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Stella by Starlight

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When the Ku Klux Klan's unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella's segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community - her world - is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 6, 2015

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About the author

Sharon M. Draper

50 books3,303 followers
Sharon M. Draper is a professional educator as well as an accomplished writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award, and is a New York Times bestselling author. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,906 reviews
Profile Image for Lois R. Gross.
201 reviews13 followers
November 29, 2014
This is the type of book that I dearly wish young people would read instead of Wimpy Kids or SpongeBob. This is a book with depth and history and real feeling and one that speaks to how young people can be brave and special when the opportunity presents itself. Stella is a young African American girl in the segregated south during the time between the wars. Her parents work hard to give her and brother education and ethics in a world where they can see that they are treated unfairly because of their color. The KKK is alive and well in their town and the white doctor in the town, who should be fixing illness, spreads the poison of intolerance along with other grown white men. Stella and her friends and family are reasonably terrified of the Klan, but Stella is taught that courage begins with walking out of the house every day and facing your fears, even when they come with ironed white sheets. When Stella's father, minister, and another friend try to register to vote, the Klan has their revenge by burning the home of a friend. The community comes together to rebuild the house. However, when Stella's mother, who knows a great deal about healing, is bitten by a snake, the white doctor refuses to treat her. Stella's mother is saved by her Stella's own common sense and the courage of a neighbor who runs for help. Meanwhile, Stella tries to find her own purpose in life through writing, something she is not perfect at but is determined to learn. With all the warmth of homeplace and the reality of life in the South, this is one of Sharon Draper's wonderful stories that should have a place on many reading lists. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Julie G.
896 reviews2,926 followers
October 6, 2020

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the new President. He won in a landslide. Landslide makes me think of rocks and dirt falling down a mountain. Not sure what that has to do with an election.
But maybe it does. My papa voted. He is a pebble. Lots of pebbles make a landslide, right? His vote counted

The KKK has a long history in the U.S., but, despite that, I never connected the Klan's actions with upcoming elections. It turns out, right around the time that certain people of color were gathering the courage either to register to vote, or to vote, things starting burning: crosses in yards, barns, houses, places of business.

Wow. I can't imagine. I know white women didn't have the right to vote for too long in this country, either, but we were far more likely to be ignored or laughed at by men, treated like children. Our houses weren't set on fire.

It has taken great courage, through the years, to be the first. The first to do anything different, especially anything unpopular.

In this novel, set in North Carolina in 1932, three men step forward to be the first men of color in their town to register to vote: Pastor Patton, Hobart Spencer, and our protagonist Stella's father, Jonah Mills.

Hobart Spencer's family will pay the greatest price for this courage, but Stella's family will pay their own price, and they'll wish that someone else could have gone first, before them. But, as Stella's father says, “Sometimes bravery is just doin' what you gotta do.”

This is our second novel this year by a new-to-us novelist, Sharon M. Draper, and I can tell you: not only can Ms. Draper spin a yarn, she has an exceptional knack at dialect. Her middle grades novels, with their great rhythm and dialogue, are a pleasure to read aloud, and my 10-year-old daughter thoroughly enjoyed this one, declaring it, “full of action, and kind of scary, too.”

It is scary, it was scary, for so many people to do something as simple as vote. For Americans, here in the states, we're less than a month away from a major election. This book is a great reminder of how many people sacrificed their lives and their livelihoods throughout the years, just to be one of those pebbles in a landslide.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,209 reviews189 followers
January 30, 2015
I first encountered Sharon Draper's work when I was teaching freshmen who read below grade level. Her books are written for a middle grade audience, but they deal with complex and compelling themes, so they were perfect for my students. Now that I've escaped the teaching profession, I read her books for my own edification and enjoyment. Stella by Starlight may be written with younger readers in mind, but adults will find plenty to like too.

It's 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina, where Stella Mills lives with her parents and little brother Jojo. Segregation affects nearly every aspect of their lives. Stella and her friends have to walk a mile to school every day, even though they pass by the white school on the way. They have to enter the stores on Main Street from the back door, and some they're not allowed in at all. Stella's father is legally entitled to vote, but poll taxes and intimidation from government officials make it nearly impossible.

Still, Stella hasn't ever felt anything but safe in Bumblebee. That is, until the night she and Jojo sneak out of the house and happen upon members of the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross on the other side of the pond. They hurry back home without being seen, but the Klan's activities in their small town are certain to stir up trouble. Stella and her family and the rest of the African-American community will have to decide how to stand up for themselves without putting their lives in danger, a task that may prove impossible. Hate can be a powerful force.

