The Ostrich and Other Lost Things

Eleven-year-old Olivia Grant has a knack for finding lost things. She can find lost rings, pets, and even her elderly neighbor’s misplaced glasses. There’s only one thing Olivia has never been able to find–her brother Jacob’s toy ostrich. It wasn’t until the day Jacob lost his ostrich that Olivia noticed how different he was: Jacob is autistic, and though she’s his little sister, Olivia often feels like the older of the pair, his caretaker. And with her parents so heavily focused on maintaining status quo for Jacob, it’s Olivia who has stagnated in his shadow–unable to explore new opportunities, or to be her own person. In fact, apart from being Jacob’s sister, Olivia’s not really sure who she is.

So when summer break begins, and the local community theater announces auditions for an all children’s production of her favorite show, Peter Pan, Olivia jumps at the chance to claim something for herself. But what begins as a promising opportunity and a wonderful escape quickly becomes pure chaos. The visiting zoo with an odd assortment of animals–including an ostrich that causes even more trouble than Jacob’s missing toy–only make matters worse, as Olivia’s summer is shaping up to be just as consumed by Jacob’s needs as the rest of her life has been.

In time, and with the help of some unlikely alliances, Olivia must learn what it means to be separate from her brother and still love him, how to love herself in spite of her own flaws, and that not all lost things are meant to be found. ~via Goodreads

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things
Beth Hautala
Philomel Books
Publication Date: February 20th 2018

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I am especially excited to share The Ostrich and Other Lost Things! Beth Hautala has delivered a story that reaches far beyond the pages of a book and leaves a lasting impression. The reader is invited into a world that they may not already be familiar with and does so in an honest and tender way.

Over a summer of traveling zoos, runaway ostriches, theater, and new friendships, eleven-year-old Olivia just wants her life to be “normal”. She would love to perform in the local theater’s production of Peter Pan and have just one thing all to herself – Olivia’s moment to be noticed. But, it really isn’t that simple. And what would “normal” mean, anyway?

Olivia and her parents spend a great deal taking care of and focusing on her thirteen-year-old autistic brother, Jacob. Oftentimes that may mean that Olivia doesn’t always get to do things just for herself or how she may want to do them. Also, Jacob’s autism seems to be getting progressively worse and so the family must continue to adjust for his needs. Olivia has an idea on how she can make it all better. Olivia believes she can pinpoint exactly when Jacob’s autism began to worsen – when he lost his toy ostrich. Olivia, who is known for finding anything, is determined to find Jacob’s lost toy so she can help her brother and get things back to the way they were.

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things is a poignant story that understands the difficulties and the countless tests of unconditional love. Sibling-hood, parent-child relationships, and even friendships are complex and require nurturing, understanding, forgiveness and sometimes a little bit of space. Olivia and Jacob’s relationship is one full of love, grace and a mutual bond that is especially significant. Beth Hautala ushers the reader beyond the autism and reminds you that this is a family of individuals – each one with their own struggles, shortcomings, and needs. However, what I have loved most in this story was the realization of Jacob.

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things is a book that I would recommend to readers young and old. We can all take something beautiful from this book.

I have given The Ostrich and Other Lost Things 5/5 stars

Beth Hautala holds a degree in writing and rhetoric from Northwestern College and is the author of Waiting For Unicorns, and The Ostrich and Other Lost Things. She lives with her husband and four children in northern Minnesota, where she strives to write stories that tie heart and imagination together. ~

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I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to ask Beth Hautala some questions regarding The Ostrich and Other Lost Things, the characters, her writing process and what tips she wanted to share with aspiring writers. I want to send huge thanks to Beth for her kindness and openness. I hope you all enjoy this wonderful insight!!

N: The Ostrich and Other Lost Things tells the fantastic story of Olivia, a young girl, who has a sibling with autism. The relationship you’ve created is absolutely beautiful, even if Olivia struggles to show empathy at times. There is definitely a very special bond between the two. What is your favorite thing about Olivia and Jacob’s relationship?

