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What Came from the Stars Hardcover – September 4, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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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
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 930L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; 1st edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547612133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547612133
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,212,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My grandson will be 6 years old in 12/12 and I ordered this book because he has so enjoyed the "Star Wars" movies and is having the "Harry Potter" series read to him at home. While I think he could have been a little older, he is not afraid to ask questions and was mesmerized by the story, as was I at age 68. Neither of us wanted to stop reading.

The story is wonderful. There is an uprising on a distant planet and the culture of the defeated tribe is stored on a chain and sent out into the universe. It lands on earth where it is found by Tommy Pepper, a sixth-grader who lives with his father and first-grade sister, Patty, in Plymouth, MA. The family is struggling over the recent death of the children's mother. The chain gives Tommy special power, but the victors, led by the evil Lord Mondus, frin the other planet, have determined where the chain containing The Art of the Valorim has gone and send evil representatives of the Lord Mondus to earth to get the chain. And so the strange happenings in Plymouth and the struggle between good and evil begin.

This is a "can't put down" book for all.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After adoring Okay For Now, one of my top reads of 2011, I was excited to see another book from Schmidt and eagerly requested it. I was thrown by a loop to see that it was not a straight contemporary but I wanted to see it through despite the inclusion of fantastical elements. Unfortunately it ended up really not being what I wanted. For my review, I want to divide it into two parts: one for the contemporary and one for the sci-fi sections. The book is also roughly divided into that with italicized chapters detailing another world and regular font for our world although the two increasingly overlap as the book progresses.

Let's start with the contemporary, which I loved. Sixth-grader Tommy lives with his painter father and bubbly younger sister after the death of his mother. Unfortunately the father no longer paints and the sister no longer speaks due to grief even as their house is under assault by a mega-corporation eager to snatch up its land and develop it. Amid this melancholy, Tommy receives a chain from Valorim and soon finds himself speaking its language to the bafflement of his classmates and embarking on its defense. I loved just about everything that was realistic in this book-the sad family attempting to move on without a vital part of itself, the kids at school as well as their teachers and staff, Tommy's battle against the realtor. It was great stuff!

But the fantastical elements were SO hard for me. I dreaded every time I reached a chapter set there (they alternate). There are many made-up words, which are included in a glossary in the back, but they never fully sunk in to my brain so even as I approached the end, I had to keep flipping to check on their meaning.
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