The lives of three very different young people converge at a campground during a total eclipse of the sun. Each character tells his or her story- Ally a girl very connected to the Earth and to the heavens above; Bree a girl consumed by her looks and popularity; and Jack overweight, unpopular, and struggling to find his place in the world. They all will have their lives changed by this momentous and rare event.
Mass, W. (2008). Every soul a star. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
I had forgotten that I had read something else by Wendy Mass- A Mango-Shaped Space. Both that novel and this tell engrossing stories in a way that is quiet but compelling. In this book, the voice that sounded the truest to me was Jack. He is an awkward, average kid who struggles with his weight and finding where he fits in. He is offered a chance by his science teacher to help with a tour to the campground that will be the best viewing spot for the eclipse in order to avoid going to summer school. He’s not particularly thrilled about the prospect of stepping out of his comfort zone, but he jumps at the chance to get out of summer school by helping his teacher out for two weeks. As the tour progresses, Jack makes friends, takes on new responsibilities, and learns to have confidence in himself when he has others depending on him.
The other two characters, Ally and Bree, did not feel quite as genuine to me, but were nice counter points to each other. Ally is the girl who cares pretty much only about science and discovery. She likes living at the campgrounds with her family and being home schooled. She could not care less about her appearance, fashion, or keeping up with the latest trends. Bree is the exact opposite, hoping for a career in fashion as a model and basing most of her self-worth on her appearance and her hard-won popularity.
Through the course of the story, both girls learn that there is a place in the middle where they may both be a lot happier. They end up becoming friends and learning from that friendship. As a bonus, the book also teaches the reader a few things about astronomy and science.
“Three young teens witness a total solar eclipse and are changed forever in this novel, told in alternating narratives, that weaves exciting astronomy facts into the teens’ personal lives. Ally, 13, is fascinated by the scientific event, as are 1,000 other people from all over the world who come to view the Great Eclipse at her family’s wilderness site. Glamorous teen Bree has an opposite view and is appalled that her parents, both physics scholars, want to move to the site: how can she manage without the mall? Then there is Jack, who loves art and science fiction but is a failure at science and is brought to the site by his teacher. The anticipation building up to the great event brings thrilling changes in all three young lives. Bree’s hilarious account of her experience as a glamour queen in the wilderness is right-on, but she moves beyond total stereotype and allows herself to release her inner geek, at least for a while, while Ally and Jack bond and also break their rigid character roles. The contemporary voices ring true, and readers will want to read more about the science surrounding eclipses. Grades 5-8.”
Rochman, H. (2008, December 1). [Review of the book Every soul a star, by W. Mass]. Booklist, 105(7), 51. Retrieved from: http://www.booklistonline.com/
I think this would be great to pair up with a program about stargazing. Maybe a local astronomer (either amateur or professional) would be willing to give a talk about basic astronomy and point out constellations. Maybe even a “library at night” program with all sorts of different activities that take place outside the library. Of course, books for all age groups could be suggested before the program which pertained to astronomy and/or the night sky.
I visited a library in Battle Creek, Michigan which had just been built the year before that had a small amphitheatre out back. They used it for all sorts of programs (weather permitting) that were possibly going to attract a larger crowd than what could be held inside the library itself.