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  • Published: 15 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241427965
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $17.99

What Stars Are Made Of


An Anti-Grinch Gets Excited

I was born with a heart three sizes too big.

No, really. Like an Anti-Grinch. Like it was already shouting, I’M JUST TRYING REALLY HARD OVER HERE.

Mom tells me she was very, very scared for her baby girl. But twelve years later, I’m still here.

There were a whole buttload of other weird things happening to me when I was born, too. But it’s not like that’s what I go around thinking about all the time, especially on a day when my mom and dad tell me they have a surprise unbirthday present waiting for me after school.

This is what happened when I woke up this morning:

Mom made chocolate Malt-O-Meal for breakfast. That is my all-time favorite food.

Dad looked up from his book and grinned at me— a mysterious grin like he was hiding a secret.

Then Mom put a bowl of the delicious, steamy Malt- O- Meal in front of me and said, “Guess what, Libby.”

I was already on my third bite so I had to swallow before I could say, “What?”

“We’re not going to tell you what it is, but there is going to be a surprise waiting for you when you get home from school today.”

I put down my spoon. “You’re buying me a puppy, aren’t you?”

Dad laughed, looking back at his book. “Honestly, I think you’ll like it as much as that.”

So it was something good. Really good. Maybe a safari in Botswana? Maybe it had something to do with my big sister, Nonny, who lived in Chicago with her husband, Thomas. Maybe it was a pet iguana? A pet iguana would be one of the most unique pets ever. I would name her Rosalind after Rosalind Franklin. She’s a scientist too many people don’t know about. When I come across important, special, underestimated people like Rosalind, I collect them in my head and they become my friends. Then I have a whole squad of friends going around with me wherever I go. I talk to them a lot. I ask them questions, I tell them what I’m worrying about, and I try to figure out what the best of them would do.

So Rosalind the Iguana would only be one of many awesome names I could choose from.

I rubbed my hands together. “I have lots of good guesses,” I said.

“Yeah?” said Mom. “Like what?”

I tried to do the same mysterious grin that my dad did, and then shoved another bite of Malt-O-Meal in my mouth. Dad laughed again. Mom did a small hop as she walked back over to the sink. I bounced in my seat a couple of times, feeling almost like it really was my birthday.

I like watching my mom in the kitchen. It’s like watching those YouTube videos of Michelle Kwan ice-skating in the Olympics. Mom has broad shoulders and round, strong arms and sometimes she says she feels “stocky” or “ungraceful,” but she’s not like that in the kitchen. In the kitchen she’s a ballerina.

Mom also has:

1. Short, curly hair that’s greying on the sides.
2. A wide smile.
3. Her own bakery that she started when I was four years old. She told me she’d wanted to start one for a long time, but she was scared. She didn’t really know how to do the business stuff. When I was four, Dad told her she should just do it. Totally go for it. So she did.

Dad is an art teacher at the high school. Once I’m in ninth grade I could maybe take a class from him, except I’m probably the worst person at art in the whole school. I’m not so great with fine motor skills. That’s okay, though. I’m better at using microscopes and not being one bit afraid that time we dissected cow eyeballs.

Dad also has:

1. A bald pate (pate, one of our Hard Reading Words from English that’s basically a fancy word for the top of someone’s head).
2. Round glasses.
3. At least twenty books about Vincent van Gogh.
4. A voice that is quiet but never, ever shaky.

My parents are pretty smart.

And good at knowing the best surprises.


Text copyright © Sarah Allen, 2020.

What Stars Are Made Of Sarah Allen

An astonishingly bold and moving middle-grade debut about family, friendship and how it's OK to be different.

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