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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

(Aven Green #1)

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  10,779 ratings  ·  1,901 reviews
Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new li
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Sterling Children's Books
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  10,779 ratings  ·  1,901 reviews

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Dusti Bowling
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Of course I give this fantastic piece of amazing literature five stars. I wrote the darn thing!
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay, well, I'm going to try to be cool and calm and collected about this but I don't know if I will be successful. I work at a Library and grabbed an ARC of this from the children's department as we didn't receive one in YA.

I grew up with Tourette's, and each day is, of course, a struggle with managing it. This book is perhaps the first positive portrayal of Tourette's I have ever come across, and I couldn't be more grateful. The scene in the support group made me cry, as I had never before re
Rachel Reads Ravenously
3.5 stars

Great book for middle graders about kids with disabilities, I learned a lot about Tourette's while reading this. Mostly giving it a 3 because I lost interest halfway through.

I really do hope people read this and realize all human beings should be treated with kindness and respect. No matter what they look like or the odd things they may do.

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Rebecca McNutt
This book will definitely appeal to fans of Wonder, Hot Dog Girl and Out of My Mind. I find it's often common for books about kids with disabilities to define these characters by their disability, but Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus presents a compelling and fun backdrop, a mystery and also a strong friendship between the characters. Aven, a girl born with no arms, leaves her Kansas home for Arizona when her parents try to bring new life to a rundown theme park. Aven was always rais ...more
3.5 stars from me, 5+ stars from the kid. Listen to HER!

What? This lover of contemporary and literary fiction reading another kid’s book? Yep, strange but true. I babysit a 10-year-old and about a year ago I talked her into letting me read aloud to her. I’m pretty tricky, you must admit—what could be better than getting paid to read? Both of us just love this deal. I get a reading fix, she gets school credit while doing crafts. Yum yum, both of us happy. Who knew I had it in me to read books for
WHAT????? Really? No WAY!!! Bowled over with FABULOUSNESS . . .

So FABULOUS it's hard to believe Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is Dusti Bowling's debut! She writes like a seasoned PRO! And the editing is FLAWLESS!

Okay, it's not her debut - per se. It was my debut reading her work. I see she has three books listed on her author page. BUT STILL . . . . I'M TOTALLY IMPRESSED!

And I just love the author's pen name - or maybe it's her real name, who knows. But I do know this: There is
Ms. Yingling
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Aven is not too happy that her parents are moving the family from Kansas to Arizona, where they have gotten jobs running Stagecoach Pass, a run down Western theme park. It's hot, she has to try out for the soccer team, and making new friends is a bit more of a challenge because she was born without arms. Her parents have always been supportive and positive, but Aven has categorized all of the different types of interactions she has with people-- those who a
The Reading Countess
Wow. Are you a fan of Wonder? What about Hour of the Bees or Out of My Mind? Are you always on the hunt for books that speak to middle grade readers about being kinder than necessary, or how to teach kids to be a problem solver in an age where being seen as a good parent equates to do doing everything for the child? Do you want to teach kids to put themselves out there, and that being different means you are unique and that that's a GOOD thing? What about perspective? Do you want kids to know th ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade-ya
Delightful characters, setting, and story of identity, fearlessness, and friendship.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this pretty much in one day. What a tremendous story of hope, strength, and letting the light shine on who you truly are!!! Such an emotional ride. Can't wait to share with my students in the fall. A must must must read!!!
Jen Petro-Roy
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Compulsively readable, while also dealing with more than one difficult topic with grace and humor.
Scottsdale Public Library
What could be worse than moving to a new state in 8th grade? How about to the Valley of the Sun, where temperatures reach over 110 in the summer?
Well, Aven Green will tell you that while the summers are scorchers, meeting new classmates is worse! Why? Because Aven was born without arms. Aven must weather her new school, make new friends, learn how to deal with the heat, and a llama named Spaghetti. As Aven begins to explore the western theme park her parents now run, she stumbles into a mystery
Vernon Area Public Library KIDS
Dusti Bowling has written a book that will totally change the way readers view people with disabilities. Aven, the main character, was born with no arms. Her parents have taught her to be self-sufficient, and the kids at school have known her forever. But when she and her parents have to relocate to Arizona, she faces many new challenges. Aven, and the two friends she makes along the way, will surprise and inspire readers with their humor and bravery. Highly recommended for students in grades 5- ...more
Corabel Shofner
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: swanky-17s
Can I just say that the title INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS completely charmed me. I had no idea what this book was about but I wanted to find out. And when I realized that the main character was born without arms it brought to mind my friend, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known, who was born without arms or legs. At first you can't imagine how such a person gets anything done but after you are with them for 10 minutes it all seems so normal. I am so glad that D ...more
Michele Knott
This book needs to be placed in hands of readers because the more they know about disabilities - mental and physical - the more we can talk about acceptance and understanding. Books like these are needed.
Caitlin Theroux
I have seen a few people in these reviews stop and take the time to say how much they disliked this book and the way it deals with disabilities. It's too "cute" or "cuddly" or it's not "hard" or "real" enough. Let me--a woman with Tourette's, OCD, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and insomnia--tell you why I appreciated that it wasn't "real" enough.

