Girl of the Year 2018: Luciana out of This World

Published: 2018. Author: Erin Teagan. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa


Luci is excited to be able to visit her cousins in Chile, and introduce them to her new sister Izzy. She can hardly wait to settle into her old routines with her extended family. But when she arrives, she finds that her cousins have bonded more with each other and are too busy for their usual antics. They don't cut her out completely, but they have their own private jokes that she doesn't get because she lives so far away, and one evening they're all going to spend the night at a friend's house without her; that sort of thing. So when Claire shows up with an opportunity to spend 36 hours in the Atacama Desert observing real astronaut training, Luci decides to go. She's still not quite sold on Claire's trustworthiness, but she figures seeing her dream job in person instead of feeling ignored by her cousins is worth the risk.

The astronaut training is incredible. But Luci is still a pre-teen, and when she impulsively tries to help with some samples, she accidentally contaminates them. The astronauts have to head back out to the sample site again, leaving Luci and Claire on their own in the desert habitat (because, as so often happens, Claire's father had to leave to attend to business). Luci is still trying to make the best of things (the astronauts-in-training were very understanding), but Claire is in a funk, missing her dad.

Suddenly, none of that seems important. There's a huge earthquake. Luci ends up trapped under a piece of furniture. Claire helps her out, but has a head wound herself. And there's a fire in part of the habitat. The girls are able to put it out and keep themselves safe during the hours it takes for the astronauts-in-training and Claire's father to return.

Claire and her father take Luci home before heading to a hospital to get Claire evaluated (at one point Luci had a hurt arm but that kinda just...doesn't go anywhere). Luci learns that her grandmother's house, so full of memories, is damaged beyond repair. In talking with one of her cousins about how to help their grandmother, Luci realizes she never bothered to ask her cousins what was happening in their lives. She was too busy talking about her own. That's why she felt left out. Working together, the cousins set up a family party with sentimental things from their grandmother's house, creating new memories together.


Dedicated to Kaelyn, Olivia, Kaia, and Addison.

Luci is awakened by doves cooing. When I lived in Honolulu, zebra doves were the first thing I heard every morning.

Luci and Izzy are bilingual, speaking Spanish at home and English in public.

Head wounds always bleed a lot because of how many blood vessels are in the head. While you should get big cuts looked at, it might not be as bad as it looks.

It's perfectly fine, and even recommended, to sleep if you're concussed. Provided you can hold a conversation and have no other neurological symptoms like sudden trouble walking or dilated pupils, it's not dangerous to sleep. You need cognitive rest as well as physical rest too; don't strain your brain. (Of course, seek medical attention when you can.)

It might be too late for Claire to get stitches. You typically have six to eight hours after an injury. Some injuries that need further treatment can get stitches up to 24 hours later.

Chile had an 8.8 earthquake for real, in 2010. More than 500 people died.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded was in Chile. May 22, 1960, southern Chile was hit with a 9.5 earthquake.


Girl of the Year 2018: Luciana Braving the Deep

Published: 2018. Author: Erin Teagan. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa


Luci is about to embark on another adventure. She and Ella are two of six kids selected for a youth astronaut training camp on the Atlantic coast. Like the last time she was preparing for being the first girl on Mars, her sister Izzy will be dealing with her own things. Izzy will be undergoing heart surgery to correct her birth defect. Luci's parents promise to keep her posted while she's away at her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

At the camp, Luci and Ella learn that the six kids will be competing to see which three of them will spend time in an underwater habitat known as Cetus. They will need to show that they can perform certain tasks and demonstrate that they can safely dive and work with scuba gear. Luci is sure that one participant, Claire, will be a shoe-in. Her father is a famous entrepreneur, and has done work to help astronauts on the International Space Station. Claire tells Luci how she's gone with her father to various exotic locations and been able to try many skills most people never have a chance to. Luci is impressed, and Ella is even a bit star-struck.

