A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Besides telling a good story, author Sheila O'Connor brings to life the era of Watergate and Nixon, offering a realistic, age-appropriate sense of the times, including hippies, communes, and opposition to the Vietnam War. There's plenty of incidental learning, too, on topics from the kids' homeschool lessons to French Impressionism. Also, the kids' grandfather, a retired professor, has named his animals Scout, Atticus, and Woody Guthrie; young readers who know the references will be tickled, and others may be intrigued enough to find out more about the animals' namesakes.
In addition to celebrating family bonds in the face of adversity, there are lessons here about neighborliness and the kindness of strangers, not to mention the importance of swallowing your pride and asking for help when you need it. The kids' ingenuity, tenacity, and problem-solving skills all play important roles.
Positive Role Models
Pride is determined to do a good job as de facto head of the family until she can get everyone back together. She often makes choices that don't turn out as planned and is guilt-stricken at all the lies she tells adults to keep her siblings safe; she's also conflicted about reading old letters written to her grandfather, torn between the privacy violation and the fact that the correspondence might reveal a solution to their problems. Several adults -- including the kids' late mother, their grandfather and his neighbors, and some of the strangers they meet -- show kindness, resourcefulness, and good sense and also learn from one another. The kids also experience adults behaving badly, including those who don't pay the kids for the souvenirs and pony rides they start selling to support themselves.
Violence & Scariness
The kids' mother has died in an auto accident; the Vietnam War is happening in the background of this story, and some characters oppose it.
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Products & Purchases
Some foods of the '70s, e.g. Sugar Smacks, are mentioned by name. The kids take a Greyhound bus.
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.
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.
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