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What Came from the Stars Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547612133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547612133
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-8-There's a pretty good story at the center of this novel. Twelve-year-old Tommy Pepper, his little sister, and their father are struggling through the grief of his mother's sudden death. Tommy and his mother parted on bad terms that terrible day, and he feels that her anger precipitated her car accident on an icy road. Patty has not spoken since. The family is also resisting the attempts of an unscrupulous developer to oust them from their beloved house in Plymouth, Massachusetts, so she can build waterfront condominiums. That's plenty of fodder for an absorbing plot. But Schmidt has wrapped Tommy's story inside an unsuccessful sci-fi fantasy. On a distant planet, evil, duplicitous beings have nearly conquered the good guys. In desperation, one of the heroic types makes a Chain out of the Art of his civilization and launches it into space, and it falls into Tommy's lunch box. All well and good, except that readers have no idea what the planet looks like or what normal life consists of there. The language in this part of the book is ponderous; for example, "Not a one of the Valorim did not weep for what would be lost together." Readers need to plow through pages of impenetrable prose before they meet Tommy. And every time they get swept into his story, it's brought to a halt. Schmidt is an accomplished, talented author who excels at creating characters dealing with tricky moral dilemmas. He has taken a risk in attempting to write in a new genre, but it's a risk that did not pan out this time.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

“Schmidt brings high heroic fantasy and contemporary realism together in this novel.”—Horn Book, starred review

“Spielberg, get ready for this boldly imagined outer-space offering.”—Kirkus

“Schmidt, already a best-seller and award winner, should pick up even more fans with this crowd-pleasing fantasy.”—Booklist

“Wonderfully strange. . . . This inventive and memorable story for readers ages 10-15 manages to mingle the quotidian and the movingly supernatural. It's funny, too.”—The Wall Street Journal

"The balance of emotions is flawless."—Bulletin

More About the Author

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His most recent novel is The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

That book should have won the Newberry.
Julia Walter
My thoughts after reading this book... This is a truly touching profound mystical story that is enhanced by tons of good and tons of sort of scary evil.
PattyLouise
Most any reader given a quiz on the twelve italic chapeters would certainly fail.
J. Stasny

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Prather TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What Came From The Stars combines the best in middle grade realistic fiction with some pretty fantastical elements to produce a story that was ultimately very hard to put down. I have struggled over this book's star rating because there is a lot here that I did not enjoy and that I feel will make this book a hard sell to its ten to fourteen year old target market. This novel contains two stories; the first being the story of young Tommy Pepper, a sixth grader from Plymouth, Massachusetts. The second story tells of a civilization on a faraway planet that is on the verge of destruction. This alien race sends everything that is good about their culture and their people out into space in the form of a necklace. This necklace ends up in Tommy's lunch box, and it's what happens to Tommy, his family, and this alien civilization as a result of this odd coincidence that makes up this compelling if somewhat predictable story.

This author has a wonderful gift for writing children's characters. We've seen it in his award winning previous work, and it is full display here. Tommy and Patty Pepper are well rounded, believable characters that will tug at your heartstrings, and their dialogues ring with an authenticity that makes you feel like you are right there with them in the schoolyard navigating the bullies and the lunch room. The author sets the Massachusetts scenery just beautifully, especially at the end, where I totally felt the chilly sea air and could smell the seaweed stink. I could often feel Tommy's terror, and the author uses a combination of some excellent descriptive writing, authentic inner dialogues, and spot on pacing to generate some moments that were truly creepy, even for this adult reader.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L.Gildart TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My 11 year old son hasn't read it yet, but my guess is that, as an avid fan of such fantasy books as the LOTR trilogy, the Underland Chronicles, and the Wrinkle in Time books, he is going to love this one, too.

The writing is on the caliber of L'Engle or Raskin, and this one is just epically beautiful. The descriptions of Plymouth, Massachusetts are just as glimmering and gorgeous as those of the faraway world at the center of the story. Unlike L'Engle and Raskin, however, Gary Schmidt always brings more than a touch of loss and melancholy to his books, but he always handles the sadness with excellent composure and some humor. Good life lesson, really.

I don't want to spoil anything in the book, but I want to be helpful to parents and to kids who want to know whether this is a good book for them, so, in no particular order:

1. The book is very well-written. If you admire beautiful, unobtrusive prose, you will like this book. If you prefer punk fiction that uses language in less conventional ways, this book may not thrill you the way did did me. Vocabulary is right in line with its intended age group and won't challenge many 6th graders, let alone 9th graders. Some of the language in the parallel story of the fall of the Valorim was challenging for me, but my experience with my 11 year old son and the Eragon and Tolkien books has been that he picks that stuff right up. Characterization is deft, if a little forced in places. Just a tiny bit, though.

2. Story themes - all content is age appropriate (5th to 9th grade). Nothing explicit or that would require explaining. Some disturbing violence. The protagonist is dealing with the death of his mother and with the disconnectedness of his father, who misses the mother.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walter VINE VOICE on January 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
1) I loved the author's Okay for Now earlier this/ last year. That book should have won the Newberry. He demonstrated in that book that he can write characters and plots I - and his young audience-- want to read.
2) This is a mishmash of science fiction, high fantasy and realistic fiction. Does Schmidt think that if you're writing sf/f then characters aren't important? To me they are.
3) He writes science fiction and high fantasy, which he uses simulataneously, largely by inventing a language. We don't need words for swords or daggers or castles or rulers, we need breathing (or whatever) characters.
In alternating chapters he tells us about the Valorim, who create great art and war and send Tommy who is in sixth grade in Plymouth, MA a necklace that teaches him about them. "So the Valorim came to know that their last days were upon them. The Reced was doomed, and the Ethelim they had loved well and guarded long would fall under the sharp trunco of the faceless O'Mondim and the faithless traitors who led them." (1, first two sentences)
4) I don't like this book. Please take my advice and find something else to read. Perhaps something else by Schmidt. If you haven't yet read Okay for Now, I recommend it strongly. The same day I wrote this I borrowed Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, an earlier Schmidt novel, from the library.

Received as an ARC from Amazon Vine in July, for an honest review.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Will Newman on November 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At 64, I'm an old man and probably shouldn't be reading the genre erroneously called "young adult fiction." But appellations notwithstanding, this genre has the most imaginative and engaging stories currently being published. I read YA fiction so I can recommend books to the 5th - 8th graders I tutor at our elementary school.

Gary Schmidt is a prime example of the depth this genre. I have read every one of his books and have yet to be disappointed. "What Came from the Stars" is a prime example.

On the surface, this novel is Schmidt's foray into science fiction. In reality, it is an examination of loss, forgiveness, and redemption. No spoiler alert here. I am not going to give away the plot. But these plot elements are so deftly woven into the story that they are almost invisible. But by the end of the book, the reader cannot help but feel and understand them. A heck of a lesson for young people.

Schmidt has many valuable qualities as a writer. He has impeccable command of voice. In his two best known books - "Wednesday Wars" and "Okay for Now" - the protagonists' voices are true to their ages and yet are completely different. Written in the first person, the protagonists of both books do not relate their stories to the readers. They tell it as if seated across the dinner table. They are there with you. "What Came from the Stars" is written in the third person, but the reader still gets a vivid sense of Tommy Pepper, the protagonist. This book could not have been written in first person, and Schmidt knew that. In third person, we can ache for Tommy's losses. If written in first person, he could have come across as a complainer or whiner.

Schmidt's most important quality as a writer is a profound respect for his readers.
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