The language in the book, particularly the dialect Draper imagines for her characters, is lilting and beautiful. I also love how she weaves song into the narrative, a choice I don't usually like, but which in this case helps bring the story to vivid life. Stella by Starlight engages all the senses, with descriptions of potluck dinners and starry, chilled nights. Most of all it reminds me that there is beauty in brokenness, and that no matter your circumstances, you can comport yourself with dignity and self-respect.

More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com
374 reviews
November 18, 2015
I loved this book . . . until the end. It would have been 5 stars, if not for the ending. What happened? Stella is a lovely girl. She likes to learn, loves her family and is brave when confronted with challenging, scary and dangerous events. She deals with racism every single day, but still hopes for the future. She leaps off the page like a real person, and so do the families in her neighborhood, and her supportive, creative teacher. Suspense built quickly, through the chapters with the KKK, and voting, and the snake. But then in the last two chapters, it just ended without resolving a final, surprising twist. Why? Except for that bit, the book doesn't seem overall to set up the reader for a sequel. It's as if the author had enough and ended without a conclusion. But this is Sharon Draper! Author of Out of My Mind, the best book written ever for a reader to identify with and understand a kid with a severe disability! I don't get it. So, this book is recommended, but with a reservation about the end.
Profile Image for Donna.
180 reviews
April 28, 2015
I have really mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it I really loved, but other parts seemed really uneven. The book seemed to leave too many things hanging, it did not feel completed. I really loved Stella's writing, probably my favorite part of the book.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews158k followers
May 19, 2015
This is Draper’s newest release, following the success of her best-seller Out of My Mind. In Stella by Starlight, Draper brings us to the segregated south in the middle of the Depression. The story begins when eleven-year-old Stella and her little brother Jojo happen across nine robed figures dressed all in white. Stella and her family, along with the small black community they live among in Bumblebee, North Carolina, confront this new reality with fear and anger and courage. In one scene, in which the black men of the community gather to register to vote for the first time, the voting registrar warns, “You’re gonna be real sorry you did this.” The pastor replies, “Sorrow is part of life.” And sorrow is so clearly etched in this story, but joy and triumph too. Geared for readers 9 to 13, I would recommend this historical novel for any middle grader and beyond. — Karina Glaser

from The Best Books We Read in April: http://bookriot.com/2015/05/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for C.E. G.
926 reviews35 followers
July 19, 2015
Stella by Starlight is possibly the most complex, poignant, moving writing for children on modern race relations I've read, which is depressing considering the story is about the KKK in 1930s rural North Carolina.

In this book, we're reminded that there are no neatly tied up, harmonious, happy endings to the destructive forces of racism. Stella's family and neighbors are beat up, denied life-saving medical care, terrorized, and disenfranchised politically and economically. The power of the black community is also depicted beautifully by Draper, but black creativity, faith, and connection doesn't abate the cruelty of the white characters.

I have to share one passage that just killed me. There's a thread of the story in which Stella discovers one of the identities of a KKK leader, and she wrestles with whether or not to expose his identity. Exposing his identity would potentially endanger her family, but there's also this impulse that beats in her to bring the truth to light. But then, some things happen toward the end, and she writes this journal entry:

[The KKK member] is full of hate. [His family] knows that is the truth. So does every living soul in Bumblebee.

So there is really nobody to tell.

This lack of listeners just resonated so strongly - it feels like every week, if not more frequently, my newsfeed is lit up with another black person murdered by the state. The truth is being told over and over, and over, and over. I hope that this truth telling is changing structures and hearts and mindsets, but if that change is happening, it's slow, and being met with reactive, angry dismissal. And telling the truth can still endanger you - see Sandra Bland; see the MOA organizers.

The white characters would be interesting to discuss with teens or adults as well - there's a diversity of "good intentions" here, and none of them are there to make white people feel good about themselves.

Great read, great book club choice. Strongly affecting book.
Profile Image for Kaytee Cobb.
1,938 reviews408 followers
February 27, 2020
This is a great MG option for your kiddos to get introduced to some tough themes. They'll probably identify with Stella and her struggles to write the words and tell her story. And they'll have questions and get answers about the KKK and the ways that Black Americans were treated in the south in the 50s and 60s.
Profile Image for Amanda Brenner.
576 reviews17 followers
February 27, 2017
You can read my full review on my blog -> Cover2CoverMom's Book Review: Stella by Starlight

Why it’s #DiverseKidLit: POC characters; POC author

Stella by Starlight was a wonderful middle grade historical fiction.  I am so impressed with how Draper was able to write a book set in the 1930s in the deep segregated South that depicted the harsh realities of people of color during these times while still keeping it appropriate for her middle grade audience.

