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††††††††††† The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine
Patterson is an award wining novel for young people. It is the co-winner of the
Paterson Prize, an Honor Book for The Red Mitten, the Judy Lopez Memorial, and the
Jane Addams Awards. It is an interesting and quirky novel about a young girl abandoned
by her mother and forced by circumstances into the role of mother for her
unruly younger brother and housebound great-grandmother.
††††††††††† The Same Stuff as Stars is set in contemporary
Vermont. The deck of life is
stacked against eleven-year old Angel Morgan. Her father, Wayne, is in prison
for robbery. Her mother, Verna, is immature, self-centered, and very unreliable.
Her seven-year old brother, Bernie Elvis, is an undisciplined bundle of energy,
and handful of trouble. When Verna decides she has had enough - enough of prison
visits, enough of children, enough of poverty, and enough of loneliness - she
hangs her hat on the next available man. The only catch is that he does not
want children. Verna tries to hide her plans from Angel and Bernie under the
guise of a quick visit to the country and Wayne's great-grandmother. Angel,
however, has experienced too many disappointments from Verna to trust her promises.
First Verna did not pack a suitcase, second she did not make up her bed for the
night, and third as soon as it was dark, she made a beeline for her truck disappearing
down the driveway without so much as a "tootles".
Angel was convinced when called the apartment only to discover the number had
been disconnected. So much for Verna's promises! Angel soon learns her
grandmother, while a good woman, is hardly capable of caring for herself let
alone two children. Once more Angel finds herself in-charge. She also soon discovers
her new home is quite old fashioned. It lacks most of the modern conveniences she
is used to using, but she knows she must manage. As days turn into weeks then
months, Angel learns to walk to town for groceries, cook on a single burner, provide
heat with a wood stove, and feed three on a social security check meant for one.
She also works the system to register her brother and herself for school. This would
have proved too daunting if it were not for the inspiration of "the starman" and his telescope, and the help and support of
the aged town librarian, Miss Liza. The Morgans - children
and great-grandma - might have slipped quietly into the sleepy world of a Vermont
winter if not for the vulture-like return of Verna who swooped down and carried
off Bernie. This event would prove too much for the already fragile family and spark
more than just questions about one missing child.
††††††††††† The Same Stuff as Stars is well written
novel. It offers both joy and laughter to an unfortunately all too sad tale of
immature parents and an overly mature child. This is a role reversal seen often
in troubled homes. The resilience in such children is amazing. Yet the cost of forfeiting
the joys of childhood for the drudgery of adulthood to the child must be a
devastating personal loss. Angel is wonderfully portrayed as the child forced
to grow up to soon. Bernie is equally well drawn as the spoilt child that
readers will want to at once throttle and hug. (He desperately needs both!)
Miss. Liza is a bit stereotypical as the aging
spinster librarian and the "starman" was neither
scary nor frightening. This is above and beyond the fact that "grandma"
tried to easy the children's fears by calling him "Santy
Claus." His secret was actually quite easy to guess. The story does
merits telling. I must also commend the author on having the characters reading
real books in the novel and including information for a young reader to locate
them. It might inspire a few of them to "reach for the stars". (Bravo!)
Patterson is an award winning author of children's and young adult novels. She
was born the daughter of missionary parents in China. She was educated in the US receiving a MA in Education from the Presbyterian
School of Christian Education and another
Masters degree from Union Theological Seminary. Her award winning books
include, The Master Puppeteer (1976, National
Book Award); Bridge to Terabithia (1977, Newbery Award);
The Great Gilly
Hopkins (1978, National Book Award, Newbery Honor
Book); Jacob Have I Loved (1980, Newbery Award); Lyddie (1991, Honor List of the International Board of Books
for Young People); Flip-Flop Girl
(1994, ALA Notable Book, †School
Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Parent's Choice Story Book, and a New York Times Notable Book); Jip, His Story (1997 Scott O'Dell Award
for Historical Fiction, ALA Notable Book, and Best Book for Young Adults); and Preacher's Boy (1999 Jefferson Cup from
the Virginia Library Association). Her most recent works include The Wide Awake Princess (2000); Invisible
Child; (2001) and The Same Stuff as Stars (2002). She has retired as a minister and missionary, and lives
in Vermont. Her official website
††† The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Patterson is an award
winning novel. It will make the reader want
to laugh and cry. The book is recommended for ages 10 years and up. The
book is highly recommended.
© 2004 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education:
B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from
Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral
Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in
Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in
Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a
Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in
Library Science at Dowling College,
Long Island, NY.
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