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Life of a Cactus #1

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

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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 life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

262 pages, Hardcover

First published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Dusti Bowling

14 books1,026 followers
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 William Allen White Children's Book Award, and have been nominated for a Cybil and over thirty state awards. Her books are Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections and have been named best books of the year by the Chicago Public Library, Kirkus, Bank Street College of Education, A Mighty Girl, Shelf Awareness, and many more.

Dusti currently lives in Eagar, Arizona with her husband, three daughters, and a bunch of farm animals.

Follow her on Twitter at @DustiBowling.

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5 stars
12,766 (46%)
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,950 reviews
Profile Image for Dusti Bowling.
Author 14 books1,026 followers
August 21, 2019
Of course I give this fantastic piece of amazing literature five stars. I wrote the darn thing!
Profile Image for Kevin.
33 reviews3 followers
July 26, 2017
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 read something that was able to portray the myriad manifestations of the syndrome with heart, kindness, and humor.

I'm also getting choked up just writing this. I hope this book is able to make someone who feels alone with their tics feel like there are those out there who understand.
Profile Image for Caitlin Theroux.
Author 2 books27 followers
February 22, 2020
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, especially by people WITH Tourette's, that say how often they've thought about suicide and how medications don't always work for them, or how the adjustments on different meds one right after another and how discouraging that can be. Someday people will read books that talk about how hard it is to accept yourself and the pothole-ridden road that can be with something as difficult as Tourette's.

But I don't want this book to be any of those books.

Connor's problems are real. The kids in the support group, their problems are also real. The brain surgery they talk about is real , and two of my three brothers have required it in order to be able to live a quasi-normal life after their tics got so bad, they couldn't even eat dinner with us. You know what doesn't get talked about enough? These issues.

When you're talking with kids about a new topic, or one that's frequently portrayed incorrectly, you can't throw them into the deep end. You don't teach a kid to bake by giving them the ingredients for a souffle and telling them to figure it out. We don't expect kids to immediately know calculus when they're in fourth-grade math, or even eight-grade. We introduce them to it, with things they can understand and grasp, even if that means it sounds a little simple at first.

For example, when my mom explained to me--at the age of seven--what I have, she didn't say, "Well, you make too much dopamine and not enough serotonin, and that makes your neurons misfire so that your muscles read it as signals to move. Also, your basal ganglia is shaped incorrectly, which lets inappropriate impulses through more easily, thus allowing such tics as coprolalia and echolalia to be prominent in people with Tourette's. Don't forget that someday you'll develop extremely strong shoulder muscles, but very tired back muscles, because of the funky way you'll tic with your neck and shoulders."

No. She explained it at first like it gets explained in this book. And she was always as encouraging and as uplifting as Aven and her parents.

Kids need a place to jump off into learning, into understanding and accepting. We don't have enough books about Tourette's, and we CERTAINLY don't have enough that are as well-researched and compassionate and ACCURATE as this one.

Let's make a checklist, shall we?

✓ Girls don't get diagnosed as often, because it's more uncommon in our gender.
✓ Coprolalia is a rare form of tic that few people with Tourette's are actually diagnosed with
✓ Going out in public can be a NIGHTMARE because of how people react to things such as someone screaming "chicken nipple," or in my case, screeching like a pterodactyl
✓ People DO get angry when you have an outburst (i.e. "I'm gonna punch a baby") and think you're serious when they don't know you have Tourette's
✓ Single moms who have kids with Tourette's exist, and life is damn hard when extended family think you're faking it

Because some of my extended family think I'm faking it. And they told my mom she gave it to myself and my brothers. And that sucks.

That's not something you see discussed a lot in fiction. Hell, TOURETTE'S isn't something you see a lot in fiction.

So don't sit there and bellyache about how "sappy" this book is when you don't know the half of it. Bowling did an amazing job representing different ways people feel about their disabilities, and I loved how positive Aven was and how encouraging she was with Connor. Because that's what we need kids to read. That's what we need them to see when they start learning about kids that are different than themselves. It's not "inspiration porn." It's not cotton candy. It's necessary for the experience level, when the experience you have is none.

I have Tourette's. This book had facts that made me feel like I got gut-punched because FINALLY someone I don't know, someone who doesn't have TS, sees me.

That's valuable. That's rare. That's what we need right now, until we get OwnVoices books about people with Tourette's, written by people with Tourette's.