What a perfect book to teach children about life in the 1930s under heavy segregation.  This book addresses things like the fear of hate groups like the KKK, the separation of white and black children in schools, the fact that professionals could refuse services to people of color, and so much more that people of color had to deal with during these times.

Can I also say how much I appreciated that Draper chose to write a main character who struggles in school?  More often then not, many characters within the middle grade genre are all either advanced or the other end of the spectrum and are too lazy and don’t care about school.  It isn’t too often I come across a character who legitimately struggles in school, but wants to do well.  I think that many children will see a bit of themselves in Stella.  I admired Stella’s hard work and determination in her commitment to self improvement.

There are so many great themes within these pages: family, bravery, perseverance, community, etc.  A big part of this book is standing up for what is right, despite those who are trying to bring you down.  Another big part was the sense of community and how this black community was such a tight-knit group who stood together in the good times and in the bad.  It was very empowering and uplifting, despite the fact that this is a book centered around such a horrible subject like racism.

This would be a great book to read along with your children to open up a dialogue about life in the 1930s under segregation laws.  This could also be a wonderful book to utilize in a classroom setting, possibly for black history month, but really any time of the year.  No need to wait until February.

The author mentions on the back cover flap that she was inspired for this book from a diary of her Grandmother’s she found.  Her Grandmother was not able to attend school past the 5th grade, but that didn’t stop her from going out every night to write by the moonlight.  I love learning where author draw inspiration for their works.  I was interested to learn that Sharon M. Draper actually lives an hour south of me in Cincinnati OH.  Maybe I will get the opportunity to see her at an event in the future.
Profile Image for Rachel Polacek.
549 reviews9 followers
May 14, 2018
I read this as a companion to my students' Civil Rights book clubs. This a great historical fiction story!
260 reviews3 followers
December 30, 2014
First of all- I received this book for free. Now that I've taken care of that, I loved it and can't wait to pass it on to my granddaughters to read. As others have said, this is the kind of book I want them to be reading. I have no problem with Harry Potter, or Hunger Games etc., but I think they need to mix in a few things more attached to the world they live in, and this book does a great job of it. Stella is a great character, and her story is told in such a beautiful way that most anyone would find the book enjoyable. And yet, it deals with serious subjects, like racism and poverty, but is also full of the love that can exist within family and community. this should be on the must-read list for middle graders.
Profile Image for Almira.
576 reviews2 followers
December 12, 2019
1932, Bumblebee, North Carolina - segregation is rampart in most parts of the Southern U.S.
The KKK still terrorizes small communities, such as Bumblebee.

Stella and her younger brother "witness" a cross burning, one evening, when they have snuck out of their home, after they were supposed to be in bed. They are all well aware of what these men in white robes would do to them if they were discovered.

In our current state of affairs, with the ugliness of the return of "white supremacy" raising its head, this story brings home how a country divided cannot stand united.

Author brings to light many of the inequalities between not just the "races" but between the "have's and the have not's".
Profile Image for Cathy.
487 reviews1 follower
October 30, 2017
There were so many loose ends in this story! So many different storylines and no real resolutions. I was prepared to LOVE this book, and it does have interesting views into life for Black people in Depression era South, but the book itself was a disappointment.
123 reviews4 followers
February 24, 2015
Beautiful story about segregation and hate, the power of a group, writing, and listening to your inner voice. I loved it.
Profile Image for Definite Book_Worm.
524 reviews4 followers
May 15, 2023
*This is a rant review. This review is not meant to discourage people from reading this book and is instead my opinion of how I felt when reading this.

I'm glad I'm finished with this, but sadly I am discouraged from ever reading a book by this author again. I though that the themes presented were important-racism, discrimination, segregation, etc. However, I think that these themes were represented through a very childish, immature, and simple POV. Most of this book consisted boring, repetitive scenes. Stella's horrible writing took up too much space, as did her views. I'm glad how this showed that everyone had the potential to be racist, regardless of race, and could also choose not to be racist. At times Stella seemed to make assumptions that all White people were racist, which would make sense at that time for a girl who was exposed to little else otherwise. Yet it was still tiring and annoying to follow the perspective of a girl who viewed the world often in categories and who's emotions were unconvincing and flat. There was more tell than show such as when Tony got beat up 'she didn't know why she was upset,' which made little sense to me because it isn't that hard to know that you're upset that your friend got beat up and you left him. My main problem of this book was that nothing really after the first scene for a very long time (50-60%). The summary says Stella fights 'fire with fire' but she doesn't at all. There is no fighting 'fire with fire,' the KKK shows up twice and she does little to stop them, and saving a girl from drowning seems to be an unrelated and strange ending, allowing Stella to see that not all people have to follow the legacy of their ancestors, but not actually dealing with the main conflict at all. I had to force myself to finish this for school, but I was highly disappointed. I wish that there was a book that dealt with the topics presented in a more dark and complex way, instead of simplifying situations or setting up contrived scenes for the sake of Stella's character arc.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Julie Suzanne.
1,919 reviews70 followers
November 3, 2020
I could not believe that there was a middle grade book about the Klan. There's a burning cross on the cover (and in the first chapter), and I just didn't know how an author could tackle such a thing for such a young audience. Well, be amazed, because she does it and does it well. Readers maintain their sweet innocence even while learning about the KKK, segregation, and the injustices faced by black people on the daily in the South during the Great Depression.

