The Science of Breakable Things

by Tae Keller (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Natalie's uplifting story of using the scientific process to "save" her mother from depression is what Booklist calls "a winning story full of heart and action."

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.

When Natalie's science teacher suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie thinks that this might be the perfect solution to all of her problems. There's prize money, and if she and her friends wins, then she can fly her botanist mother to see the miraculous Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. Natalie's mother has been suffering from depression, and Natalie is sure that the flowers' magic will inspire her mom to love life again. Which means it's time for Natalie's friends to step up and show her that talking about a problem is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. With their help, Natalie begins an uplifting journey to discover the science of hope, love, and miracles.

A vibrant, loving debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR * KIRKUS REVIEWS * THE CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY *

"Natalie's Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression."--Publishers Weekly

"A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience." --Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel."--Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project, teacher, and cofounder of Nerdy Book Club


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School Library Journal

Gr 4-6—Seventh-grader Natalie is sometimes annoyed, but oftentimes amused by her enthusiastic science teacher, Mr. Neely, who encourages his students to ask questions and use the scientific method to solve problems. This is all well and good for Natalie, but the only question the tween is interested in lately is why has her mother has stopped caring about her and why she cannot seem to get out of bed. Her mother is a botanist who discovered a rare cobalt blue orchid, a miracle of a flower that survives in a toxic environment in New Mexico. So Natalie is somewhat ambivalent when Mr. Neely encourages her to enter an "egg drop contest"—not exactly her top priority—until she hears about the substantial prize money. Natalie is determined to win so that she can replace the now-dead orchid and give her mother the joy she needs. As she tries to navigate the problem of keeping the fragile egg safe during a fall, she begins to feel the cracks in her own life as her mother's depression affects her more deeply. Natalie's reluctance to acknowledge her own feelings and ask painful questions keeps her from really engaging with her friends and fellow "egg drop" teammates. Natalie learns that, as with the egg, people, too, are fragile and need support and padding to break their falls. VERDICT An emotional story that explores parental depression with realism and empathy.—Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Natalie Napoli's seventh-grade science class is working on a yearlong experiment, recording their findings in "Wonderings journals." The text of Natalie's journal comprises Keller's moving debut novel. Natalie used to like science and spent much of her childhood in her botanist mother's laboratory. But her mother, suffering from severe depression, has barely left her bedroom in months. Natalie and her best friend Twig collaborate with new student Dari to win an egg drop contest for their experiment, and Natalie imagines using the prize money to fly with her mother to New Mexico, home to a striking cobalt blue orchid, born out of a toxic chemical spill, that her mother had been studying. Natalie's Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression and its impact; Keller draws thoughtful parallels between Natalie's mother's struggles and the fragility of orchids and eggs. Natalie's fraught relationship with her mother, and her friendships with Twig and Dari, are the heart of the book, but science is its soul. Ages 8-12. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Mar.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
An NPR Great Read of the Year
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2018
A Booklist Reader Best Book of the Month
A Brightly Best Children's and YA Books of March 2018

"Natalie is an engaging narrator whose struggles at home and with her peers ring true."
—Deborah Hopkinson, award-winning author

"Inspiring, emotional, and heartwarming."
—Melissa Savage, author of Lemons

"A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred

"Aside from the obvious connection to STEM, Keller's layered, accessible story has offers beautifully crafted metaphors, a theme of mending old friendships and creating new ones, and an empowering teacher to a variety of readers. . . . A winning story full of heart and action."
—Booklist, starred

"Natalie's Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression."
—Publishers Weekly

"Natalie learns that, as with the egg, people, too, are fragile and need support and padding to break their falls. An emotional story that explores parental depression with realism and empathy."
—School Library Journal

"A sweet and hope-filled story."
—Brightly
Tae Keller
TAE KELLER was born and raised in Honolulu, where she grew up on purple rice, Spam musubi, and her halmoni's tiger stories. She is the Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at TaeKeller.com, follow her monthly love letters at bit.ly/lovetae, and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9781524715663
Lexile Measure
840L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date
March 20, 2018
Series
-
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
NPR Great Read of the Year
Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2018
Booklist Reader Best Book of the Month
Brightly Best Children's and YA Books of March 2018

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