Book Club Spotlight – Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Cover for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. The Title stands out against desert sand and a field of cacti

I hope everyone is as excited about the Summer Reading Program at their local library as I am! (I don’t want to brag, but I just received the Little Reader badge) This year’s theme is “Adventure Begins at Your Library”, and who knows better about Adventure than the spunky protagonists of middle-grade novels? Author Dusti Bowling is quickly becoming an icon in the middle-grade literature world, with her award-winning novels The Canyons Edge and Across the Desert flying off the shelves. After Bowling’s cousin experienced medical trauma and possible limb amputation, she wanted to read as much about limb differences as she could, but the books just weren’t there! Thus, Aven Green and the novel Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus were born.

Aven Green’s life is turned upside down when her family moves from Kansas to a failing western theme park in Arizona. Being the “new kid” is hard on any middle schooler, but Aven dreads the inevitable stares and questions when her classmates realize she doesn’t have arms. Don’t let her lack of arms fool you- Aven can do just about anything a regular kid can do, with some sass thrown in for good measure. Alongside the unwavering support of her adoptive parents and her new friends Connor and Zion, Aven is determined to get through the school year without dying from embarrassment in the lunch room when she has to eat with her feet. And if a new school wasn’t enough, there’s a mystery to solve! Something is afoot at Stagecoach Pass, and Aven Green is determined to get to the bottom of it, even if it means rooting out the mysterious owner, Joe Cavanaugh!

“I’m not sure I want to get involved with murders and dead lizards and stuff. I don’t know if my parents would like it”

Dusti Bowling

The hilarious and energetic Aven Green is a storyteller, athlete, musician, and detective in the charming Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. A story about overcoming your fears, embracing differences, and getting through middle school with some great friends, Bowling pays close attention to illustrating how everyone has something they’re insecure about, even if it’s not as obvious as missing both your arms. Full of lighthearted radical acceptance, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus may not be the end-all-be-all for perfect representation. Still, it is an incredible jumping-off point for students and adults alike looking to explore how those different from them experience life. And while Bowling doesn’t have a limb difference, she encourages the perspective of people who do, specifically the armless women, Barbie Thomas, and Tisha UnArmed, who helped with her manuscript!

This Disability Pride Month, lets celebrate the increasing visibility of disabled people. The rise of tools like social media has helped spread awareness and promote acceptance in the community! One of my favorite creators, actress Ren Willow, makes comedy videos about her life with a limb difference with realness and lightheartedness. Influencer Briel Adams-Wheatley, who, without arms or legs, shows off her skills as a makeup artist and fashion icon. While everyone’s abilities are different, these content creators and writers like Bowling are helping to reduce the stigma around people with limb differences and disabilities. 

Your readers might also be interested in the sequel Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus. Or her prequel illustrated chapter books: Aven Green!

If you’re interested in requesting Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 22 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Bowling, Dusti. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. Scholastic. 2017

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