Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Augie (WONDER by R. J. Palacio) taught us a few lessons about what it's like to be different in this world.  He taught us to look beyond skin deep to connect with the person waiting there.  Now, we're about to be introduced to the world through the eyes of three new friends, Aven, Connor, and Zion.   Each one of them has a challenge that makes them different and gives them the wisdom to see beyond....beyond the thing that is different, beyond the thing that might scare us, beyond the thing that some people might ridicule.. all the way to the treasure.

Aven was born without arms.  She's 13 years old and she has grown up with kids who've known her since kindergarten.  She even has a whole list of stories and jokes she can tell them about how she lost her arms. Everyone is comfortable and they've moved beyond accepting her armless condition into the place where she's just Aven, the girl with the great sense of humor.

But, life has a curve ball ready for Aven.  Her parents are about to move her to Arizona.  Yes, the middle of the desert awaits her replete with scorpions and snakes and most dangerous of all, a new middle school filled with new kids.  Bags are packed, best friends are left and the family settles in to their new lives managing the Stagecoach Pass, a timeworn Western-themed amusement park.

Aven struggles to find her place at school.  She's no shrinking violet.  This kid has a backbone of steel and she's willing to risk time and time again but she's really not getting any kind of opening from the kids at the school. Then, one day when she's avoiding the dreaded cafeteria at lunchtime, she heads to hide out in the library and meets Connor ... when he barks.

Yes, Connor has Tourette's Syndrome and he barks at random.  He's spending his lunchtime alone in the library to avoid the consequences of being seen eating by his classmates.

The third musketeer is Zion, who is so overweight that he doesn't want anyone to see him eat period.  He sits on the floor, head bowed, and eats his lunch alone and away from the madding and minimizing crowd.

This book is a chance to walk in the shoes of three kids who have been dealt a tough hand but who are able to see beyond each other's challenges.  The chance to experience what it would be like to eat, play the guitar and even pick your nose without arms and the chance to feel what it's like not to be able to control the words and sounds that come out of your own mouth is a chance to develop compassion and empathy.  Two things we could use more of in today's world.

These three have waited a while to have someone call them friend.  They're going to team up to solve a small mystery that captures their curiosity in the theme park.  But that's just background fun here.  This story is about showing up as yourself every day and noticing the strengths and vulnerabilities we ALL hold and looking for the "wonder" that just might be hidden beyond the armlessness, the bark, the fat, the religion, the political persuasion, the gender, the skin color, the wheel chair...... where the things we all have in common abide...  the need to belong, the hopes, the sense of fun, the courage, the joy, the fears and above all the need to be seen, respected and valued for our unique selves.

262 pages    978-1454923459   Ages 8-12

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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“Aven is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned.” —School Library Journal (Starred review)

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

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