by Sheila O’Connor
set in the 70’s with a background of the Watergate Trials, the turmoil of the Vietnam War and the proliferation of cults and communes, the Stars have already survived a lot – but there will be more.
Imagine being 13 and finding yourself alone with the responsibility of taking care of your little brother and sister. You’ve already been orphaned and taken by the state – will it happen again? The Stars are determined that they will be fine until Old Finn comes home, but the wait gets longer and longer. Pride just needs to get into town to ask Old Finn what to do. He’s sick, but one question and then she’ll be able to take care of things. She is certain of that, except nothing seems to work out as hoped.
Since their mother died, the Star children have lived with their grandpa, Old Finn on the farm he calls Eden. It’s away from everyone and everything. Old Finn wants it that way. He likes to keep his business to himself. But then Old Finn gets sick and not just a little sick; he develops an infection that sends him far away to the hospital in Duluth. Left in charge of the farm, Pride and her sister, 9-year-old Nightingale and brother, 6-year-old Baby try to figure out how to feed themselves and wait things out.
That proves challenging. Pride knows she can’t run a household with no money and only a horse to make the long trek into town. The children decide to start a roadside business. It seems like it might work at first, but then it starts to attract attention from neighbors and concerned adults. Isn’t it odd that three kids are alone seemingly all the time and their stories seem to fall a little short of the truth. As things begin to unravel, the Stars know they must get to Old Finn and find help to keep them safe before the state takes them into custody. That is something they couldn’t bear again.
Keeping Safe the Stars by Sheila O’Connor helps us understand that even bright, resourceful kids can’t go it alone. It also helps us know that the adults they depend on need plans. People do need people in order to make it through. There are people full of kindness and understanding- not everyone is bad. It may not be wise to keep others away – even if you’ve had reason to distrust and fear in the past. If you are a good soul, and it seems clear Old Finn is that, the others will be there waiting and watching and willing to help when they are invited in.
Keeping Safe the Stars holds you until the very end. You have a sense of how things will go in the end – but nothing goes as the Stars hope or plan throughout the story so you’re not certain of the ending until it comes. It is a story that will have you thinking and wondering long after you are done. The Stars will stay with you for a long while.