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The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky Hardcover – February 6, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—When readers first meet Auggie Jones, she is crammed into Old Glory, her Grandpa Gus's pick-up truck, with her best friend, Lexie, and her neighbor Irma Jean on the way to the local junkyard. Some kids might not enjoy this experience, but Auggie sees the beauty in the way Grandpa Gus turns other people's trash into something new. In addition to the excitement of watching Grandpa Gus at work, the girls are looking forward to starting fifth grade at their new school. Montgomery Elementary, where the girls used to go, is being torn down, so they'll start at Dickerson, a school located in a wealthier neighborhood. The classist attitudes of some of the students begin to make Auggie question, for the first time, the way her family lives. The tension between the kids is brought to a head when the city's House Beautification Committee begins to send notices of code violations and rapidly accruing fines to many homeowners in Auggie's neighborhood. Grandpa Gus and Auggie combat the perception that their house is run-down by using found and discarded materials to make it more beautiful. Some people think the Jones's house is just getting uglier, but others, including some folk-art experts, see beauty in their work. Auggie's rich engagement with her community and willingness to stand up for her beliefs are inspiring, while her struggle to stay true to herself, even when her best friend gets absorbed in the cool crowd at their new school, will resonate with many readers. Some of the secondary characters (including the very bad villain, Victoria) are underdeveloped, but Auggie's own voice is strongly realized and effectively pulls readers into her world.—Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Auggie can’t wait to start school at Dickerson Elementary, a shiny new building in the wealthy part of town. The change promises a chance to discover her “shine,” or talent. But she does not anticipate losing her best friend or having the city’s House Beautification Committee target her working-class neighborhood. Auggie’s idea of community improvements—scrap metal sculptures and handmade stained glass windows—do not meet city approval. Inspired by stories of her mother’s courage, Auggie refuses to back down and finds her “shine” while inspiring the neighborhood to come together. The cast is subtly multicultural, with Auggie comparing her skin to the color of cocoa. She lives with her grandfather, while her mother’s whereabouts are a mystery until the book’s end. The book’s message feels heavy-handed at times, and the pacing is somewhat bogged down with descriptions of sculptures, but Auggie’s emotions ring true, and the reader will cheer for her and her self-made family of neighbors. Grades 3-6. --Suzanne Harold
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When their school got condemned, Auggie, Irma Jean, Lexie and Harold have to attend a newer school. Bad things begin happening on the first day of school. Lexie falls under the spell of Victoria, the snooty daughter of the head of the town beautification committee. Before you know it, she's stopped being friends with Auggie and Irma Jean, as well as letting Victoria talk her into cutting her long red hair. Losing a friend is bad, losing her to someone who is junior member of a committee that is determined to condemn your entire neighborhood is really bad.
Auggie and Gus as well as everyone else in Serendipity Place, the area of town where they live receives a notice from the town beautification committee, listing vague and arbitrary violations of town codes and really scary fines. While everyone is shocked at first, Auggie and Gus get creative, starting by using Gramp's welding equipment to turn scrap metal into lawn art. Unfortunately, this only results in additional violations and a growing fine amount. However, the shared threat starts moving people in the neighborhood closer.
How Auggie, Gus, Harold and the rest of the neighbors decide to fight back, coupled with what Auggie learns when she tries to run away to find her mom because she's convinced her mother can fix anything, ramp up the tension before the book closes in a real feel good way.
This is a great book for middle school kids to read, even as a family or classroom read aloud. Kids who come from a tough economic situation, or who have suffered the loss of a parent will really relate to Auggie and her friends.
That said, I love The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky from its cover to its satisfying ending. Sure, some of Holly Schindler’s similes are over the top, and her villain really has no redeeming values. That’s okay. These are things I can use to teach my Reading Lab students. The real joy of reading this book is the round-up of characters and the understanding a child will get of folk art and of beauty in the eye of the beholder.
While the book doesn’t make my perfect book list, it does come full circle in the way the best books do. It deserves every one of its five stars. And when you finish reading it here are a few other books you might want to read as well: The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E. L. Konigsberg, Trash by Sharon Darrow, Whirligig by Paul Fleischman, and Missing May by Cynthia Rylant.