Quintessence

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Quintessence
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
July 28, 2020
ISBN
978-0374309763
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Quintessence is an extraordinary story from Jess Redman about friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped―even though she’s told her parents that they have. She’s homesick and friendless and every day she feels less and less like herself.

But one day she finds a telescope in the town’s junk shop, and through its lens, she watches a star―a star that looks like a child―fall from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and she knows that it’s up to her to save the star. And so, with the help of some unlikely new friends from Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self.

This title has Common Core connections.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Magical Realism
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Alma and her family have moved to Four Points for her parents' work as real estate lawyers. She has always struggled to make friends and feel comfortable at school, but the moved has upended her so much that she has started to have increasingly common panic attacks. After the first one, she has hidden them from her parents, who are always trying to be helpful and encourage her to get out and try new things. When she gets a mysterious note, she discovers a Astronomy Club at school attended by only Shirin and Hugo, and also gets a "quintescope" from the oddly mystical Five Points Shop and the Shopkeeper, who gives her the mission "Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling." Shirin and Hugo help her figure out how to go about doing this, and help her a little in dealing with school. Dustin, a dysfunctional but somewhat misunderstood bully, doesn't at first but is somewhat useful in the end. Will Alma be able to get the elements gathered in time to save the Starling, and will she also beableto handle middle school and manage her anxiety?
Good Points
This was on trend in the treatment of a tween with an anxiety disorder. The parents are fairly, although not entirely, aware of this, and both supportive. Near the end, they do suggest a therapist. Shirin and Hugo are good friends to Alma and help her with her quest, even though it is one that is hard to believe. The quest is well developed and aidedby the magical ShopKeeper.

This will be popular with readers who like to see a little magic in everyday life. Alma's story has an Ingrid Law, Wendy Mass, and Natalie Lloyd vibe as does this author's The Miraculous. This is also somewhat similarto Haydu's Eventown or Staniszewski's The Wonder of Wildflowers. (less)
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enchanting middle grade
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
QUINTESSENCE is a charming and enchanting middle grade fantasy. Alma moved to Four Points, and she has felt a little adrift without friends or connections. She also feels like her Alma-ness, the spark that makes her herself, is fading. Before it does, she finds that the mysterious shop, The Fifth Point, is open and the ShopKeeper lends her a quintescope, a special telescope, and gives her a mission to help the Starling and find the Elements.

That night, Alma sees a star explode and then streak down to the Earth. She knows that this may be the Starling, but she can't quite believe that the eccentric ShopKeeper may have said what she thought he did or that any of this might be real. When she sees the flyer for the Astronomy Club, Alma decides to show up. However, it seems none of the other students seem to know who started the Club, but they connect on what they saw in the sky. As things develop, they embark on a quest that they never could have expected.

This was an absolutely enchanting middle grade read. The writing flows so well, and there is just enough mystery and magic to keep the reader hooked. With the ShopKeeper interludes and Alma's journey, this book is really engrossing. I would recommend it for people who enjoyed A WRINKLE IN TIME.

The characters are easy to connect with, and the writing pulls the reader in easily and keeps the pace perfectly enchanting all the way to the conclusion. Magical with plenty of adventure, QUINTESSENCE is a new middle grade fantasy that will delight a new generation of middle grade readers.
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