Be quiet when you don't know what you're talking about. Sit down when you have no reason to stand in false outrage. Listen when you have no reason to be shouting.

Dusti Bowling, if you ever see this review, I appreciate what you've written. You see me. And I feel your compassion. Keep it up.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
762 reviews570 followers
March 3, 2023
Why I chose to listen to this audiobook:
1. my GR friend, Jim S., often volunteers to read aloud to middle-school students and recommended this book;
2. it's available as a free loan on Hoopla; and,
3. February 2023 is my "Books for Young and Old Alike" Month.

MC Aven is a teenage girl born without arms. I learned what life is like for someone with this type of disability and what they can and can't do;
2. I especially felt for Connor's character who has Tourette's Syndrome. Author Dusti Bowling writes an intriguing portrayal of his character's hopes and frustrations; and,
3. this story has an interesting little mystery that may appeal to young readers.

Why the heck would there be framed photos of tarantulas hanging on the walls of a soda shop? What a fantastic way to scare off customers!

Overall Thoughts:
This story sends a strong message about building self-confidence, especially in young people with disabilities.

An excellent read-aloud for middle-school students!
August 2, 2020
Continuing my Project Learning English by myself through children's books. Scribd text + audiobook.

Excerptions: "When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted, “Her arms fell off!” then ran away screaming in terror to his mom, who had to cuddle him on her lap and rub his head for like ten minutes to get him to calm down. I think, up until then, I hadn’t thought about the idea that my arms must have actually fallen off at some point in my life. I had never really thought about not having arms at all. My missing arms weren’t an issue for me or my parents. I never once heard either of them say, “Oh, no, Aven can’t possibly do that because that’s only for armed people,” or “Poor Aven is so helpless without arms,” or “Maybe Aven can do that one day, you know, if she ever grows some arms.” They always said things like, “You’ll have to do this differently from other people, but you can manage,” and “I know this is challenging. Keep trying,” and “You’re capable of anything, Aven.” (Pages 6, 7 and 8)

"The day after that, I couldn’t bring myself to eat in the bathroom stall again. Besides the fact that it was flat-out gross, it was also depressing. Instead, I told myself to stop being such a coward, and I ignored my cramping stomach. I sat in the same secluded spot I had sat reading on my first day, and I ate my lunch, hoping no one would notice me. Some kids did pass by and sneak glances at me, but I tried not to pay any attention to them or to my thumping heart. At one point, a group of three girls walked up to me as I took a bite of my string cheese, carefully held between two toes. I dropped it on my napkin, not wanting them to see me eat it like that. I smiled nervously at the girls.

“Um, hi,” one of the girls said. She had on a cute flowery tank top with spaghetti straps, and once again I felt the sting of being too afraid to wear such a thing.

“Hi,” I said. “How are you?” I hoped desperately I didn’t have any food on my face because I wasn’t about to wipe my mouth with my foot or shoulder. “We’re good,” another girl said. She was also very stylish, dressed in a cute green tank top and jean shorts. “How are you?”

“Good,” I said, hoping the girls weren’t just here out of curiosity. I scolded myself for assuming that was all that interested them. Maybe they were going to ask me to come sit with them so I didn’t have to eat lunch alone.

“Is it okay . . . um, is it okay if we ask you what happened to your arms?” flowery-tank-top girl asked.

Yep, curiosity. I sighed. I didn’t have the energy to tell them my arms were chopped off in a guillotine or something like that. And these girls seemed far too nervous. I would probably terrify them. Instead, I recited, “I have an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes malformation of the limbs.”

The girls looked alarmed. “Is it contagious?” green-tank-top girl asked. I gazed at the girl, searching her face to see if she was serious. I imagined passing my armlessness on to other people, their fully grown arms shrinking and shriveling and getting sucked up into their shoulders with a terrible slurping sound after I touched them. I slowly shook my head and spoke carefully so she would understand. “No, it’s genetic. That means you have to be born with it.”

The girls’ faces all relaxed as flowery-tank-top girl said, “Oh, that’s good. It was nice meeting you.” I watched them walk away. I looked down at my string cheese. The girls hadn’t met me at all. They hadn’t even asked me my name. No, what they had met were my missing arms. It was all they had seen and all that had interested them. And not just out of curiosity but because they were afraid—afraid they could catch it from me." (Pages 38 and 39)
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,868 reviews2,243 followers
March 31, 2019
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.

