Louisiana Elefante has been torn away from everything she knows. In the middle of the night, her granny bundles her in the car to take her across the state line from Florida into Georgia, muttering dire predictions about the curse that has caught up with them. After running out of gas, making an emergency trip to a dentist, and inveigling a room at a small town motel, Louisiana finds her situation growing more dire by the hour. But in the midst of all her troubles she also finds kindness–from a friendly boy with a crow on his shoulder and a bologna sandwich to offer, from a cheerful grandpa happy to share his ice cream sundae, from a mother not too busy with her county-famous cakes to wash a strange little girl’s dress, and from a church minister with a walrus’ face and an ear ready to listen.
I am curious to see what a middle grade child would make of this story. As an adult, I found it gloriously poignant and breathtakingly heart-wrenching…which is to say, I cried through nearly half of the book. The story is a beauty from ashes tale that shows the power of kindness, charity, forgiveness, and hope, all seen through the eyes of an unforgettable child.
The theme of Pinocchio is deftly woven into the story, as Louisiana compares her own life to the wooden puppet’s and looks for her own Blue Fairy. By the end, the group of stars which Louisiana knows as the “Pinocchio constellation” (with the puppet’s long nose that comes from telling lies) is renamed as the “Big Dipper,” the home of the North Star that can keep everyone, even a little girl from Florida, from being lost and alone in this big old world.
“The world smelled of unshared caramel candy and dust and beeswax. Everything was broken; I knew that. But I felt like I could fix it if I just kept singing. And so I kept singing.”
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.