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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Keeping Safe the Stars by Sheila O'Connor

Sheila O'Connor's Keeping Safe the Stars feels destined to become a classic on par with Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia. It is the story of three orphan children who must fend for themselves when their grandfather (their only caretaker) is taken to a hospital far from their home. Pride, Nightingale, and Baby have been raised to be fiercely independent and loyal to each other above all else, so when things get tough, Pride, the oldest, starts coming up with ideas to keep her siblings safe. This is not the easiest thing to do, especially when neighbors, a traveling journalist, and a truly loathsome tourist begin asking questions.

Keeping Safe the Stars is really a perfect middle grade novel. It takes place in 1974, a time that will seem like ancient history to kids, but will be remembered by their parents and grandparents. The material is rife for family and classroom discussion. All of the actions in the story take place against the backdrop of that colorful era: long haired hippies, Nixon's resignation, and a fearful and angry political climate. Yet O'Connor handles these heady topics with aplomb. The children, even without iphones and a wifi connection, can be related to by modern kids. They are real people who are frightened and curious and sometimes a little desperate.

The three Stars are the type of children that stand out in children's fiction - they are different than their readers only in as much as their story demands it; at their core the Stars are the kind of kids readers want to really know. The best childrens’ books serve as friends and companions of their young readers. I feel that my battered, old copies of some of the classics can really atest to that. Sheila O'Connor's Keeping Safe the Stars seems ready for that type of relationship. It is a book that is ready to be read, reread, carried around and shared, discussed, and loved.

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