Monday, January 22, 2018

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
by Dusti Bowling
Recommended Ages: 10+

Aven was born with no arms, but if you don't want trouble, you won't call her disabled. Raised by adoptive parents who refused to let her be pampered like the Queen of Sheba, she knows how to do most things "armed" people can do, though many tasks take longer and are more difficult for her. She has a good sense of humor, mad soccer skills, lots of friends at schools, and a lot to be happy about - until her parents decide to move from Kansas to Arizona, where they get to run an old-west-themed tourist trap, and Aven has to start over at a new school. Suddenly it's back to being stared at and treated like a freak. Not her favorite thing.

But then Aven discovers a couple of friends who are lonely for different-yet-similar reasons: each in his own way is different from the other kids, and prefers hiding to being stared at or called names. One has a form of Tourette syndrome that makes him afraid to eat in front of people or go into public places, like a movie theater. The other is a fat kid who is just tired of being picked on. Partly together, but mostly each at his or her own pace, these three kids learn to accept being different and discover the courage to stand out. Aven leads the charge, inspired by her parents to think of herself as a shining light. Meantime, back at the ranch (ha, ha), she solves a mystery that has a surprising connection to who she is.

This is a beautifully, lyrically written book with a touching message about accepting differences. It brims with laughs, tears, and the instantly relatable kind of drama that springs from honest disagreements between good but imperfect people. I found it personally moving. Among its attractions is a depiction of its Arizona setting, apparently drawn from the author's personal and affectionate experience - a setting that mirrors the story's theme of finding beauty in unusual places. Arizona native Dusti Bowling is also the author of the young adult books The Day We Met, Grace and Daisies, and The Boy Who Loved Me.

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