Everything you think you know about black holes will be challenged by this thoughtful drama from Michelle Cuevas. Did you know, for example, that black holes particularly like devouring fluffy, furry things (like hamsters)? Or that they can be trained to sit and to roll over? Stella didn’t know any of these things either, despite her impressive knowledge of astronomy. When a dark and mysterious creature with two bright eyes suddenly arrives in her garden, it is the start of a bizarre and beautiful journey of self-discovery.
The book is written as a letter from Stella to her father, who is no longer with her and is missed deeply. Stella describes the sadness, emptiness and darkness that she has felt since his passing: ‘Dark like a shadow’s soul…dark like The Memoir of a Seed.’ Her sad, empty and dark new pet certainly seems to suit her mood. However, Stella soon learns that there are many challenges to owning a pet black hole, chief of which being how to stop it consuming the whole world! There are also a host of advantages to enjoy, though; disposing of garbage, unwanted clothes and any of your annoying little brother’s toys is easy when you have a pet black hole!
As Stella navigates these pros and cons, she is also coming to terms with her own grief. She learns the significance of memory, and what can happen when you try to forget painful things completely. Readers learn that it is not always easy (or necessary) to discern between painful episodes from the past and cherished, happy memories, and a beautiful, bittersweet ending portrays this perfectly.
There are many ways to read and to enjoy this out-of-this-world adventure. Older, ambitious readers will love it as an exciting, existential sci-fi trip. Unanswerable questions and frightfully clever facts about the universe accompany moments of deep sentiment and heartbreak. Younger readers will enjoy it, too, as Cuevas also includes many moments of juvenile comedy. The giant stinking hamster is especially funny, as is Stella’s weird yet wise younger brother, Cosmo, who poses questions of the universe while puffing on his toy Sherlock Holmes style pipe!
Like Cuevas’ previous novels, The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is simultaneously a funny and entertaining adventure, and a meaningful and emotional contemplation of one of the challenges children face growing up – in this case coping with loss. It’s also simply a great read for anyone who loves getting geeky about science and space!