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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Hardcover – September 5, 2017
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★ “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.” —School Library Journal (starred review)” (Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW))
★"A move to dusty, distant Arizona forces 13-year-old Aven to leave her familiar life and friends behind. Don’t yawn: Bowling takes this overworked trope and spins it into gold with a skein of terrific twists. For one thing, Aven was born without arms, so the new environment—a decrepit Wild West theme park—poses special challenges. For another, thanks to loving, funny adoptive parents who have raised her to be a “problem-solving ninja” (“I’m so flexible, it would blow your mind,” she boasts), readers may repeatedly forget, despite reminders enough, that Aven is (as she puts it) “unarmed.” Moreover, when the dreary prospect of having to cope with the looks and questions at her new middle school sends her in search of an isolated place to eat her lunch she finds and bonds with Conner, who is struggling with Tourette's syndrome and has not been so lucky with his parents. Not only does she firmly enlist him and another new friend in investigating a mystery about the theme park’s past but, taking Conner’s involuntary vocalizations in stride (literally) Aven drags him (figuratively) into an information-rich Tourette’s support group. Following poignant revelations about Aven’s birth family, the author lets warm but not gooey sentiment wash over the close to a tale that is not about having differences, but accepting them in oneself and others." —Booklist (Starred review)
“Connor's Tourette's support-group meetings and Aven's witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of "lack of armage" give the book excellent educational potential. . . . its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Bowling’s sensitive and funny novel . . . demonstrates how negotiating others’ discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. . . . [an] openhearted, empathic book. —Publishers Weekly
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Top customer reviews
Although finding friends isn't easy at first, Aven meets Connor, a boy who has his own disability to conquer, and the two of them discover a mystery at the theme park that keeps them busy as they try to uncover secrets from long ago.
Bowling has done a great job of creating engaging and likable characters. This book is a lot of fun to read, but it also carries a great message of friendship and accepting differences in others without seeming preachy. The western theme park setting is quirky and fun as well.
Middle grade readers should fall in love with this novel which would also make a fantastic read aloud
The multiple positive messages and life-affirming viewpoint Aven exhibits are extraordinary. Her empathy and understanding for both Connor and Zion are inspiring. Each of the boys adds another dimension to Dusti Bowling's novel and each contributes to the overall storyline. Actions and reactions of the characters are realistic. Aven's lists, created for her blog, are both humorous and heart-breaking as she allows readers to glimpse into the reality of her life.
"Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus" is a book for every reader, regardless of age. It is not difficult to read, but it packs a powerful message that nothing should stand in the way of accomplishing whatever task you face. I loved this book and am sure you will, too.
The story is about Aven and her family's move from Kansas to Arizona so her parents can manage a wild west theme park (which is basically rundown and not terribly popular). Aven dreads this move because she will have to endure "the look" from those who are curious, the aforementioned people who feel sorry for her and the nasty people that label her a freak. Along the way she befriends a young man with Tourette's and another young man who is teased because of his weight. The trio has a lovely friendship, while they help and support each other to overcome their trials and tribulations of navigating through middle school when they are not "normal" (characters' words).
I enjoyed this book a lot. I found myself looking forward to reading it when I went to bed at night. My only quibble is I was a little disappointed in the "mystery" promised in the story. I thought the suspense had been built up that it was going to be something pretty spectacular and the excitement sort of fizzled out upon the big reveal. However, that does not detract from my giving this charming book five stars. A wonderful read for anyone who feels they are not part of the crowd
Most recent customer reviews
Aven's strong, comic, good-natured voice is engrossing from the very first.Read more