Follow me on ♥ FacebookBlogInstagramTwitter
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,458 reviews2,407 followers
August 13, 2022
"Hi, I am Jackson Wang from China" happened.

"Lights On Me" ended on a very heart exploding note.

This book is going to give me so many happy memories.

After I read the first half of the first page, I suddenly met Jackson Wang. I don't know how it happened.

Only after some JW overdose, I continued reading the book. Everything just clicked.

"I sometimes wondered if people had a tendency not to give me their names or ask me for mine because of their fear of getting too close... too close to something so different."

The plot handles some very serious topics which may seem normal not to discuss but we do.

Characters who have been discriminated because of disability, body shamed and bullied; Tourette's Syndrome are represented in this story.

It's still quite relevant and so well presented I say!

The characters, the young and the adult ones, are quite convincing and realistic.

The mom is the best. Wish all moms would be like her and protect their child without hurting their feelings and unrealistic expectations.

I love the writing so much.

Once you start the book, it would be difficult to stop reading. The characters are so well developed. The story gets better and better.

Want to pick up the sequel (yes, there's one!) next.

A perfect book to start reading with.

Recommending the book indeed.
Profile Image for Debbie.
455 reviews2,897 followers
January 24, 2020
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 middle-schoolers? (My Goodreads bud Julie Grippo claims she knew I did!)

Ah, but onto this book. I’ve sort of had my fill of books about disabilities. This is my third in the last year: Wonder (disfigured face), The War That Saved My Life (club foot), and this one, about Aven (no arms). Don’t get me wrong—these are some fine fine books that send an excellent message to kids about accepting people who are different from them. These books are especially good when the character is full of energy and smarts. Humor doesn’t hurt, nor does being courageous, upbeat, and kind.

Aven, the star of this book, fits the bill on all counts, and she’s endearing. She has a best friend with Tourette’s, and their friendship is rich. The portrayals of both kids are sensitive and overall wonderful, and I liked these short people a lot.

In this book, there’s even a mystery at the end, which makes it a bit of a page-turner. The book is super well-written. It was a 4-star read for the first three-quarters, but then I got a little bored; it seemed to lose its juice. Plus the ending was too syrupy.

However—and this is a however in all caps—the kid absolutely loved it; said it was her favorite book so far. She literally begged me to get the sequel, but I’m waiting to get it from the library. She offered to pay me for it, I kid you not! I had accidentally on purpose forgotten to bring Catopoly (a clever cat version of Monopoly which my daughter gave me for Christmas) and she was pretty pissed, but I’d say she forgave me as I wrapped up the story. Trumping Catopoly is a big deal because buying cat deeds is really cool—stiff competition for reading any book!

Kids who are the target audience will no doubt give this book 5 stars. And that’s what’s important. Ignore my 3-star rating. I just can’t give it more stars since it was a mediocre read for me.

I highly recommend this book to middle-schoolers and precocious grade-schoolers. If you have school-age kids, grandkids, or young nieces or nephews, check this one out. It’s right up there with Wonder. In fact, I’m not sure why it hasn’t gotten the same hype (especially with the cool title).
Profile Image for Sara.
19 reviews
August 15, 2019
I finished this book but wanted to wait a few days before writing a review....

As someone who is adopted, this book enraged me. It is clear that the author (who happens to have a degree in psychology) didn't do her research on the psychology of adoption.

Aven knows she is adopted, but doesn't have any drive or motivation find her bio parents. When her father gets a new job, they move from Kansas to Arizona, where things get "interesting". There are two characters who provide very obvious clues along the way that they know who Aven is, and the book is wrapped up in a neat and tidy bow as Aven learns the cook is actually her bio grandmother.

First, the odds that a bio grandmom would convince a family to pack up and move halfway across the country so she could "observe" them are little to none. Second, the fact that Aven would uncover her bio grandmom's truth, struggle with it for 4 pages, and then decide all is well in the world does absolutely no justice to the pain that adopted kids feel as they grapple with either knowing or not knowing who their bio relatives are.

Perhaps the most offensive part to this book came on page 109 and 110. Aven's mom tells the story of Aven's adoption Conner and describes her search as "scrolling through" a web tab with kids who needed to be adopted and then "birthing Aven from the computer" when she found her.