There will come books that say in detail how hard it is to adjust to a life where you constantly hurt yourself by ticcing. We will have books someday, espe
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
I loved this book. The setting's so original -- a rundown Western tourist trap in Arizona, which young Aven's forced to move to with her parents, who've been hired to run the place by a mysterious absentee owner. The plot's great -- Aven must start life anew, with struggles at school, making new friends, and a mystery to solve. But what made this book over-the-top special for me is Aven. I loved her voice! Quirky, warm, humorous, self-aware, Aven is a girl who's got it all together, and I was in ...more
mindful.librarian ☀️
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Fabulous middle grade about acceptance, diversity, and TRYING things. I will be recommending this to my whole staff as an amazing choice for a read aloud as we focus on growth mindset. Highly recommended for fans of Wonder.

I purchased a copy of this book for my library and also received a copy of this book from WAM Book Bundle as one of their Instagram reps. I will be donating the second copy to my other library.
Kellee Moye
Full review with teaching tools:

From the very first page, you know that Aven is awesome. In the first paragraph you learn that she doesn’t have arms but it doesn’t matter to her. The only reason why she is upset is because someone else freaked out about her armlessness. She is brave and funny and resilient. The way that she is able to joke around about her physical difference to help ease the reader and the other characters is a true talent. The stories s
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In Dusti Bowling’s warm and engaging MG debut, INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, we meet thirteen-year-old Aven Green, a gregarious, soccer-playing prankster who must leave her old life in Kansas, in order to accommodate her parents' new job as managers of a rundown Western theme park in the outskirts of Scottsdale, Arizona. Aven is prepared for the cacti and relentless heat. But what she isn’t prepared for? the awkward stares she gets from her eighth-grade classmates at Desert Ridge ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is enough to make me start looking at more Middle Grade. The voice was older MG, and it was fantastic, clever, funny, aware, and sometimes heart-wrenching. Aven Green will go down in history with the likes of Anne Shirley in terms of spunk, strength, voice, and likability. I appreciate that the story shone a light on diversity that you don't see often: the main character is armless and was adopted as a toddler and her best friend has Tourette's. It's obvious that the author did a ton o ...more
Angie Hull
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grades
Thank you Dusti Bowling for sending me an Advanced Reading Copy of this book. Aven is an example of true grit and has all the traits I want in my friends. Aven is a leader, a learner, and a true inspiration. I can't imagine what life would be like having to move in middle school, find new friends, find new passions, find a new life - and Aven does it flawlessly. She is truly a 'problem-solving ninja' (pg. 37).
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uno2018, library
My husband randomly picked this book out from the library for a reading challenge I needed to complete....I'm so glad he found it!
This story was hilarious, and cute and motivational. The movie theater part with Conner had me crying I had to put the book down for a bit. I read this in one sitting, I did not want to put it down.
I need to own this book!
Cassie Thomas
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I fell wholeheartedly in love with Aven,
Conner, and Zion. They are the most beautiful characters who do not let disabilities define them because they have FULL ABILITY. There's suspense, friendship, family woes, perseverance, and fun.
Jessica Samuel
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenal story about Aven, a girl who is born without arms. Her determination and can-do attitude is so admirable. This is a must read for students!!
Mallory Rethlake
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE HOW EVERYONE SUPPORTS EVERYONE. The way Aven treats everyone is amazing, even thought she does not have a arm she is so supported and don't think of herself only others
Jessica Woodbury
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-aloud
Aven, the first-person narrator of this book, is hilarious and fun. She made my kids laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Her peppy voice is what really drives the book, her distinct humor is everywhere, so a book that covers some pretty heavy topics doesn't feel heavy at all.

I loved the way this book covered disability. Aven has a rare condition that means she has no arms, it's something kids can visualize and it presents the kinds of obstacles to everyday life that they probably haven't
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was given a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Aven's strong, comic, good-natured voice is engrossing from the very first. Sure, she was born with no arms—but that hasn't stopped her from doing everything other kids can do. She plays soccer (and is pretty good at it), makes her own breakfast, and does her homework. It's never been a big deal that Aven has no arms, because everyone at her school has known her forever. Life is normal.

That is, until Aven's parents get a job ma
Mary Lee
Yes, just like most all of the other reviewers, 5 stars. Like many of them, I read this book in one day (one sitting, actually...TGISummer). It's that good. That engaging. Aven and Connor and Zion (and Aven's awesome parents) are characters who are that...real.

I never felt sorry for Aven for a minute. Not having arms has never stopped her from doing a single thing. In fact, it has opened her heart to have empathy for others who are not handling their differences (boy-oh-boy does she get mad at
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to get my hands on an advanced copy of this novel. Friends, if you love realistic middle grade social issue stories (like I do), make space *right now* on your bookshelf for Aven Green. The main character is 'voicey' and funny, and her friends are the kind you hope your own kid will make. The mystery element and the unique setting kept me turning pages, even as my love for the characters was urging me to slow down and savor the story. Don't miss this one!
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DUSTI BOWLING grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where, as her family will tell you, she always had her nose in a book. She released her first middle grade novel in 2017 and hasn't stopped writing since.

Dusti's books have won the Reading the West Award, the Sakura Medal, a Golden Kite Honor, the Silver Nautilus Award, and have been nominated for a Cybil and over twenty state awards. Her books are Jun

Other books in the series

Aven Green (2 books)
  • Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus

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“I think Connor would be the last person to label you like that. You shouldn't get so offended if someone calls you disabled, Aven. You DO have extra challenges that others don't have. It DOES take you longer to do most tasks. Your movements ARE limited. There's a big difference between saying you're disabled and saying you're incapable.” 3 likes
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