THE CARE AND FEEDING OF A PET BLACK HOLE, by Michelle Cuevas, Dial Books, Sept. 12, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Eleven-year-old Stella Rodriguez is on an important mission — get Carl Sagan to include a specific recording on Voyager’s Golden Record. The problem is, the NASA security guard won’t let her through the gates. The even bigger problem: a black hole follows her home.
At first, Stella is wary of the black hole, which seems to want to be her house pet. It’s not easy to care for a black hole — it tends to swallow everything it touches. That’s not always a bad thing, though. It is a convenient way to get rid of things Stella doesn’t want.
Soon, Larry (short for singularity) is disappearing all sorts of things — ugly sweaters, annoying toys, a stinky class hamster, and all reminders of Stella’s dead father.
Everything’s going great until the family puppy gets swallowed up. You see, the problem with a black hole is it’s always hungry, and the more it eats, the bigger it gets, which means it gets even hungrier.
In an attempt to save the family pet, Stella and her younger brother, Cosmo, find themselves inside Larry with the bathtub as their boat and Brussels sprouts as their only sustenance.
As the siblings make their way through the singularity, Stella comes to realize she’s been letting her own grief consume her. With the help of Cosmo and some friends they pick up along the way, Stella finds the strength to find her way back home.
Much like Larry, The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is on its face one thing and inside something much more. Michelle Cuevas’ novel is funny, smart and moving.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is circuitous throughout. Stella is very much running away from her memories with her father, and yet it’s a cosmic phenomenon (something they would have loved to study together) that is helping her disappear them. She follows the path she knows, even when faced with the unknown.
Stella is a heroine you want to root for. She’s not sassy or popular. She’s not stuck up or super smart. She’s just Stella. She doesn’t have to change who she is to solve her problem. Who she is makes that happen.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is a lovely little story that will appeal to young readers of all temperaments.
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