A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Keeping Safe the Stars, set in 1974, is an inspiring and hair-raising tale of three orphaned kids, the Stars, fending for themselves after their only caretaker, their grandfather, falls ill and is taken to the hospital. Without adult supervision, 13-year-old Pride, 11-year-old Nightingale, and 6-year-old Baby prove determined and ingenious in finding clever ways to support themselves while convincing the outside world that everything's normal so they don't get carted off to the foster care system. Many things don't go as planned, and Pride horrifies even herself at the lies she makes up. But, through some unlikely connections, as their tale unfolds against the backdrop of Nixon's resignation, the little family stays strong.
What's the story?
It's 1974, and Kathleen (13), Elise (11), and Baxter (6) Star -- known by their late mother's pet names of Pride, Nightingale, and Baby -- know all about keeping a low profile for the outside world. They lived happily on a commune with their parents until their dad died of cancer, their mother was killed in a car accident, and they were swept into the social services system. Then their grandfather arrives and takes them to his farm in Minnesota, where he's been living as something of a hermit; they all live happily until he falls ill and is taken to the hospital. Suddenly the kids have to fend for themselves and keep from attracting the authorities' attention, as they're determined never to go into the system or let anyone split them up. Various adults enter the picture, bringing complications with them. Narrated by Pride, this tale of intrepid kids dealing with challenges they don't really understand is heartwarming, funny, and full of positive life lessons.
Is it any good?
Author Sheila O'Connor's usual compelling writing, interesting characters, and deft touch with relationships are much in evidence here. Three resourceful kids deal with their own differences and the challenges of the adult world in their efforts to keep their family together. Along the way, the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation -- as well as various adult views of the situation -- come to light as part of the backdrop against which the kids' adventures unfold.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Watergate era and what kids learn about it today. Does Keeping Safe the Stars give you a good idea of the mood of the country at that time and what people worried about?
Have you read any other books in which kids suddenly have to take care of themselves? Why do you think this is a popular theme?
What does it tell you about a character that he names his animals Scout, Atticus, and Woody Guthrie? Can you identify where these names came from?
From Pride's description of life on the commune, do you think you would have liked living there?
- Author: Sheila O'Connor
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, History, Horses and Farm Animals, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Publication date: October 11, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love coming-of-age and family stories
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.