Are you kidding me? One, adoption is NOT an Amazon search for the latest and greatest item. Second, if Aven's mom is a psychologist, she would never describe the process in such horrific terms. Third, to people out there trying to adopt children--the process is absolutely nothing like it is described. Adopting a child takes months and months of work. Simplifying this adoption to a mere "click and buy" is mind blowing.

I am unbelievably disappointed by a book like this that is for some reason receiving rave reviews. For anyone out there reading this book, find someone that is adopted and learn their story.....it'll give you far more insight to the adoption world than this book ever will.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Fatma Al Zahraa Yehia.
464 reviews546 followers
February 14, 2023
Told in a funny and light-hearted tone, the story tells the life of a 13 years old special girl who was raised that she is not less capable than any other girl her age.

"Minh" Best uses her feet to paint still-life or abstract imagery.

What I admired about "Aven" other than her courage, is her acceptance and understanding of the curious nature of people that forces them to look at what they are not used to seeing, and her knowing the difference between NORMAL ACCIDENTAL looks and MEAN AND RUDE stares. what makes her a great role model for any kid her age.
The atmosphere of the story-Desert city in Arizona-is so live that made me feel present.


But I felt the overall "voice" of "Aven" is younger than a usual teenager's girl. The way she and her close friends (Conor and Zion) speak and think is acceptable for a 9 years old kid at the maximum.

Also, the way that she depended totally on her feet wasn't very convincing to me. Maybe I will have to read more about that later.

I will get this book to our library at the closest chance I can get. Kids need this kind of very eye-opening yet very enjoyable reading experience like this.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,517 reviews618 followers
December 10, 2019
Aven Green lives her life without arms more authentically than many kids with all of their limbs. Her story is inspiring and informative as she befriends a boy with Tourette's and another with a weight problem. They run into each other while avoiding eating lunch in the cafeteria. Together they team up to try and solve the mystery of the missing owner of Stagecoach Pass. When Aven's spirits dip into a valley, her father inspires her with Matthew 5:15 and encourages her to let her light shine. Shine on, Aven. Looking forward to the sequel!
Profile Image for The Reading Countess.
1,759 reviews59 followers
July 23, 2017
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 that though the troubles they encounter seem insurmountable, that they are, in fact, "insignificant events in the life of a cactus?" Well, partner, you're in for a treat with this book! INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS comes out in September. You will want to read it so you can know what everyone will be talking about. Yeah, it's that good. Middle grade readers won't find fault with the convenient way some events tumbled into place like an adult reader would, and the lessons learned after putting the book down will no doubt stay with the reader long after. Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Edelweiss Above the Treeline and Sterling Children's Books for the sneak peak! ❤
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 76 books16.9k followers
March 23, 2022
This is a middle grade book aimed at readers ages 8-12. I really enjoyed it. The main protagonist is 13 years old and starting at a brand new school. She was born without arms, and has learned how to do everything with her feet and toes.
Profile Image for Danielle.
693 reviews
July 14, 2018
2.5 stars. I almost like this, but in the end, it just wasn't for me. I snapped it up at the library because, how often have I had the chance to read the story of a girl born without arms? Never. Plus, she meets another kid with a disability. How often do we get to read about more than one disability in the same book? Almost never.

For me, I did not enjoy the "mystery" at all, or the ongoing jokes about murder, etc. that went with it. The story I was interested in was Aven herself, her life, succeeding with friends and at a new school. The real stuff. The mystery felt too gimmicky.

The most interesting parts for me were in Aven's blog, where she actually reveals her perspective on the good and bad of not having arms. I wanted more of this kind of stuff woven into the story itself, not just stated on a blog.

If Aven needs to bring a hook to school to button her pants after using the restroom, show that. (And explain why she chooses pants with buttons over pants that pull on.) If her back and body hurt because of the way she needs to use her legs and feet, show that. She's in chronic pain at 13? Does she have ways to address this so that she can still use her feet the way she needs to when she's 30? Show that. Why does she choose not to ask a teacher if she can eat lunch in a classroom? The bathroom seems like the worst possible option, and she knows that. So much more could have been in the story about Aven herself.

I like that Aven was conflicted about her identity as a person with a disability. But I do not think that was fully fleshed out, either. Aven's extreme reaction to her friend calling her disabled shows that Aven thinks being disabled is bad. When the point of the story is that being disabled isn't bad, and you don't have to try to pretend you're not.

