Cover image for The space between lost and found
The space between lost and found
Physical Description:
211 pages ; 22 cm.
Cassie?s always looked up to her mom, a vivacious woman with big ideas and a mischievous smile. Together they planned to check off every item on a big-dream bucket list, no matter how far the adventure would take them. But then Mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer?s disease, and everything changed. Now, Cassie tries to keep Mom happy, and to understand some of Dad?s restrictive new rules. She tries to focus on math lessons and struggles to come up with art ideas that used to just burst off her pen. When Mom?s memories started to fade, so did Cassie?s inspiration. And even worse, she?s accidentally pushed away Bailey, the one friend who could make it all okay. After the worst Mom day yet, the day she forgets Cassie?s name, Cassie decides to take action. It?s time for one last adventure, even if it means lying and taking a big risk to get there. Sandy Stark-McGinnis, acclaimed author of Extraordinary Birds, explores big questions ? the kind that don?t always have answers ? in a powerful story about family, friendship, and the memories that will always be part of us.


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From the acclaimed author of Extraordinary Birds , a powerful story about family, friendship, and the light that can be found even in the darkest of places.

Cassie's always looked up to her mom, a vibrant woman bursting with grand ideas. Together they planned to check off every dream on their think-big bucket list, no matter how far the adventures took them. The future seemed unlimited.

But then came the diagnosis, and Mom started to lose her memories. Even the ones Cassie thought she'd never forget. Even Cassie's name.

Cassie tries her hardest to keep Mom happy . . . to focus on math lessons and come up with art ideas that used to burst off her pen. But as Mom's memories dimmed, so did Cassie's inspiration. She's even pushed away Bailey, the one friend who could help make things okay.

So, Cassie decides to take action. It's time for one last adventure... even if it means taking a big risk to get there.

Author Notes

Sandy Stark-McGinnis is the author of Extraordinary Birds and an award-winning poet. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Sandy lives with her husband and children in California, where she works as a fifth-grade teacher.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4--7--Amidst flashbacks to happier times, 12-year-old Cassie and her father do their best to cope with her mother's early-onset Alzheimer's disease. The disease is rapidly progressing--her mom might remember a pop song or how much she loves dolphins, but not what she likes to eat or even Cassie's name. Meanwhile, Cassie struggles at school with the art show, and with maintaining a good relationship with her ex-best friend Bailey. Of the multiple conflicts, the most dominant might be Cassie's desire to take her mother to swim with dolphins at an aquatic park against her father's wishes. The call for this last adventure develops slowly, about one third of the way through the book. This lack of immediate, solvable conflict may be too sluggish to appeal to most children. Older readers may appreciate the unanswerable difficulties. Bailey's mother's death, which happened when Bailey was a toddler, sets up an intriguing comparison between grieving a mother's cognitive changes and a mother who is gone both in body and spirit, not that such a comparison can be objective given human resilience. However, Cassie's classroom dynamics feel much more like a fifth grade classroom, and her interactions with friends regarding art and soccer seem juvenile. The metaphors examining Cassie's feelings and artistic endeavors generally add a lilting, poetic feel to the story. With Cassie's intense feelings and the surrealistic behaviors of her mother, the book flows dreamily from flashbacks to lost memories, ending with love and affirmation. VERDICT A lovely but not particularly gripping examination of a girl grappling with her mother's early-onset Alzheimer's disease.--Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cassie Rodrigues's adventurous mother was the vital heart of her family, always singing and making grand plans. Now that she has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, she's childlike, unpredictable, and unable to remember Cassie's name. Cassie's father wants to keep her mom indoors to protect her, but Cassie, an artist, knows that Mom, who "has always loved being outside and going places," needs to walk in the canyon near their Santa Fe home and do the things that bring her joy. Though the fifth grader has pulled back from her best friend Bailey, she enlists Bailey's help to take her mother on one last adventure--secretly achieving her mom's lifelong dream to swim with dolphins in San Diego--before she's moved to a care facility. The moving narrative gives readers a sense of the condition's advancement through Cassie's memories of her mother, pre-Alzheimer's. Though Cassie's endless patience with her mother's behavior at times strains credulity, it shows the depth of her love amid the disease's realities, convincingly portrayed alongside the heartbreaking loss that Cassie and her father experience. Ages 8--11. Agent: Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Apr.)

Horn Book Review

Twelve-year-old Cassie is having trouble coping with her mother's early-onset Alzheimer's disease-first, because she's sad, especially when her mom no longer remembers her name, and second, because her dad's approach is to keep his wife home both for safety and to hide her condition from public view. Cassie spends much of the time taking care of Mom and focusing on math homework-with its clearly right and wrong answers-which means no time for soccer with former best friend Bailey and no inspiration for the art projects she used to love. After a particularly bad day, Cassie decides to make one thing on her formerly adventurous mother's bucket list happen: swimming with dolphins. The trip from Arizona to San Diego is not without problems, but it's also a crucial bonding moment and helps the family to move forward with accepting its loss. Cassie is an engaging narrator, and her father, who is clearly trying his best but is just as clearly misguided, makes an excellent foil. While this is an emotional book, Cassie is extremely self-contained, and her sadness is presented with restraint. The delivery of the book's art and math themes is effective without being heavy-handed and helps unify the story. A good choice for kids looking for a quiet but emotionally intense read. Sarah Rettger May/June 2020 p.133(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

For older grade schooler Cassie Rodrigues, the space between lost and found is vast: Her mom has Alzheimer's disease. Although her mom is still a young woman, she has an early-onset form of the disease, and it's progressing rapidly. Diagnosed just months ago, she's already so affected that she can no longer recall her daughter's name. Cassie's life is thrown into disarray as she tries to navigate a new and complex world in which she must strive to help her mother hang onto precious memories and at the same time somehow inspire her worried father to keep things as normal as possible. Since her mother, a powerful swimmer, always dreamed of swimming with the dolphins, Cassie decides to make that happen by stealing her mother away to San Diego--a risky trip she cleverly hides from her father. All this sets up an unusual variation on the absent-parent trope. In addition, amid all the secrets, she still must try to fit in at school and hang onto as regular a life for herself as the desperate situation permits. Alternating the current storyline with chapters that achingly depict their former life, Cassie's perceptive narration rings true. One result of the intense focus through Cassie's perspective is that none of the other characters stand out so well. Cassie and her family are white; her best friend is a girl of color. A sensitive exploration of an unusual problem. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Alzheimer's disease is a heartbreaking diagnosis and the early-onset form is especially cruel. Cassie's mom, a former mathematics whiz and avid swimmer, has been recently diagnosed, but the disease is taking its toll on everyone, including Dad (who has become overly safety conscious) and Cassie (who has cut herself off from friends and no longer finds joy in her art). In a last-ditch attempt to help Mom cross something off her bucket list, Cassie plans a trip to San Diego, where Mom can swim with the dolphins one last time. The plan hits a few snags, but there is no denying Mom's joy during her swim. Stark-McGinnis (Extraordinary Birds, 2019) writes with empathy of the day-to-day changes to family life that accompany dementia, as well as difficult choices, such as choosing a care home, that inevitably arise. Subplots involving best friend Bailey (who also experienced the loss of her mother) and Cassie's love of art keep the overall mood from becoming too downbeat. Thoughtful and enlightening.