for a lunar eclipse by buying and running a campground will bring a flood of campers to their location for a prime viewing of the eclipse.. Unlless it rains.

Chapter 2 introduces Bree. She’s an outstandingly beautiful girl who cultivates her looks and popularity. Shallow as that sounds, she’s not a “mean” girl.

Chapter 3 is written from Jack’s point of view: he’s a slightly overweight loner who’s on a field trip in order to avoid summer school.

If you’re not intrigued yet with the characters, it’s only because of my writing, not the author’s.

Ally, Bree, and Jack’s lives converge at the campground, Moon Shadow. Here, Ally and her parents have prepared for the campers who will arrive en masse on the day of the eclipse. Ally’s parents have not prepared Ally for the fact that her family will leave the campground in the care of Bree’s family. Ally and Bree are equally dismayed over the leaving/arriving. Ally is content in her homeschooled, camp-living life and dreads leaving as much as Bree hates the idea of giving up her popular, texting, model-career-pursuing lifestyle. They band together to first convince their parents to stay/go and have to accept that they will have to accept the inevitable change. They end up giving each other advice on how-to-thrive in their respective new lives. In the end, Bree feels her inner-geek surfacing, Ally starts paying attention to the state of her clothes, and Jack starts losing some weight. It’s not because of peer-pressure but peer help (and maybe the subtle realization that every soul is a star?)

How do I like thee, book? Let me count the ways:
1. Safe content
2. Appealing characters
3. Well-developed theme
4. Terrific introduction to astronomy for the uninitiated and under-appreciative.

1)Content: Jack has had several stepdads, but why there have been several is a mystery. They seem to have made positive contributions to his life. One of my favorite moral lessons was when an adult acted like a complete jerk and the children responded in a way the Church teaches: see the best in everyone. The tweens could have trashed him…but they chose instead to offer a reason for his behavior that put him in the best light… and moved on.

2) Characters: I lliked the characters and the supporting characters. It was believable and well-told. No Jekyll-and-Hyde turn-arounds but realistic growth for each character.

3) Theme: Every soul is a star. Every star shines. And every piece of the universe is a fascinating, interconnected mystery… appreciated by souls made in the image of God (OK: I added the part about God’s image.)

4) Astronomy: Prior to this book, astronomy was a class that we covered. My 2 tweens and I are more interested in the topic for the sheer joy of learning about it than we were before we read this.

I found it interesting that an Islamic character and a shrine to ancient Chinese astronomers make an appearance in the book. Yet, the Catholic Church which gave birth to the modern field of astronomy gets not even a cameo! Think about it. The book is a wonderful tribute to the mystery and lovely intricacies of space, and the Church that indisputably contributed so much data and effort to the modern study of astronomy gets… not a mention.

At the end, the author includes lists of internet sites and books to check out on astronomy! Guy Consomalgno, the chief astronomer of the Vatican, has a book mentioned in the bibliography: Turn Left at Orion. (see The Heavens Proclaim review on Treasure Chest). We’re checking that out first. Partly, because we’re already fans of Guy Consolmagno, and also because we’re a bit miffed over the lack of mention of the Church’s outstanding contributions. And last because it has excellent reviews on Amazon and looks to be an excellent beginner's book. Thank you, Guy and Wendy. We're going on an Astronomy tour. Just for fun.

Otherwise: I liked it! And so does Nancy…. !



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