I appreciate the depiction of Tourette Syndrome. I had not thought about the possible physical effects before.

I tried not to mind the predictability and the far-fetched plot. (Aven's the only one to come up with viable business ideas? Really?) It is a middle-grade story after all. But I hoped for more, and I think kids can handle more too.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jen Petro-Roy.
Author 8 books347 followers
June 24, 2017
Compulsively readable, while also dealing with more than one difficult topic with grace and humor.
Profile Image for Patrick.
385 reviews
June 18, 2017
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!!!
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,283 reviews262 followers
March 17, 2020
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 that she’ll never forget. Following along with Aven in her next adventure in "Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus." -Dana S.

Author Dusti Bowling grew up in Scottsdale, AZ, so along with the tiny thrill of seeing local references sprinkled throughout, the story is worth reading for its originality and well-written narrative. It centers on 13-year-old Aven. Newly transplanted to Arizona, where her parents were hired to run a western theme park (I was picturing Rawhide), Aven is a typical pre-teen girl; except for the fact she was born without arms. She was raised to be self-sufficient, though she still struggles with insecurities. Aven befriends two other “misfits” at her new school, and the trio stumbles upon a mystery within the park (just why does the woman in the old photo look like Aven’s doppelganger, and who owned that necklace found in the desert?) I really enjoyed this book and recommend it if you’re looking for characters that rise above challenges, may they be physical and/or cognitive disabilities, or even social awkwardness. Also if you love stories containing kids who do a little sleuthing on the side! – Sara Z.
Profile Image for Janssen.
1,606 reviews3,968 followers
August 3, 2023
It was fun to finally listen to this after hearing my girls talk about it nonstop for years. I liked it quite a bit and plan to read the second.
Profile Image for Natalie.
2,822 reviews139 followers
February 9, 2019
I wanted to love this a lot more than I did. The concept is awesome: a girl with no friends, befriends a guy with tourettes and lives in a tourist attraction. I love that.

The thing is, I wasn't particularly loving Aven. Which, I feel like, isn't allowed, because the whole story is about her and how she amazingly navigates the world without any arms. That is a cool story, but I found her sort of annoying. Then I felt bad, that I found a girl with no arms annoying. I liked her friend, Connor, much more. I felt much more connected to him and his struggles with tourettes. I liked how they went to the support group and I liked hearing about how Connor viewed the world. I felt affection for him and his trials, but didn't feel the same about Aven.

The setting was super fun, but I didn't understand the whole tarantula thing. I felt like it was supposed to be this big connection Aven had with the past, but it felt weird and forced. Also, if I walked into any food place and there was a bunch of tarantula pictures on the wall, I'd leave immediately. I totally support weird fascinations but I do not want to look at a bunch of gross, hairy spiders when I'm trying to eat. Gag.

A lot of the "humor" felt forced. Aven kept mentioning, that, no, she wasn't going to tell us how she wiped her butt. Ummm....no one was asking. Then the fact that one of the kids in the support group kept saying chicken nipple, seemed, again, like forced humor. If I thought the author was genuinely trying to show the challenges these kids face it would be different, in this case, I felt like she was using a disability to force a "humorous" situation. It also completely eliminated this book from any possibility of being a read aloud, at least in my area.

I know that people get tired about hearing about Wonder, but when I read that book, even the parts that were so cheesy, there was this love and light that came with it. I felt like I could be a better person and that people were better than I thought. When I finished this novel, I felt very...meh. This book tried too hard to cram a message down our throats, without giving us a chance to find the message on our own.

This book has an important message, but I think it got lost in some of the details. The "mystery" felt like a cop out and I didn't enjoy it at all. The book would've been better served without it.

