Monday, July 23, 2012

What Came From the Stars by Gary Schmidt

Today, I want to talk about loss and grief. Those who know me personally may know why I'm in this kind of mood.  I've learned it's possible to grieve for a place almost as much as for a person. I'll go into more detail in a future blog post but it occurred to me that the book I planned to discuss today deals with both kinds of loss and does so beautifully.



What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt (coming September 4, 2012 from Clarion Books, for ages 10 to 14)

Synopsis (my own this time!): In a faraway world under siege, Young Waeglim forges a chain, holding all the art and beauty of his world. He flings it into space and the chain hurtles all the way across the universe and falls into the lunch box of Tommy Pepper, sixth-grader, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

And then everything begins to change. Wearing the chain, Tommy can suddenly speak an odd language that his teacher and classmates don't understand. He can draw pictures that move. He can catch the football every time James Sullivan yells, "Go long!"

Grieving for his dead mother, Tommy is barely holding it together. But he's trying to be strong for his father, who has given up painting, and for his little sister, who has stopped talking. Then the local real estate developer announces plans to put condos on their beach. Tommy and his father know it will ruin everything, but they're powerless to stop it.

When a dark lord from the faraway world arrives in Plymouth and takes over as their teacher, Tommy is the only one who realizes it. Somehow, he has to convince his classmates to help him fight back before everything is destroyed.

Why I liked it: For the first time, Gary Schmidt (Newbery honor winner for both Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars) has written a fantasy. And what a touching and gorgeous fantasy it is!  I truly admire the voice of this novel. It's a haunting voice of grief and loss, yet with a marvelous sense of hope too. I'm also impressed by the strong sense of place. Even if you've never been in Plymouth, you'd be able to picture it.


The Mayflower replica, Plymouth Rock, the beach, the cemetery, it's all described perfectly. The town becomes a character in itself.



But perhaps the best part is the way Tommy and his friends, James, Alice, and Patrick, band together to fight the Dark Lord. It's not Harry Potter, but you'll cheer all the same.

For other MMGM love, see the links in my sidebar (and if you're not there, and you believe you should be, let me know).

Do you have a favorite MG book that deals with grief and loss? 

18 comments:

  1. Joanne- I hope everything is okay. This sounds like a lovely book. I'm not familiar with the author's other works, and this sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kat, I'm fine. But the bookstore is closing. In a later post, I will talk about all of it, but right now I can't -- no specific date yet.

      Delete
  2. I really liked Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Silberberg. I'm not a Schmidt fan and this one... sounds a bit weird. Naomi Shihab Nye has a great collection of poems on loss, What Have You Lost? Hope things look up soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha! If it sounds weird, blame my synopsis and not Gary's writing! Sorry you're not a fan, but everyone's entitled to their opinion. I need to read Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze. Thanks!

      Delete
  3. I do know it's possible to grieve for a place as much as person. Thinking of you, Joanne.

    As for this book, I adore Gary D. Schmidt--as a writer and a person! I was able to hear him speak last February, and it made me love his writing all the more. I'm excited to read this one--definitely a departure from what he's written so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Barbara. Yay for Gary D. Schmidt! I'm so jealous you got to meet him.

      Delete
  4. This sounds like a great book and I look forward to reading it. I like the idea that the magic items lands in a lunch box. Fun!

    There are a lot of books that deal with loss for this age group. Ones that come to mind: Missing May, Because of Winn Dixie, The Wanderer, Because of Mr. Terupt, and Ida B.

    I hope all is well with you.
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jess! Yes, I thought of Winn-Dixie too. Also Walk Two Moons. Thanks for all the great suggestions.

      Delete
  5. I was mesmerized by Gary Schmidt's Okay For Now. This one sounds original, and very powerful. Good luck in dealing with your own situation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ruth. I have yet to read Okay For Now, but I loved The Wednesday Wars and Trouble.

      Delete
  6. Sounds interesting... I have not read anything by this author yet. I will look for it in the fall. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Julie. And thanks for following!

      Delete
  7. I've heard When You Reach Me has serious themes, some about loss. I recently reviewed Turtle in Paradise, and there were definitely grief themes explored, in a sweet and honest way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I loved Turtle in Paradise! Terrific story. And yes, When You Reach Me does deal with loss, doesn't it? I'd forgotten that. Thanks, Melanie.

      Delete
  8. Grief and loss . . . Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane.

    Adore Schmidt and you had me at the first paragraph of your synopsis. Sounds like a lovely combination of elements and I love the concept.

    I'd say it makes sense to mourn the loss of a space you created, put your life and heart into.

    danika

    ReplyDelete
  9. This sounds like a great story. Thanks for drawing my attention to it. I'm intrigued by the connection across space.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh my gosh...you lucky reader you! Glad you liked this one. So looking forward to it, I am. Now an all time favourite book on grief and loss is MICK HARTE WAS HERE by Barbara Park. She creates an incredible balance of grief, shock, laughter and memories. All from the pov of a girl who is dealing with the accidental death of her younger brother-and watching her mom and dad try to deal with it too. Amazing book.

    ReplyDelete

YAY for comments! I read and appreciate each one and I always try to answer. All opinions welcome. Let's have a conversation!