Warning: You will crave anything blueberry, especially a big, overflowing bowlful of fresh, tiny, sweet Maine blueberries.
Unfortunately for me, I did not read Cynthia Lord's a handful of stars when it was released this spring when blueberries were closer in season than they are now so since it is late November, my mouth is just watering.
I have been a fan of Lord's since I first listened to the audio book of Rules. I still remember cleaning the kitchen floor so that it would "shine like the top of the Chrysler building" so I didn't have to turn off the CD player. From then on, I'm always excited when Lord writes another book and this last one did not disappoint. It's as sweet as those blueberries I'm craving.
The blueberry puns won't be lost here either as I say that the lessons learned are packed in this story as the blueberries in a pie. When Lily's blind dog, Lucky, runs off into the blueberry barrens, Salma, a migrant worker from Florida, saves him from going off into the unfamiliar forest by giving him her lunch. The next day Lily goes to the camp where Salma is living to bring her family a pork pie to thank her and they almost instantly become friends. Lucky, too. In fact, when Lucky jumps into Salma's lap, Lily explains that "...maybe he just heard the friendship in her voice." The first clue that Salma, Lily and Lucky are going to be friends.
Lily's painting and selling bee boxes to raise money for an operation that might get Lucky to see again. To do that, Salma starts helping her. Salma uses her imagination and paints more creatively than Lily. That's ok since as Dr. Katz, the veterinarian says, Different can be good...It makes you pay attention."
On top of that, Salma has decided to enter the local Blueberry Queen pageant, the one that Lily's friend, Hannah won last year. Hannah offers Salma to wear her dress from last year and Lily is torn between her friend she is drifting away from and her new found friend. Lily is protective of her bond with Salma and is weary of including Hannah, "Some things are magic between two people, but they fizzle when anyone else gets involved."
Ahhh...and the reference to Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal is lovely. I really enjoyed revisiting a favorite picture book.
I would never have imagined that my heart would be pounding and that this book would be a page turner, but it was. I really wanted Salma to win the crown, stay in Maine and the money to be raised for Lucky. "Real truth is never easy" says Lily, however with this book it just works.
So, before you begin, jump ahead to page 77, find the ingredients, whip up a blueberry enchilada, and seek out your comfie chair for this star-filled novel by an author we love.