Honestly, I think the most beautiful part of the novel, is where the title came from:

"Dad said the saguaro is likely over two hundred years old...I like to sit on the hard desert dirt and think of all the things that have happened in this saguaro's life...I am an entirely insignificant event in the life of this cactus."
Profile Image for Katy O. .
2,319 reviews723 followers
October 29, 2017
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.
August 4, 2020
(Opening line)-"When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted Her arms fell off!, then ran screaming to his mom"...
Aven has lived for thirteen years with no arms, and it hasn't stopped her from doing much of anything! When her parents take a job in Arizona running a Western-style theme park, Aven finds it difficult to make new people look past her missing limbs to see what she's capable of.
When I finished this book, I felt amazed at all that Aven was able to accomplish! This is largely due to the attitude her parents take toward her disability; they were absolutely awesome! As Aven herself puts it, she is able to function very independently because they always encouraged, well, MADE, Aven figure out things on her own; the ultimate Problem Solver! So at 13, she doesn't require much help with any task.
This was an inspiring book to read! I think it would make anyone pause and think, "If Aven can do ----- with no arms, I can accomplish a lot with two!"
Memorable Quotes:
(Pg. 4)-"I got so tired of telling them the same boring story about being born with no arms that I started making stuff up." ( And her stories are hilarious!)
(Pg.248)-"My shoulders have been covered long enough.They need to breathe."
Profile Image for Ms. B.
3,033 reviews37 followers
October 15, 2020
10/15/20 Read to the end for my update.
10/19/19 3.5 stars. Aven is the new girl in town. She and her family moved from Kansas to Arizona to manage a western themed amusement park. Despite not having arms, Aven was accepted and well-liked at her previous school. Now Aven is starting 7th grade, what will her classmates at her new school think of the 'unarmed' girl? Will she make any friends In addition, the amusement park seems more like a ghost town than a tourist attraction. Will her father be able to turn things around?
Those who like stories about kids with disabilities, middle school stories or stories like Wonder will want to check this one out.
10/15/20 There's a mystery too, but if this is your first time reading it; you may not even realize it.
Profile Image for Corabel Shofner.
Author 1 book74 followers
March 25, 2017
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 Dusti wrote a book featuring this disability.

Aven Green is rendered truthfully, in all her spunky and imaginative spirit. Her family has just moved to Arizona, where she begins again with people who are uncomfortable with her disability.
Heartfelt and funny. Two things I need in a book. And this one delivers. Adventure and mystery in a run-down western theme park being solved by a trio of friends -- an armless girl and her sidekicks (who have challenges of their own.)
Profile Image for Vernon Area Public Library KIDS.
927 reviews38 followers
September 12, 2017
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 5-8 who like realistic fiction.
Reviewed by Carol Kaner, Youth and School Services, Vernon Area Public Library
Profile Image for N☆zr .
670 reviews42 followers
February 4, 2022
Wonderful! The book is extremely captivating that I finished it in one sitting. I fell in love with Aven's personality right away. She's so spunky, smart, and funny. Her parents are so cool as well, they remind me of Olive's (played by Emma Stone) parents in the movie Easy A.

The book also offers a fresh perspective for me as I didn't know much about Tourette syndrome. Appreciate it very much.

If you love Wonder by R.J. Palacio or even the movie, you probably enjoy this book too. Aven deals with some of the same issues that Auggie tackles in Wonder.
Profile Image for Jim Sibigtroth.
426 reviews6 followers
January 8, 2020
Although 13 year old Aven was born without arms and a friend, Connor, has Tourette Syndrome, that isn’t the focus of the book. It is a funny, well-written story about friendship, coming of age, the awkwardness of middle school, and solving a good mystery. I love that the story is told by Aven so she can be honest about her condition without having to dance around political correctness. I also loved that another student is open to starting a genuine friendship based on Aven’s great personality and her skill in soccer- her lack of arms is not a factor in this friendship.
The reader will gain great insight into Aven’s physical condition and Connor’s Tourette’s through their interaction with their middle school peers, not through depressing lectures.

Very upbeat, interesting, and fun.
Profile Image for Charity.
323 reviews14 followers
February 9, 2023
This book became an INSTANT favorite that will be finding it's way into my curriculum every single year from here on out. In addition to it being well-written and engaging, it addresses so many issues that preteens face today in a way that feels genuine, as opposed to forced; there's none of that "these darn kids" feelings that end up in so many novels that feature kids this age. Bowling expertly deals with physical differences, Tourette's syndrome, body image issues, bullying, etc. She also touches on what it's like for a child to be given up for adoption and how that child might feel. And, as Aven, the main character who's struggling-to-grow-up, finds out, the reasons adults make the chocies they make might not be as cut and dry as they might like to believe.

Again, this will be a permanent part of my classroom library that I will continue to read. Be prepared for your students, even ones who haven't quite developed a total love of literature yet, to BEG you not to stop reading! "One more chapter, Mrs. E! PLEASE!"
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