Reading/Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Author: Cynthia Lord
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Lily finds a new friend when her blind black Labrador runs onto a nearby blueberry farm and they meet Salma, a migrant worker. Soon, Salma joins Lily in her project to paint and sell bee houses so she can get the money for an operation to restore her dog’s sight. But when Salma's exotic houses sell better than Lily’s mundane ones, Lily finds she is envious of Salma’s unique way of looking at the world. Even with the tension between them, Lily still want to support Salma who is the first migrant worker to enter the DownEast Blueberry Queen Pageant. Salma is up against Lily’s former best friend Hannah, and as the contest progresses, both girls find that it takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in.
In this novel, Cynthia Lord offers a lovely character-driven story of friendship. Lily is certainly naive to begin with, but she learns and grows though subtle changes that are delightfully innocent. Lily especially is honest about her insecurities and admits there are things she does not know. These revelations expand fully into the novel’s overall themes of release and loss in an engaging way. The plot progresses evenly through events happening in just a few months. This does make for a low-tension plot line, but Lily’s internal dialogues and some minor clashes between characters rise up to fill the need for conflicts that drive the story. Overall a simple story about two girls who are leaning to face the uncertainties life brings.