Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Came From The Stars by Gary D. Schmidt - review

What Came From The Stars
by Gary Schmidt

****** six out of six stars
cover - this cover is what first caught my eye.  The book came through The Junior Library Guild - or JLG (a company that will {among other services} send a set of books to your school library {for money, of course, it's a business}.  The benefit is they will sort out a determined set of books...we have fiction - middle grade, elementary age, and picture books picked out.  They usually pick interesting novels to send.  We get a lot of science fiction and fantasy, as we've picked those as our interests {lol, MY interests})  I saw this cover and marveled at the mix of stars, the colors, the sky, the comet and the house looking at once both peaceful and possibly sinister... it's homey looking and yet looks isolated out there...The setting of the house is at the coast - it's close to the ocean.  The book is set near Plymouth Rock.

What Came From The Stars - what an interesting novel.  Even though this is supposed to be for middle grade - the main character is in 6th grade, with a younger sister.  I was reading it to a group of third graders and they were enjoying it a lot - though some chapters were very difficult to understand, especially since it was peppered with words that seem to be completely MADE UP - it was another planet, after all.  Think of bible style writing with fantasy elements.  It's a style of writing that an older teen, as well as an adult, would find challenging to keep up with.  But the chapters featuring Tommy and friends were captivating my audience.  And here we were at the end of a school year, no more library classes - no more time to read to the class, and we hadn't been able to get through the book.  I've had this happen to me before, where we haven't been able to finish reading a book, but this is the first time I've felt compelled to take the book home and finish reading it on my own.  This was a very good book, with some suspenseful moments, some intense moments and some outright fun moments.  I can imagine a book like this holding the interest of an elementary aged child, a tween, a teen and an adult.  Heck - it held my interest.

Told in alternating pov's - one is third person and focuses on Tommy Pepper, his sister and his father.  It's only slowly that you learn that his little sister hasn't said a word in a long time - since they lost their mother.  Tommy and little sister - Patty - live with their father in a beach house.  Not only are they dealing with their own grief of losing their mom, their father is greiving and hasn't quite been himself, though he's taking care of them.  Father is a painter.  And their house - the view and access to the ocean beach is being threatened by an ambitious real estate agent - one who is not a very pleasant woman.

The other pov is the one that is hard for younger children to understand.  Hell, I think it would be hard for some grown ups to follow, much less older children.  The style is very formal, with many, many completely foreign words - foreign as in not of this world.  The setting is a planet very far away - another galaxy.  War has broken out, an entire race is being wiped out by a wizard and his enslaved ... monsters? beings?  things.  

As the world far away is being threatened, one of the last of the people put all the magical art into a chain, and sends it through the sky, through the atmosphere into space where it travels through galaxies into the Earth's atmoshpere and lands in Tommy's lunch box.  Tommy's lunch box is an Ace Robotroid adventure lunch box and he's embarrassed to use it - feels too old for it.  But granma gave it to him for his birthday...and he finds this chain in it, assumes it's from his grandma and puts it on. Suddenly he's having memories and talents that he's never had before.  Words are coming out of his mouth that people don't understand....

this book is a piece of creative genius.  I was amazed.  Even though at times the subject matter seems a little bleak - the little family is obviously a bit depressed, they're greiving, their very house is being threatened and suddenly the whole town becomes a target for something dangerous and mysterious...there are funny moments peppered throughout.

The suspense built up gradually and steadily, the things Tommy was experiencing increased until the climax of the novel.... and the ending was so good...  This is one book that I'm glad I read, even though it was meant to be a children's book, it read as interesting to me as a good adult book.  Some of the subject matter is intense and a little dark, but on the whole, it was a book about hope, about healing, family, relationships, friends sticking together and the hidden strength of people.  Great reading.


  1. Very cool. I think I've corrupted you into reading YA ^.~

    Also I nominated you for a liebster award on my blog. One of those silly little blog share things.