Heartfelt and magical, A Pocketful of Stars follows Safiya who has never seen eye-to-eye with her mother. When her mother falls into a coma, Safiya comes to terms with their complicated relationship and discovers more about herself through dreams that transport her to her mother’s childhood in Kuwait.
Author Aisha Bushby joins us on the Lerner blog to discuss the research she did for this middle grade novel, her favorite video games, and more. Keep reading to download the free educator guide!
What sort of research did you do for the book?
This book required quite a bit of research, and I was very grateful to receive advice from medical experts to make sure the hospital scenes were as accurate as I could make them. The story was also inspired by the idea of scents triggering memories—as it is Safiya’s mother’s perfume bottle that transports her to her mother’s past—so I looked into the science of that as the basis for the magic system.
What do you hope readers will learn or discover from reading your book?
To be confident about who they are and their interests, and that there can be life after grief. I hope readers come away from the book feeling ultimately hopeful.
What was your inspiration for the book?
The experience Safiya goes through with her mother is inspired by a couple of big events that happened to me, and it felt important to share with readers who may have been through something similar. The other inspiration was video games! Almost 50 percent of gamers are girls, and I wanted to celebrate that in this story.
What are your favorite video games?
My favorite games I’ve played recently are Animal Crossing, Spiritfarer (warning for flashing lights), and Wytchwood. I really love cozy narrative games that don’t require too much skill!
Safiya is also a huge fan of the animated films of Studio Ghibli. What’s your favorite Studio Ghibli film?
I have two favorites. Spirited Away is the first one I ever remember watching and is, in my opinion, a perfect story. I love the combination of magic and heart. But I also have a soft spot for Kiki’s Delivery Service, which is based on an adorable book that everyone should read!
Praise for A Pocketful of Stars
★”Bushby writes with nuance and skill about a mother-daughter relationship fraught with misunderstanding, and Safiya’s eventual realizations are equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking. A poignantly written novel that is hard to put down and even harder to forget.” —starred, Kirkus Reviews
“The scenes in Kuwait are lovingly rendered, informed by Bushby’s own childhood there and marked by her signature magical touch. Middle-grade readers will relate to Saff’s journey to newfound confidence and the joy of finding friends who love you for who you are.”—Booklist
Free Educator Resources
This title has two free resources to inspire young readers. Download the activity guide for writing prompts and the discussion guide to spark conversation.
Connect with Aisha
Aisha Bushby was born in Bahrain to Kuwaiti-Canadian parents and has lived in Kuwait, England, and Canada. The first novel she ever worked on was a piece of fan fiction which she stayed up all night to work on when she was thirteen. She now writes magical children’s books from her home in England, where she lives with her husband and two curious cats. She is the author of several children’s books including A Flash of Fireflies and A Pocketful of Stars which was longlisted for the Carnegie medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase award.
Check out more interviews with Lerner creators on the Lerner blog.