Goodreads suggested I read “The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky”, so I did! I was also swayed after connecting with Holly Schindler on Twitter. She was so kind and talked back and forth with me without it feeling like she was trying to sell me something. She even offered to Skype with my class!
The story inside the pages of “The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky” is as fun and adorable as the cover on the outside. I think students would want to read the book based on the cover alone. It only has 240 pages, which will make it appealing even to reluctant readers. Once inside the story, readers will immediately connect with Auggie, regardless of whether or not they’ve been in her shoes.
Auggie Jones lives with her grandfather in a beautifully named part of town: Serendipity Place. In fact, the whole town is filled with lovely street names. Auggie herself lives at the intersection of Sunshine and Lucky. But, to some, the appearance of Serendipity Place isn’t as beautiful as the name would have you believe.
The town’s House Beautification Committee is leading the charge in “motivating” residents to make the outside of their homes more aesthetically pleasing. To do this, the committee has decided to fine townspeople who are not making proper repairs and updates. For the poverty-stricken folks of Serendipity Place, that’s just not realistic. But they won’t be defeated easily. They find affordable ways to make their homes more attractive. They patch their roofs and their screens, put up pretty new curtains, and add a new coat of paint where needed. Auggie and Gus have a unique way of sprucing up the place: they take old people’s unwanted junk and turn it into creative sculptures that decorate their lawn.
Sure that this will please the Committee, Auggie and the other residents of Serendipity Place hold an open house to show off their new renovations. Days later, they find letters explaining that their efforts and improvements are subpar. The fines continue to skyrocket, and the townspeople are worried that they might end up losing their homes.
Using the same creativity that sparked the idea for the sculptures, Auggie comes up with a way to save her neighbors and their houses. During school, Auggie and her friends are berated for being poor. Even her former best friend doesn’t help defend her. But after school, Auggie and her grandfather continue working furiously to invent new and more imaginative sculptures.
This time, Auggie plans on doing more than just showing them off. Instead of an open house, Auggie holds an art show. Folks from across town come to see the display of motorized and stationary sculptures. Their work is breathtaking, and even draws the attention of some art dealers. The art dealers start buying Auggie’s creations right off her front lawn, and the money she makes is enough to pay off the fines of everyone in Serendipity Place, and then some.
Auggie shows readers that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has their own standards of beauty, and one person or a team of people should not force their standards on an entire population. Auggie’s actions help demonstrate that wealth does not determine how much a person is worth.
“The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky” is a great novel to help open discussions about discrimination, beauty, friendship, and determination. Auggie is a character worth looking up to. She is dedicated to her friends and family, and stands up for what she believes in, even when she’s in the minority.
I think Auggie will lend a voice to children who are too afraid or intimidated to speak up about what it’s like to be considered poor. Alternatively, I think it also provides a means for students who haven’t experienced a life without financial hardship to take a look at the character building that comes from that kind of upbringing.
Title: “The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky”
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: February 6, 2014
You might also enjoy: “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (another great book for empathy)
My recommended age range: 3rd-6th grade