Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus — Review & Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“If a rabbit defined intelligence the way man does, then the most intelligent animal would be a rabbit, followed by the animal most willing to obey the commands of a rabbit.”
~ Robert Brault, writer ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

If you are working in non-fiction, there can be no better author to learn from than Steve Sheinkin. His books are, well, the bomb! HERE at Non-Fiction Fest he has a post all about The Art of the Opening Scene.

Everyone gets writer’s block now and again. Writer’s Digest has a neat article with 9 Weird Ways to Beat Writer’s Block you might enjoy. It’s HERE.

It is always a good idea to have a refresher on what makes good dialogue in writing. HERE is a good post on dialogue from the Alice Williams Writing blog.

Over the years, my family has opened our home a few times to foreign exchange students. Consequently, our kids have friends in other countries, have visited other countries, and still have relationships with some of those students. And my children’s children have visited other countries and have relationships with the children of some of those students. The gift that keeps on giving. One of those students — Sonni Lanio from Hamburg, Germany, contacted me the other day and asked my help in finding a family for her youngest, Henry. I guess if they can find an interested family, everything will be easier with his placement. Henry would like to be in New England or on the west coast, but really anywhere in the states would be great. He is 15 years old, very bright, and a really nice guy. If you are interested or if you know of a family who might like to have this experience, please let me know, and I’ll send more information. And it isn’t necessary to have kids the same age. We had students when our kids were 3 and 5, 10 and 12, 14 and 16, and I even had one after my kids were grown and after my husband passed, but I think it’s better if there is a family.

Last week I offered a gently-read ARC of Better than Butter by Victoria Piontek to one of you. I guess being the first to comment was lucky this week. Pete Springer was lightning-fast and the lucky winner. If you don’t know Pete, he is a retired elementary school teacher and an aspiring writer. You can find out more about him at his site HERE. Pete, I will get your book out to you soon. Thanks for reading and commenting.

The book reviews haven’t had a lot of good choices in the middle-grade category lately, so I have been digging into my towering TBR pile, getting to some of those books I have long wanted to read. The one I’d like to tell you about this week has perhaps the most intriguing title I’ve ever run across written by someone with a very intriguing name. It is Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. This book came out so long ago (2017) that it already has a sequel that has been out for quite a while. But, as I often say, it is never too late to review a good book, and this is really a good one.

Aven Green was born without arms, but that never stopped her from telling some wild tales about losing her arms to wild animal attacks or fires or whatever captures her fancy. She is 13, and there isn’t much she can’t do that other 13-year-old girls can do. Her adoptive parents never coddled her, and she has grown into a strong, independent person. All the kids at her school who have known her forever are quite comfortable around a girl who does virtually everything with her feet. But Aven’s dad lost his job as a restaurant manager during the recession, and when he finally gets an offer, they have to move to Arizona. The kids at her new school can’t seem to see past her lack of arms, and it is really hard for Aven to make friends. And her dad’s new job has the family living at a rundown Western theme park, not conducive to being cool. But Aven doesn’t let much get her down.

Aven meets Conner, a boy at her school who feels quite isolated by his dealing with Tourette’s Syndrome, and they become great friends. They spend a lot of time at the park, and discover some things in a locked desk in an old shed that send them on a search for answers about the park and how Aven’s family ended up there. Sometimes Conner and Aven’s friendship is strained by the search, but they both learn a great deal about themselves, their capabilities, and family and friendship along the way.

Dusti Bowling

I just love this book so much, and although I don’t read much YA, I am putting the sequel on my TBR list. I am also adding her other books. In fact, I already have a copy of her book The Canyon’s Edge, and it’s pretty close to the top of my teetering stack. The writing is simply beautiful, the characters are completely engaging and credible, and the story is so compelling. I love that Aven has two involved, loving parents. No divorce, no dead mother — just a completely intact family. It’s rare in middle-grade books. I can’t recommend this book enough. If you know young people who have any kind of disability and are struggling to deal with it or have a lack of confidence or are anxious, or, or, or… this is a must-read. But every person who reads this wonderful book, adult or child, will benefit from the experience. Now go get a copy. Please.

I have a gently-read paperback for one of you. All you need do is be a follower or subscriber (it’s free!), have a U.S. address, and leave a comment below. If you would like extra chances, please share the link to this post on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media outlet and let me know you have done that. And don’t forget to check for other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.

26 thoughts on “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus — Review & Giveaway”

  1. I’m excited to give this one a read. Having taught upper middle grades for many years, I know that social anxiety disorder is an enormous challenge for many children. I love when authors have the courage to address such problems.

    Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is precisely the type of book I used to read to my 5th-6th graders. I LOVE books involving strong protagonists (male or female), and I don’t think I’ve read another book for this age level involving Tourette’s Syndrome. I’m going to pick that one up too. Thanks for the recommendation, Rosi.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You keep finding the fun, Rosi. Also, I loved the quote at the top about rabbits choosing the order of life. I’ll be sharing on Twitter and Facebook for more chances.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We had a couple of exchange students when my children were at home, but Pongo and I would be very boring for a high school student. How great that one of your former guests is now sending her son! I did love Insignificant Events, and it’s been popular with my students. I hope you can find more readers for it with a contest winner!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree – Steve Sheinkin’s NF FEST post is amaaaaay-zing! As for cacti- what a wonderful book that is! I loved reading it, but wanted to really know about the insignificant events in the Life of a Cactus (which, if I had written it, would be a NF book about prickles and spines and cactus wrens, I’m pretty sure)… Here’s to towering TBR piles

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Canyon’s Edge kept me on the edge of my seat while reading! You will love it, especially if you enjoy survival stories. Dusti is so talented.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great title for a book! It certainly captivates your imagination. But, I also found the author’s name interesting and when I first read it thought “dust bowl” as if it was a subtitle. Funny how the mind plays tricks. I love everything about this story and would enjoy reading about a strong protagonist who has overcome so much. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved this story and reviewed it a while ago. The characters and unique story line made it worthwhile. I’ve recommended this to many kids over the past few years. Thanks for keeping t out there. I’ll let someone else win the giveaway who hasn’t read this one yet.
    The links were great and led me to some new learning on writer’s block and dialog. Happy MMGM!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This sounds like a fantastic book, and I appreciate the “late” review, because I still haven’t read it! Aven sounds like such a compelling protagonist, and I love your enthusiasm about the writing and the themes. And it’s surprising that the sequel aged up to high school—not because it’s illogical, but just because it seems like such a bold choice, so good on Dusti Bowling!

    It’s really amazing that you’ve had foreign exchange students live with you before—it really is such a shame that so many of us live in our own little American bubble and miss out on the wonderful people living across this world. And I love the meme and quote! I’ll pass on the giveaway, Rosi, but thanks so much for the wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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