Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

Wendy Mass's new book can be introduced with two words: coincidence and convergence.

1. Coincidence: Have you ever heard of "Nature's Greatest Coincidence?" One of the greatest coincidences in nature is the fact that the sun and the moon appear to be the exact same size from earth. The moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun and the sun is about 400 times as far away from earth than the moon. That's why they look the same size and why the moon can cover up the sun during a solar eclipse. I know many of you probably witnessed the lunar eclipse (when a full moon dips into Earth's shadow) last February, but how many of you have witnessed a solar eclipse? I can only remember one, but I don't recall if the "instant of totality" was achieved. The instant of totality occurs when the moon exactly covers the sun, revealing just a sliver of light around it that sometimes looks like beads. These are called Bailey's Beads. If you are lucky enough to witness a solar eclipse in your lifetime, don't expect another one to occur in the same spot overhead for another 300 years. The next solar eclipse to be somewhat near Minnesota will not happen until 2017, nine years from now. If you desperately want to view one before then, you'll have to become an eclipse chaser. You just missed one. A solar eclipse was witnessed over China a few days before the Olympic Games.

2. Convergence: I mentioned in a previous blog entry about the convergence of the moon, Venus and the Jupiter in the SW Minnesotan sky in early December. In the book, every soul a star, by Wendy Mass, another type of convergence occurs. Three kids who have never seen each other before meet in an isolated part of the United States (which I guess we'll call Middle of Nowhere, USA) because of an event that will not take place at the exact same spot again for 300 years-a solar eclipse. Like caravans of wise men, people from around the world have made plans to converge on this spot for the historic event. Not all of them have come willingly, however.

First, there's Jack. It wasn't his idea to go, but he would either have to spend a couple of weeks with one of his teachers on a dusty hilltop looking up at the sky or go to summer school because of his poor grades. Jack by the way is a lucid dreamer. A lucid dreamer is someone who is aware that they are dreaming while the dream is in progress.

Second, there's Bree. She could be a character in one of the Clique books by Lisi Harrison. Bree is considered the prettiest girl in her school. She wouldn't disagree. She considers her eyes to be just as blue as Cameron Diaz's. She has worked
hard at becoming the most popular girl in the A-clique at her school and she wants to keep it that way. Bree thinks she was switched at birth. Her parents are scientists, but the last thing Bree would want to do is join them in the Middle of Nowhere USA to watch a dumb solar eclipse. What would that do for her image?

And then there's Ally. She is the star-gazer of the bunch. Her parents own Moon Shadow Campground, the one that all the eclipse-chasers are converging on. She wears a small meteorite around her neck that long ago grazed her grandpa's ear when it fell from the sky. She can't imagine a better place to grow up. Middle of Nowhere is a simple place where there are no schools or cliques, where the air is clean and there isn't much for civilization, and where the sky is free from light pollution to see the billions of stars in the Milky Way at night. Nothing could tear her away from Moon Shadow Campground, not in a billion years.

See how a natural coincidence results in an unlikely convergence of three very different personalities in, every soul a star, by Wendy Mass.

Other links:

NASA Solar Eclipse Page
Solar Eclipse in China, Aug. 1, 2008
How to view a solar eclipse.
Future solar eclipses.
Bailey's Beads.
World Wide Telescope

You may already be familiar with Wendy Mass. She is the author of one of last year's hits, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.

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