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*****= An all-time favorite
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*        = Good, with reservations


***The Same Stuff as Stars

by Katherine Paterson

Reviewed October 29, 2002.
Clarion Books, New York, 2002.  242 pages.

Katherine Paterson is a wonderful writer.  Some of my favorites of her work are Lyddie, Jacob Have I Loved, and Bridge to Terabithia.

The Same Stuff as Stars tells the story of Angel and her little brother Bernie.  Her father is in jail, and they go visit him every week.  At the beginning of the book, Angel’s mother, Verna, loses patience and drops them off at their great-grandmother’s house.  When Verna leaves in the night, Angel, always the responsible one, now must care for both her little brother and her great-grandmother.

Angel’s only eleven.  Fortunately, she gets some help along the way.  A mysterious stranger meets Angel at night and shows her the wonder of the stars through his telescope.  The librarian in the village helps Angel find books about the stars.  The star man tells her that she’s made of the same elements as the stars.  Things get worse for Angel before they get better, but the overall message of this book is one of hope.

This book reminds me of Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphry, by Margaret Peterson Haddix and A Door Near Here, by Heather Quarles.  In all of them, we have a girl taking the responsibility for younger siblings when she is far too young.  Angel is much younger than the girls in the other books, and her situation isn’t quite as dark.  However, for me the book is woven through with sadness.  It’s all too easy to imagine real kids in Angel’s situation who don’t get the lifelines that she is given.  Still, Katherine Paterson has once again crafted a beautiful novel.  I hope that some of those kids out there who feel they are in Angel’s situation will get to read it.

A reader rating from April:  She gave this book one star, with the comment:  This was a great book with a great story. I do not believe this book should be available in an Elementary school library due to inappropriate language.

Reviews of other books by Katherine Paterson:
Giving Thanks
Stories of my Life

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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