Elementary: Trends Older

, Middle School

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Dusti Bowling






Disability Diversity

Meet Aven Green. She’s a completely typical middle schooler. She goes to school, plays soccer, strums the guitar, and eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. But Aven does have one small difference…she was born without arms.

“Growing up, I could do most everything everyone else with arms could do: eating cereal, brushing my teeth and hair, getting dressed, and yes, even wiping my own bottom. I know you’re instantly wondering how I do it, and maybe I’ll tell you later…maybe.”

Aven’s parents have always encouraged her to be independent, so by the time she is 13, she can do almost everything with her feet that others do with their hands. Her classmates are used to her lack of arms, too. All of that changes when her family moves to Arizona to take over a rundown Western theme park and Aven has to go to a new school. Suddenly, she is the subject of stares and taunts.

Aven finds two true friends in fellow outcasts Zion and Connor. She finds Zion when looking for a place to eat lunch away from the staring eyes of her classmates. Turns out Zion is self-conscious about his weight and shies away from the cafeteria, also. She befriends Connor by playfully accepting his barks and tics that are part of his Tourette’s syndrome.

Together they set out to solve the mystery of Stagecoach Pass, the amusement part where she lives. More importantly, they provide the support they each need to step out into the world and assert their place.

A book about a girl with no arms could easily stray into melodrama, but Dusti Bowling never lets that happen. Instead, the book is full of humor and honesty. From the hilarious tales Aven makes up to explain her lack of arms to her wry blog posts, Bowling teaches us all the value of being able to find the funny in unfunny situations. Take these examples from Aven’s list of “fantastic things about not having arms” –

  • No leaving fingerprints behind at a crime scene – very helpful if I ever rob a bank.
  • No getting caught picking my nose. My shoes are usually in the way.
  • No golf. Well, I suppose I could figure out a way to play golf, but I’m so not gonna because golf is booooring.

Aven’s sense of humor, strong-will, and therapeutic blogging make her a character that students and families will truly warm to. The books abounds with messages of friendship, perseverance, empathy, and resilience, delivered with a hefty dose of laughs.

Fans of Aven will be delighted to discover the sequel, Momentus Events in the Life of a Cactus which follows the three friends to high school. There’s also a series catered toward younger audiences, starting with Aven Green Baking Machine. Elementary school readers can get to know Aven and watch her figure out her friendships, while enjoying a myriad of different foods, from milk barfi to tomato soup cake!

Updated cover for Aven Green Baking Machine by Dusti Bowling

An Introductory Chapter Book Companion is available for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.

Aven Green Baking Machine from the Aven Green series introduces third-grade Aven to your families.

This Introductory Chapter Book Companion

  • helps you extend your reading program to include younger listeners or families needing more literacy support.
  • includes a full complement of school and family materials.
  • coordinates easily with Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus to maintain the magic of a whole school reading together.

Click the cover to learn more about Aven Green Baking Machine.

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