LUCY CASTOR FINDS HER SPARKLE, by Natasha Lowe, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Feb. 20, 2018, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Change seems to be a constant for middle-graders, so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of books out that explore those different kinds of change, including Natasha Lowe’s Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle.
Lucy Castor does not like change. In fact, she tries to avoid it at all costs. She loves where she lives, her best friend and her small family comprised of Lucy and her parents. Unfortunately for Lucy, change is not something you can run away from.
When Lucy returns home from an eight-week summer vacation at her grandmother’s house, the first thing she wants to do is meet up with Ella. Lucy and Ella have been best friends forever. Together they find the magic in everything. They even have magic wands.
But the Ella Lucy meets up with is far from magical. This Ella has a swishy ponytail, jean shorts and a T-shirt that has SPARKLE GIRL emblazoned with pink glitter. Gone is the girl with crumpled T-shirts and baggy gym shorts. Gone is Ella’s magic-finding imagination. Gone is Lucy’s best friend.
Lucy’s life is over.
Losing Ella is not the worst of it, though. Lucy’s mom unexpectedly announces she’s going to have a baby, and the pregnancy starts taking its toll. Mom spends most of her time on the couch and all the things that used to make Lucy’s family magical sort of dry up. Add to that a cranky neighbor who erects a tall fence and blocks out all the sunlight in Lucy’s yard, and you’ve got a miserable fourth-grader.
Lucy may as well give up, but with the help of some newfound friends, she realizes magic is never really gone. Sometimes you just have to look a little closer.
I have mixed feelings about Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle. It’s a cozy little book with much to like — friendship drama, learning to deal with change, looking for the magic in everything.
However, I struggled with Lucy herself. She starts out a happy, reassured 10-year-old but quickly makes the switch to moody and depressed. And Natasha Lowe’s well-crafted setting only serves to heighten Lucy’s anxieties. Halfway in, I was depressed myself just reading it. I also had a hard time believing that such doting parents would switch to ignoring her so quickly.
Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle is not without it’s high points. Supporting characters, especially Lucy’s next-door-neighbor, Chloe, really brighten the text and add a breath of fresh air. While some people might think 10-years-old is too old for a child to believe in magic, I found it refreshing. I feel like 10 is too young to be thinking about boys, so I’m glad to find a book that celebrates nature and imagination.
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