A Handful of Stars

A Handful of Stars
Written by Cynthia Lord

Publisher’s Summary:
When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season.

After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant-and possibly win?

Primary Source Pairing:
This book is a treasure trove for discussion and further learning. Use A Handful of Stars as an opportunity to talk about where food is grown and how it gets to the store and to your home. Learn more about blueberries as a starting point. Use Salma’s experiences in the book to talk about migrant workers and how these hard working people help harvest the food we buy and enjoy. Further topics of learning and discussion include pollination and the importance of bees, geography of the United States and where food grows, migrant workers and where they are needed to work during the year, and cooking with blueberries and other delicious fruits.

For this primary pairing, use two images together and invite students to think further about the harvesting of blueberries. Using the image of a blueberry field, or barren, in Canada and the image of a blueberry rake in action, encourage students to make connections to the experiences of Salma and the other migrant workers in the book.

Questions for Discussion, using both images together:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What connection do the two images have when you look at them together?
  • How do these images connect to what you read in the book?
  • What feelings do you have when you study these images?
  • What questions do you have?
  • Where could you look for answers to those questions?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Wild blueberry fields in the fall near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, Canada: Wikimedia Commons
Blueberry rake: B.navez on Wikimedia Commons

Additional Primary Source Pairings:
The book How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? The Story of Food looks at each item in a student lunchbox and discusses how it was made or harvested. Use this book from the Monarch 2017 list as a way to extend the discussion of food and where it is grown.