“Be careful when you throw something bad inside your black hole. You may find you’ve gotten rid of the good as well.”
This is without doubt one of the most wonderful middle grade books I’ve read for a long time.
Stella Rodriguez, a space mad eleven-year-old, is followed home one day by a black hole. The black hole swallows everything – especially things that remind her of her dad, who has recently died.
Stella is not upset by this behaviour – in fact, she feeds Larry (the black hole) by throwing more and more of her possessions in to him, in an attempt to forget the grief she is feeling.
But when Larry accidentally eats something too precious to lose, Stella has to go on a intergalactic journey and delve deep to face her fears.
The theme of this book is grief.
It is an amazingly clever portrayal of what grief can feel like for some people – a huge nothingness that sucks everything from you.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is cleverly written. For most of the story it can be read literally. It seems Stella really does have a black hole in her bedroom (and boy is he trouble!) but the metaphors that Michelle Cuevas has created are subtle and for anyone who has been through the type of grief that Stella is experiencing, the story not only describes some of the feelings you might have when you loose someone special, but also reassures that it is OK to feel like this. And further, there are suggestions, hidden subtly in the text, of how to start to move forward, when the time is right.
But this is not a totally serious book. I laughed out loud several times, as well as choking back tears towards the end. The characters are witty and kind and three dimensional. Even the dead ones.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is fabulous for anyone who has loved and lost, or anyone who has ever had emotions that seem too big to control, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a funny, challenging and many-layered story.
Cover illustration by Zoe Perisco, based on an original design by Maria Fazio.