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Sequel now available!

“Whoa! What happened to your arms?”

Aven Green gets that question a lot. She 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.

Praise for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Autumn 2017 Indie Next Pick

Junior Library Guild Selection

Reading the West Award Winner

Library of Congress's 52 Great Reads List 

2017 Cybils Award Finalist

Youth One Book, One Denver 

Sakura Medal Winner

William Allen White Children's Book Award Winner 

Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Winner 

Utah Beehive Book Award Winner 

Young Reader's Choice Awards Winner 

A Mighty Girl's 2017 Books of the Year

Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year 

Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" 

Austin Public Library Best Tween Fiction 

Multnomah County Library Best Books 

Southwest Books of the Year "Best of the Best" 

Indian Paintbrush Award second runner-up

Minnesota Youth Reading Award nominee 

Iowa Teen Award nominee 

Colorado Children's Book Award nominee

Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee 

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Master List

Maine Student Book Award Reading List

Mark Twain Reader Award nominee 

Young Hoosier Book Award nominee 

South Carolina Book Award nominee 

Rhode Island Middle School Book Award nominee 

Evergreen Book Award nominee 

Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award nominee 

Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Master List

Bluestem Book Award nominee 

Keystone to Reading Secondary Book Award finalist 

The Children's Book Review Best Kids Books of 2017 for Tweens and Preteens

The News & Observer Best Books of 2017 for Young Readers

2017 Nerdy Book Club Awards Middle Grade Fiction

Booksource Top 40 Classroom Library Titles of 2017

Changing Hands Bookstores Best of 2017

Flyleaf Books Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2017

★ Aven Green has always loved her life in Kansas—hanging out with Emily and Kayla, her best friends since kindergarten; planning pranks; and playing on the school soccer team. Though Aven was born without arms, she has never let her "lack of armage," as she calls it, deter her from doing anything she sets her mind to. But when her father gets a job as the manager of Stagecoach Pass, a rundown Western theme park out in Arizona, the family's move, right after Aven has started eighth grade, presents her toughest challenge yet. Having to deal with the many stares and questions of new schoolmates, Aven sorely misses her old life back in Kansas. However, her unflinchingly optimistic spirit, accompanied by her infectious and indomitable sense of humor, keeps her looking for the silver linings in her new life in Arizona, such as making friends with the cute but prickly Connor (who has Tourette's syndrome) or enjoying the ability to wear flats all year-round. But the most fascinating thing is the unusual mystery at the heart of Stagecoach Pass: the disappearing tarantulas, a missing photograph, and a secret necklace. Aven is determined to get to the bottom of the secret. She is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned. The tale of Stagecoach Pass is just as compelling as the story of Aven, and the setting, like the many colorful characters who people this novel, is so vivid and quirky that it's practically cinematic. VERDICT Charming and memorable. An excellent choice for middle grade collections and classrooms. - School Library Journal (starred review)

  A move to dusty, distant Arizona forces 13-year-old Aven to leave her familiar life and friends behind. Don’t yawn: Bowling takes this overworked trope and spins it into gold with a skein of terrific twists. For one thing, Aven was born without arms, so the new environment—a decrepit Wild West theme park—poses special challenges. For another, thanks to loving, funny adoptive parents who have raised her to be a “problem-solving ninja” (“I’m so flexible, it would blow your mind,” she boasts), readers may repeatedly forget, despite reminders enough, that Aven is (as she puts it) “unarmed.” Moreover, when the dreary prospect of having to cope with the looks and questions at her new middle school sends her in search of an isolated place to eat her lunch she finds and bonds with Conner, who is struggling with Tourette's syndrome and has not been so lucky with his parents. Not only does she firmly enlist him and another new friend in investigating a mystery about the theme park’s past but, taking Conner’s involuntary vocalizations in stride (literally) Aven drags him (figuratively) into an information-rich Tourette’s support group. Following poignant revelations about Aven’s birth family, the author lets warm but not gooey sentiment wash over the close to a tale that is not about having differences, but accepting them in oneself and others. - ALA Booklist (starred review)

 Aven Green's missing arms have never been an issue for her or her family. Adopted as a two-year-old, her parents taught her to be a "problem-solving ninja" so that she could do everything people with arms can do. At home in Kansas, Aven is sociable, athletic (soccer is her game) and a prankster. When her father accepts an offer to run Stagecoach Pass, a western-themed amusement park in Arizona, she's not thrilled at the idea of having to make new friends. Sure enough, her new middle school is a challenge. When she meets Connor, a boy with Tourette syndrome, the two immediately bond over the way people behave around them. "They just act weird around me," Aven says, "like they don't know whether to look or not, to ask about it or not. But no one has talked to me like I'm an actual person." When they find a strange room in the park with boxes of intriguing old papers, they join forces to investigate the whereabouts of the mysterious, unseen Stagecoach Pass owner. Dusti Bowling's story of a regular, hugely likable kid who deals with her unusual challenges with grace and humor is pitch-perfect. Aven and her friends have hilarious conversations (for example, when she and Connor meet: "'I would shake your hand, but....' He motioned toward my armless area, blinking his eyes rapidly and barking as he did so. 'But you have horrible warts all over your hands,' I said.") but it's their empathy and warmth that win the day. Sitting under her favorite centuries-old saguaro cactus, Aven realizes that she may be "an entirely insignificant event in the life of this cactus," but her life does matter, in all its painful, sweet, awkward glory. - Shelf Awareness (starred review)

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is a heartwarming, entertaining, and inspirational story, perfect for fans of Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, who will cheer for Aven, and for Connor as well. - Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is so amazingly brilliant, I wish I could hand it out to every limb different kid I come across. As a person who was born without arms, I can relate and say that this book is 100 % accurate in depicting Aven's struggles going to school with a disability. I would recommend this book to anyone of all ages, whether they have a disability or not. - Tisha Unarmed

I think Dusti must have somehow channeled my inner self when she was creating the character of Aven Green.  I related to almost everything that Aven experienced, and it brought back many memories of my own childhood. I was delighted that Aven was not portrayed as disabled, but rather extremely capable and able to do anything she wanted. I love that!  I feel honored to be the inspiration for this awesome book!  I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to read it. - Barbie Thomas of Fitness Unarmed 

Connor's Tourette's support-group meetings and Aven's witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of "lack of armage" give the book excellent educational potential . . . its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive. - Kirkus Reviews

Bowling’s sensitive and funny novel . . . demonstrates how negotiating others’ discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. . . . [an] openhearted, empathic book. - Publishers Weekly

INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS is a remarkable, original story with true heart, a fresh voice, and an absolutely unforgettable hero. It's a book sure to give any reader goosebumps, teary eyes, and out-loud laughs. It's a book that doesn't just open your eyes, it opens your heart. - Dan Gemeinhart, author of The Honest Truth

I absolutely enjoyed every word of this middle grade novel. The main character Aven has such a fun voice. I wish I could be her friend in real life. I loved the setting, the accurate information about Tourette syndrome (which I have myself), and the fun little mystery on the side. A great book I hope everyone reads. - Ellie Terry, author of Forget Me Not

...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 love with her by the end of the first page. She confronts head-on the issues one has to contend with, when one is born with no arms. This is handled by author Dusti Bowling with a perfect blend of matter-of-factness, humor, honesty, and charm. - Sally J. Pla, author of The Someday Birds

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