Thank you to the author for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Laura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based arts publicist and author whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., was released in September 2020 by INtense Publications and will be followed by a sequel in 2021. Having grown up in Southern California with parents who valued reading, she remains spellbound by kidlit. Some of her favorite middle grade novels, then and now, are The Diamond in the Window, Ellen Tebbits,
All of A Kind Family, Wonder, A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Miraculous. Laura’s non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York, and her feature stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways Magazine and Christian Science Monitor, among others. A long-time publicity consultant, she owns Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations, LLC, which has represented a wide-ranging client list of businesses, arts organizations and
non-profit events over the years. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in Drama. Laura and her husband live in Los Angeles and part-time in New York City. She loves reading, L.A. Dodgers baseball, classical music and theater.
Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices. As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.
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Thoughts and Themes: I think that this book is great for middle grade readers ages 10+. The fantasy elements to this story were really great and I loved the message that it taught in the end. I think this is a great book for young readers to read on their own or for a parent to read with their child. I also liked that this is a story that adults could enjoy and find things to take away as well.
I really enjoyed that this story teaches kids to embrace themselves and their differences. I like that it also shows the positive effect that friendship can have on someone and how your friends are there to support you when things are hard. I liked that the three children each had something different that they had to overcome yet these things brought them together.
Characters: There are three main characters, Darby, Justin, and Naz. You are also introduced to Mr. Usher and his children throughout the story. I really liked how Mr. Usher was introduced to the story and how these children build a relationship with him. I liked how the friendship between the children and Mr. Usher is developed and how he is used as a way to support them.
I also really liked the interactions that the children have with others at their camp. I thought it was great to see them overcome their challenges not just with each other but with other children. I liked that we got to see two settings in this story and not just the portion with Mr. Usher.
Writing Style: This story is told in third person and gives you three different main view points along with side viewpoints as well. It also goes back and forth from the present times and showing you some of the past with Mr. Usher’s children. I thought that it was great to see each of the children’s perspectives and see how different they were from each other yet how similar they were. I did find the pieces with the adults to be a little distracting from the rest of the story and could see children not being intrigued by those portions. I think that there isn’t too much of it though which was a plus for me and the parts that the adults interact with the children make the story come together.