November 17, 2017

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling | SLJ Review

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redstarBOWLING, Dusti. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. 272p. Sterling. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781454923459.

Gr 5-8 –Aven Green has always loved her life in Kansas—hanging out with Emily and Kayla, her best friends since kindergarten; planning pranks; and playing on the school soccer team. Though Aven was born without arms, she has never let her “lack of armage,” as she calls it, deter her from doing anything she sets her mind to. But when her father gets a job as the manager of Stagecoach Pass, a rundown Western theme park out in Arizona, the family’s move, right after Aven has started eighth grade, presents her toughest challenge yet. Having to deal with the many stares and questions of new schoolmates, Aven sorely misses her old life back in Kansas. However, her unflinchingly optimistic spirit, accompanied by her infectious and indomitable sense of humor, keeps her looking for the silver linings in her new life in Arizona, such as making friends with the cute but prickly Connor (who has Tourette’s syndrome) or enjoying the ability to wear flats all year-round. But the most fascinating thing is the unusual mystery at the heart of Stagecoach Pass: the disappearing tarantulas, a missing photograph, and a secret necklace. Aven is determined to get to the bottom of the secret. She is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned. The tale of Stagecoach Pass is just as compelling as the story of Aven, and the setting, like the many colorful characters who people this novel, is so vivid and quirky that it’s practically cinematic. VERDICT Charming and memorable. An excellent choice for middle grade collections and classrooms.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

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