Every Soul A Star
Written by: Wendy Mass
Recommended Ages: 8-12
I'm back, after a brief hiatus that included a trip with my family down to Nicaragua where we scaled a volcano, enjoyed the windswept beaches of Lake Nicaragua and immersed ourselves into the Nicaraguan's slower-paced, heart-filled culture. It was divine. So now I'm switching gears, as I look to introduce books (old and new) to readers of The Book Nosher in 2010.
I recently read Every Soul A Star; a new middle-grade book that will appeal to many readers between the ages of eight and twelve. It's about the intersection of the lives of three young teens over the fairly rare, natural occurrence of a total solar eclipse. Every Soul a Star is told in turns by its three main characters-Ally, Bree and Jack. Mass does a masterful job getting each of their voices down, truly capturing the essence of each kid.
The story opens with Ally explaining that the campground she and her family have lived in for the past decade (Moon Shadow Campground) is the only place in the entire country that lies "smack dab in the path of the Great Eclipse when it passes overhead." They have been gearing up for this event for years, and are ready to greet the swarms of eclipse-followers that will descend upon them. Ally is a bit of a science geek. She is home-schooled, and is intelligent about all things natural and scientific, and naive about the cultural trends that early teenage girls are usually so proficient in.
In chapter 2, we are introduced to Bree. She is a self-described beauty, and model wanna-be, and is (at least in the beginning) a bit of a stereotypical teen, where popularity is her most prized possession. After meeting Bree, we definitely feel her pain when her scientist parents announce that they are uprooting the family and moving to Moon Shadow Campground, far away from the malls she likes to frequent.
Finally, we meet Jack, an overweight, artistic-type who struggles in school and has low self-esteem. After flunking science, he is approached by his science teacher to see if instead of taking summer school, he'd like to accompany him to Moon Shadow Campground to be his right hand man, as he leads a group of people to witness the eclipse. Jack accepts, mostly for the chance to forego summer school, rather than the opportunity to see an eclipse.
What enfolds is a story that details the two weeks leading up to the big event; where the characters learn about each other, about their families, about astronomy and most importantly, about themselves. The trials and tribulations of the early teenage years are explored, and strong bonds are formed amongst the characters, culminating in the big event. Mass does a nice job of relating the stories of the teens, in their own words. At the same time she teaches us, in a very palatable way, the intricacies of the universe in general, and the eclipse specifically. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep even the most jaded reader turning the pages.
BookNosher Activities: In the author's note, Mass points out that the next total solar eclipse in the mainland United States will occur on August 21, 2017. The path will extend from Oregon to South Carolina. She mentions some websites that she found helpful in the researching of the book, which would be good to follow up on: www.skyandtelescope.com; www.space.com; www.eclipsechaser.com; http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html; www.astronomy.com and http://worldwidetelescope.org. World Wide Telescope, in particular, looks like a wonderful learning tool, in that it "enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky." Every Soul a Star might be the perfect book to pique your child's interest in astronomy.