B: I think my favorite aspect of this brother-sister bond, is their raw commitment to one another.
They are just two young people, trying to figure out who they are in the world, but they’re determined to see things through—together. No matter how hard that is. Loving one another (sometimes especially family!) is a choice. In our culture, we often behave as if love were an expendable commodity. But I’m convinced it’s less of a feeling and more of a deliberate choice we make day in and day out, regardless of shifting emotion. As I set out to tell Olivia and Jacob’s story, I wanted to tell the truth about this kind of love. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and hard to look at. Sometimes it’s beautiful and full of resolve. And sometimes it’s just a matter of wading through the messy middle of everyday life. People are messy! I’m messy! But I believe people are worth the work. And I think that’s what Jacob and Olivia have decided about one another as well.

N: In the Author’s Note, you acknowledge the support you received in making The Ostrich and Other Lost Things happen. As someone who was and may still be learning about ASD, what inspired you to take on such an complex character?

B: When I start a story, I often begin by writing out of the places in my life where I am afraid. I ask questions and take time to ponder the answers. “What if such and such happened? How would I handle that situation? How would I feel? What would my choices look like on a day-to-day basis?” At the time I began writing this book, I had some concerns about a member of my family in regard to spectrum disorders. I had to wrestle with these questions on a personal level, and while the issue has resolved itself in my life, asking these questions forced me to examine an issue I previously knew very little about! It was eye-opening, humbling, powerful. It shook me to a degree that I felt required action. I decided to use the only tools I can wield with any affect, and started writing. And so was born THE OSTRICH AND OTHER LOST THINGS.

N: I found it very interesting that you’ve chosen an ostrich to be your “mascot” in this book. At any point, might have we seen a different animal or was it always meant to be an ostrich?

B: I didn’t set out to write a story that included another unusual member of the animal kingdom! (My first book was about Narwhal whales). But here we are! I suppose this story’s ‘mascot’ could have been anything. But one of my kids had this 3-inch tall plastic ostrich toy, and it landed on my desk one day. Enter Ethel, the real-life ostrich in Olivia’s story! Sometimes the most trivial circumstances deliver the most interesting outcomes.

N: It is just two days before the 3-year book birthday of Waiting for Unicorns. Congratulations! You’ve had quite a journey in these last 3(plus) years. Do you feel that your writing process has changed much in that time?

B: I feel like I have grown up quite a lot. I’m always astonished and overcome with gratitude when I think back on the past few years. It has been such a beautiful education—full of ups and downs, a lot of personal growth, and many people (like yourself and your readership!) who have carried me through! When I first started writing WAITING FOR UNICORNS, I had two babies at home. Now I have four! I have two books under my belt, and a third in the works. I am more grateful, more-rich in relationships, more starved for time, and increasingly passionate about telling stories that grasp at truest truths. My heart is full!
As for my writing process: it’s a journey! Some things that used to work, no longer do. (See above note about four kids!) I have to be incredibly diligent and intentional about my writing time. I write from 4am to 6:30 (about which time, the kids rouse for the day). I carry a notebook with me at all times for what I call “small writing,” and I read more than I sleep. I’m convinced that if I’m not reading the beautiful work of my peers, I stagnate. And it has all been totally worth it! I know my process will change again in a few years when my kids are a little older, but for now, I use the time I have to do what I can. And that’s enough.

N: I love that you have provided lots of tips and information to aspiring writers through your website and blog. But if you could give just one line of advice to anyone who is dreaming of being a published author, what would that advice be?

B: I’m not sure I can ever say anything in one line! Forgive me. But here’s my wordy advice:
If you are passionate about being creative, and you also have a busy life, don’t let that determine how you use (or don’t use!) your gifts. My life is FULL. I am a normal mom and wife with laundry, and dishes, and school lunches, and a messy house, and nothing made for dinner. I don’t sleep a whole lot and I stand in my pantry eating chocolate when I’m stressed. But I’ve decided that there will never be a good time to do a hard thing, and using my creative abilities is a hard thing sometimes. Yet, it’s part of who I am. A definitive part. It has become equivalent to exhaling. Insanity goes in, words spill out on the page. And sometimes they’re good. Often they are not. But I keep at it because I wouldn’t have this need to write if I wasn’t supposed to use it. So, tell your story. If you dance, dance. If you paint, paint. If you weld, weld. If you draw, or build, or sculpt, or cook, or blog, then do those things passionately, no matter what the rest of your life screams at you. Because it matters. Your story matters. And only you can tell it.

I'd love to hear from you!


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