Book Review: Kepler’s Dream by Juliet Bell

Kepler's DreamBy Awnali Mills

Kepler’s Dream by Juliet Bell caught my eye because someone had turned it out for display on our shelf, and I found the title intriguing.  Kepler?  This wasn’t in the non-fiction section, so did they mean Kepler as in astronomy’s Kepler?  It didn’t look like an historical fiction either, so I was curious.

I’m so glad I picked this book up.  It’s a little bit older, published in 2012, but it was a lovely story.  Ella’s mother has leukemia and needs a stem cell transplant.  Her parents are divorced, her father leads fishing parties for a living, and they don’t have anyone lining up to take Ella in for the time her mother needs to spend in isolation.  Her father (who seems to have lost the Dad Handbook) wrangles his mother into agreeing to keep Ella.  Ella’s never even met her grandmother, and her mother’s reaction to the news isn’t promising.

So, Ella finds herself in Albuquerque, NM, on a deserted ranch next to a juvenile correctional facility with her grandmother, the grammar Nazi; the nice man-of-all-work, Miguel; and his antagonistic daughter, Rosie.  When her grandmother’s prize antique book, Kepler’s Dream, goes missing, Ella determines to find out who took it—even if she is one of the prime suspects.

I really enjoyed this book.  Woven throughout the narrative is Ella’s quirky sense of humor, and the letters that she writes to her mother.  Despite the hand that she’s been dealt, Ella isn’t angry, sullen, or bitter.  Although she can be disappointed in the grownups around her, she gives them a lot of grace.  She isn’t a Pollyanna, but uses humor to keep her fear under control.

Because I am insatiably curious, I looked up Kepler’s Dream to see if it was a real book—it is.  It was written in 1611, and is credited by many as the first work of science fiction, being an allegorical story about people who travel to the moon.  When I looked it up, though, I ran across an IMDB reference to Kepler’s Dream.  Turns out that Bell’s book is going to be made into a movie which should be released this year.  I’m glad I read the book first!  I’m not sure how well Ella’s humor will translate onto the screen, since most of it is contained in her thoughts (because voicing them would be totally inappropriate, and get her in lots of trouble.)  But it will be interesting to see them try!

Put this book into the hands of kids who like strong female characters, who are dealing with divorce, or who like a good mystery (whodunit was a surprise to me—I usually figure them out).

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