Review: Stella By Starlight

stella-by-starlight-9781442494978_lgStella by Starlight made me hungry. A third of the way in I was craving hush puppies, mustard greens, and the Mississippi voices of my childhood.

I love it when a good book does that to you.

Set in Bumblebee, North Carolina, on the eve of F.D.R.’s election, Stella by Starlight draws the 1930’s South exactly as it was — separate and intentionally unequal. Eleven-year-old Stella Mills dreams of a different future, caught in world determined not to let her have it. Sharon Draper’s novel is peppered with memorable characters and description so well-crafted I had to make cornbread to stop my craving:

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Parents and teachers should be prepared for some hard conversations about the inequality of Jim Crow laws, a mention of lynching, and some difficult scenes of violence against both adults and children. Even though the novel addresses some very dark themes, Draper keeps the story relatable and grounded. Injustice and blatant racism are juxtaposed with the every day — chores, bad grades, and a burgeoning crush on the neighbor boy. The end result is a story about the strength of community and hope for the future.  Stella by Starlight is a must-read for every fifth grade child, and for every adult who never had to live in fear of a burning cross in the night. It is a reminder of how far we have come as a nation, and a reminder of why we must never go back. This is a perfect choice for Black History month, or for a cold winter Saturday when you want to curl up with coffee and cornbread.

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