In the tradition of Sharon Creech and Wendy Mass, Corey Ann Haydu's sparkling middle grade debut is a sister story with a twist of magic, a swirl of darkness, and a whole lot of hope. Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she's too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother's unpredictable moods and outbursts. This summer, Silly feels more alone than ever when her sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter and gold hair that looks like tinsel. When Silly is brought into her sisters' world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she's soon forced to wonder if it could tear them apart.
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RULES FOR STEALING STARS is a truly magical story, both literally and figuratively. The magical realism element is done fantastically, weaving in fairy tales, magical closets, and an all too realistic family in deep pain. Silly’s voice is brave, uncertain, and desperate to prove herself as more than someone to be just be protected. Her journey in finding the strength to stand up for herself is beautiful and heartwarming, even as her circumstances are dire and tragic. There is a continuous weave of hope throughout the story that is immensely needed and adds so much light, even if small at first, to a family that believes itself to be in ashes.
Though the reader only gets Silly’s perspective, each sister has a clear personality. There are lines of dialogue where the speaker is so obvious that you know who it is before the text verifies. Marla, Astrid, and Eleanor each face their mother (and their father) in different ways, showcasing the wide spectrum of hurt and pain that neglect and abuse can cause. Marla’s reactions are especially heartbreaking, but the satisfying ending will leave readers with the perfect combination of realism and hope.
Readers will be enraptured with Silly and RULES FOR STEALING STARS. Corey Ann Haydu tells a wholly original story of pain, magic, broken family relationships, and a hope inside one young girl that will never fade completely.