The veneer wears off quickly for Luci. She notices holes in Claire's stories, like how she'll say "I did X! Well, almost. I got to see someone else do it." Ella is having trouble with part of the swimming skills test, and Claire offers to help her improve. But when Claire is timing Ella (she has to tread water for a set time), Claire drops the stopwatch, invalidating the time. Luci thinks it was on purpose, to knock Ella out of the competition. Ella thinks Luci didn't learn her lesson about being suspicious from Space Camp, but Luci just can't shake the feeling that something's wrong. During another skills test, Claire leaves Luci stranded underwater. Luci is able to get out, but she could have drowned. She's understandably scared and mad. Claire tries to play it off as an accident (which was a bad enough mistake), but she soon admits she was so wrapped up thinking only of herself that she was able to justify her decision. She also admits to dropping the stopwatch on purpose.

The camp directors take Claire out of the running for Cetus, but don't send her home. For one, they want everyone to learn about teamwork when you can't just leave, like in space. And also...Claire's dad is away and no one else can pick her up. Claire does apologize, but no one blames the other kids for being a bit distant from her. In the end, Luci and Ella are chosen to go down to Cetus along with a boy named Thomas. As she enters the airlock below the water, Luci ends up having a panic attack. Claire redeems herself some by talking her through it (over a radio). Luci is able to complete the underwater mission, learning while she's down there that Izzy's surgery was a success.


Dedicated to Meredith, Mikaela, Sofia, and Molly.

Claire's father, Lance Jacobs, seems to be an expy of Elon Musk, at least in terms of innovation. I don't know enough about his personal life to know how he might be as a father. Lance Jacobs is usually too busy to spend time with her daughter, and since Claire's mother is dead, she gets shuttled off to nannies and camps a lot.

I wish there had been more about Luci and her family getting to know Izzy after the adoption.

Here is a website for spotting the International Space Station: NASA.


Girl of the Year 2018: Luciana

Published: 2018. Author: Erin Teagan. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa


Eleven-year-old Luciana "Luci" Vega is a girl with a mission: she wants to be the first girl on Mars ("girl" specifically, not woman or person). She's just won a scholarship to Space Camp, and couldn't be more excited. She's intimidated at first, because several of her camp mates know each other well--they're members of the same extended family. They also did the preparatory reading and some have been to camp before, so they have a better idea of what to expect than Luci does.

But Luci catches on quickly, determined to get the most out of her experience. She settles in nicely, aside from rubbing one girl, Ella, the wrong way. Ella gets called out by her cousins for being too much of a stickler. However, when Luci is made leader of a team and seriously screws up (she suspects another team of sabotage and ends up disqualifying her team), she has to admit Ella may have had a point about thinking things through and not being impulsive. Luci rallies her team, which ends up still creating a submission that would have done well in the competition, and helping the team that she suspected of sabotage. Her team gets recognition for creativity and for accepting responsibility and making amends.

In Luci's defense, she has reason to be distracted. Her parents are working to adopt a toddler from their home country of Chile, Isadora. While Luci's at Space Camp, Izzy goes missing from the orphanage. Luci's grandmother in Chile is able to locate her--in a hospital being evaluated for a heart defect. Things get pretty tense with Luci and her parents not knowing the severity of the defect or the toddler's prognosis. But as Space Camp draws to a close, they learn that Izzy's heart defect is serious, but not so much that they can't continue with the adoption. Luci is a big sister!


Dedicated to Jaeda.

Luci and her family live in Virginia. Space Camp is in Houston, TX.

Luci and her best friend Raelyn were playing with hair dye and put a purple streak in Luci's hair. She says that her parents don't mind her creativity, but prefer "less permanent" changes. Granted, I don't do much with hair dye, but how permanent is purple in  dark brown or black hair? It would be pretty simply to get it dark again, right? The hair itself might be damaged from the bleaching required for the purple to show up, but a streak of purple doesn't seem that big of a deal to me. Then again, her parents don't care that much so I'm probably overthinking this.

Speaking of Raelyn, she's not really present in any of Luci's books, since they all take place away from her home.

Luci gets to sample some dehydrated astronaut food. I remember getting it at the Seattle Science Center. The ice cream was good; the scrambled eggs were awful.

There are a lot of good charities for children with heart conditions. One I especially like is Little Hats Big Hearts, which distributes hats to newborns to help people learn about the signs and impacts of congenital heart defects.