By Claudia Rojas
Star Catching is a story of grief by Dawn Lajeunesse, but one filled with tenderness and family love to push along young readers.
As a reader, I look for narratives that allow me to vividly imagine the characters and at the same time teach me a little something. Star Catching did just that and more! You learn about the complicated problems associated with accidental car deaths, from the every-day changes to the mundane legal work.
Sarah, an eight year old, has spent the summer with her parents and her baby brother, Christopher, who have all visited Gramps and Gram in New York. It has been another fun summer, and school is around the corner. Sarah’s family is ready for Washington (state). Then, on their way to the airport, a car accident changes life as known to the Crawford family. Sarah has a hard time moving beyond the happy nights when she would vacation with her grandparents, when they would watch and catch stars, and when her parents and brother were alive. Gramps and Gram, who thought their retirement lives would soon start, will have to relearn parenting and cope with this tragic loss.
The novel has a spectacular story-telling move: the book chapters are divided into the voices of Gram and Sarah. Gram, called Marian by her husband, Ed, dreams about retiring and traveling. She loves to spoil Sarah, but things are tricky when being grandma isn’t enough. Sarah is a sweet and well-behaved granddaughter until her loss and injuries cause her to become angry and close up about her feelings. Of course, there are two generational gaps between these two family members, but it’s their family connection that matters most.
I found that the best part was Sarah’s journey to physical and emotional recovery. It was easy to sympathize for Sarah, and I was rooting for her the whole way. Yes, there is a little blood, a default with a book that opens with death, and there is mild cursing from emotional adults. Additionally, Sarah contemplates doing several dangerous things to move away from her grandparents because she feels like an unwanted burden. These thoughts justify Star Catching’s most important message: people should look for support and talk about their pain.
For Sarah, sharing the hurt feels impossible, but it’s learning to do that which ultimately allows her grandparents to give her the fullest support. Star Catching is a lesson on what it is to love and mourn and endure.
Star Catching gets 4.5 stars!