4th Grade and Up
Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.
Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.
I am so happy I found this book. I’ve wanted to learn how someone can go through life without arms for a long time. The reason for this is I know a boy from high school whose arms only go to his elbows and one elbow has an odd thumb. He was one grade younger than me, so we weren’t in the same classes, but he was in the improv club and ate lunch in the Drama Club’s Black Box theatre and I hung out there as well (I wasn’t in Drama Club but no one every kicked me out). I really regret not getting to know him better.
Let me start out my saying that Aven isn’t really that different from everyone else. It just takes her longer to do things like get dressed. I had a hard time picturing how Aven is able to do things like eat and get dress with only her feet, so I went on YouTube and looked up ‘born without arms’. After watch these three videos, I was able to understand it a bit more. Here are a few I found:
Mother and Son Born Without Arms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgB5XyqZoNc
Amazing Young Girl with Determination and Spirit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jbkvvjTksA
Incredible 7-year-old Uses Her Feet as Hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpNlvQLgsAc
I’m going to give away how this book starts because I want to make a point. Aven starts out by saying that when she was little, a kid pointed at her and shouted, “Her arms fell off!” Now, let’s concentrate on the word ‘fell’. Why does the kid immediately think that Aven’s arms ‘fell off’? I think it’s because for kids under the age of 7, that’s the only explanation they can come up with. I think it’s just that people are so used to seeing other people with all four limbs that when someone has one missing it just throws them off.
People want to know the story of why. People are naturally curious and want to know everyone’s story. The more gore and bizarre the better. That’s why Aven tells people stories about how she ‘lost her arms’ because when she just says she was born without them people are all like, “Aww is that it?”
Aven isn’t the only kid in this book with a difference, her friend Connor has Tourette’s Syndrome (TS). I’m surprised it took me this long to find a book about someone with TS and I’m lucky it was this one because it explains what life with TS is really like. Tourette’s is a neurological disorder that causes a person to have tics – involuntary movements, thoughts, or words. In Connor’s case, those tics includes uncontrolled blinking and barking. People ask why someone with Tourette’s Syndrome can’t hold in their tics and I love how Connor explains it. You’ll have the read the book for the whole explanation but here’s a small summary. You know when you have a really bad cough and sometimes you can hold it in, but it gets really uncomfortable and you end up having a cough attack. It’s like that but more painful. To learn more about Tourette’s Syndrome, check out the video links below:
Understanding Tourette: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1fGZB5Hbro
Top 5 Tourette’s Syndrome Facts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFF1xKbLJKY
HiHo Kids Meet a Woman with Tourette’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54qoxmF-GOw&index=14&list=PL2etPlnTb9sXwY7EgbEdYcfpl4SOeek3_
Things Not to Say To People with Tourette’s Syndrome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-YeQUrX5M4&index=19&list=PL64ScZt2I7wGxZlXAu0r0UPqpvzF23mgc
One last thing, if you are wondering why this book is titled “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” I have no idea. It’s sort of explained on one page in the book but it doesn’t really make sense.
This weeks’ Weird but True Fact about Cactuses
A saguaro cactus can store up to 200 gallons of water in order to survive in the desert.