It is 1932 and Stella Mills (11) lives in Bumblebee, North Carolina, with her mother, father, and younger brother JoJo. Bumblebee is a segregated town where Stella cannot go to the same schools as whites, she can only enter through the front door of a few stores, and she cannot visit the library. One night Stella and her brother witness the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross across the pond from her neighborhood. The two immediately return home and inform their parents, who then inform the black community. This news sends fear throughout the black community because the Klan has not been active for years.
There is a Presidential election coming up between Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Rosevelt and the pastor at Stella's church announces that he will be registering to vote. He invites members of the congregation to join him, but only two men do it: Stella's father and Mr. Oglethorpe. Stella's father takes him with her when he goes to the registrar's office. They are insulted, then presented with tests and fees that only apply to blacks. They are also warned that trouble is coming their way. The Klan sets Mr. Oglethorpe's house afire while he and his family are inside. The house is a complete loss. The community comes together to help the Oglethorpe family. On voting day, the black community walks to town with the three men as they prepare to cast their votes.
BTSYA / Teen Reader (17):
Stella by Starlight is an important novel because it portrays a dark history that still affects the world we live in today. This book truly touched my heart. Not just because of its context, but also because of the message of hope that is portrayed. It doesn't gloss over the harsh details of what black families had to go through in a segregated society and shows how overt racism brought them so much fear and mental anguish. The author did a good job of showing Stella’s growth as she and her family faced multiple hardships, such as being restricted from voting or getting attacked by racists. I enjoyed following Stella’s journey as she realized her talent for writing and used it as a tool to express her feelings towards the racism black people face. The entire book was well-composed, and the author’s style of writing was very powerful.
It is vital for young readers to have access to these kinds of stories. They show the injustices black people have faced in the United States and demonstrate how intolerance can be so damaging. I highly recommend buying this book since it teaches many important lessons for the current generation. The best age group for this novel are readers between the ages of 10 to 15, although I would suggest giving it a try even if you are older. This is an incredible story that is sure to be remembered for years to come.
BTSYA / Adult Volunteer Reader (42):
Stella by Starlight is a book about racial injustice during the Jim Crow Era. Draper has done a wonderful job presenting a tough subject in a way that young people can understand. This book looks at America’s ugly history of racism through the eyes of a young girl. Stella is a beautifully written character who is smart, curious, and caring.
My favorite thing about this book is its emphasis on community and family. It shows the way they were able to show strength in the face of adversity, stand together and support each other. I also like that the author did not put the other half of the community in a box. She pointed out that everyone did not think the same, that not all white people were racist, and that some were willing to stand against racism. This powerful story will entertain and educate. I would recommend buying this book for reader's aged 10 - 12.
Compelling and timeless. Today's readers will be immersed in Stella's world as though it is their own, not one set in the late 1920s. As our teen reviewer notes: these are the stories that propel readers to actively work to change the world we live in.
Some things to be aware of are terrorism, racism, ethnic slurs, and violence against children. Although these events take place in the story, they do not overwhelm it
There are references to domestic violence. Also, Stella and her brother witness violence, though it is neither graphic nor gratuitous.
This is a historical fiction novel about a black family facing racism and discrimination in their North Carolina town during the 1920s and 1930s.
There are many layers to the story. Although it is fiction, the kinds of prejudice and segregation faced by Blacks in America are not. Taking the readers back to the 1920s may give them a deeper perspective of how long these behaviors have endured.
As our reviewer notes, Stella grows as a character finding her talents. What things did your readers learn from Stella? Share what you learned, too. That will create some great discussion.
10 and Up
10 and Up
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer Ages: 17, 42
Buy. The writing is powerful and the messages are ones you'll come back to.
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