Children will learn about a strong black family with perfect family values, how hard it was just to be able to vote (and the abuses they suffered), and how black communities supported, protected, and uplifted each other despite these hostilities. From that sentence alone, you'd think this was a dark novel that you wouldn't want your kids to read, but it was miraculously a sweet, precious, lovely and bright novel even with all of the horror going on in the South at the time. How did she do that? I can't explain it. Readers will be inspired to write, have some serious respect for black communities that were able to raise educated children despite being denied an equal education (resources) and they'll see the humanity in all people and the potential for good even in the worst of times. I really enjoyed this, and I think Stella and her family will reside in my heart for a long time.
Profile Image for Mayla.
38 reviews
October 2, 2018
This book made me more aware of the things that colored people had to go through in the 1900's. I still cannot believe that the white doctor refused to treat her mother when she nearly died, as well as many other situations.
Profile Image for Aj Sterkel.
796 reviews33 followers
January 16, 2021
I loved this book! It reminds me of the slow, rural, character-driven stories I devoured as a young teenager. There isn’t much of a plot, but the vivid setting and strong characters were fascinating enough to keep me reading. It’s about the day-to-day life of a kid named Stella who is growing up in the south in the 1930s. The drama starts when Stella and her brother sneak out of the house at night and accidentally stumble across a KKK rally. It’s such a good book! There’s tension, and humor, and history, and a whole town of loveable characters. If you like middlegrade books and don’t mind a meandering slice-of-life plot, you need to read this novel.

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Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,755 reviews126 followers
May 11, 2015
In 1932 Jim Crow laws were in full swing and African Americans were threatened by the Klu Klux Klan. Racism and prejudice was rampant, but bonds and connections made blacks united and connected to their community like family. The strength of this novel is the atmosphere created and wonderful dialogue, voice, and rhythms that Sharon Draper rat-a-tats throughout the pages. Stella by Starlight, the title, is a song by the famous African American singer, Ella Fitzgerald. This is a tale to dance by under a full moon.

Eleven-year-old Stella Mills lives in segregated Bumblebee, North Carolina with her mom, dad, and younger brother, JoJo. When the two kids spot the Klan burning a cross across the pond from their home, fear sears through the tight-knit community for the last time that happen a man was murdered. The African American community gathers at Stella's house to discuss the events and look out for the children. Everyone is on edge and expecting changes because it is an election year with Hoover and Roosevelt running against each other for the presidency. When Stella's father decides to take a stand and vote with two other African American men, the tension mounts even more and things get ugly.

I'm starting to see the same story threads over and over in children's books. One is the child that struggles in school with reading or writing and learns to rise above it and believe in himself or herself. Ella struggles with writing that seems to be the result of serious writer's block and being left-handed. She edits heavily before getting her story on paper that makes it difficult for her to get started. The only time she can write is outside under the moon in the middle of the night.

I was a bit bored with the beginning when we first learn of her battle with putting pencil to paper, mainly because I've read quite a few books like this as of late. But the author makes it interesting as Stella learns to deal with her writing handicap. Stella can write but struggles with conventions. Her writing is thought-provoking, truthful, and full of edits. That first draft for her is painful, like it is for many of us. She is persistent at trying to improve and her hard-work shows at the end with improved writing and a desire to maybe become a reporter.

The injustices are ticked off throughout the story. The African Americans can't vote, can't go to the white doctor, can't go to the library, can't go to the new, better-resourced school, and so on. This is balanced by how rich their community is in caring for each other and showing solidarity when the Klan tries to intimidate them. There are some white people that show kindness, but for the most part it shows how Stella and Tony discover evil and hatred in other humans.

The overarching theme is Stella discovering the power of the human spirit. People can choose to be evil or good, to hate or love, to lie or be honest, to fear or be brave. Stella finds power in writing and speaking the truth and she sees how to face the ugliness of racism by the strength of her community and making different choices. She learns to stand up against social injustices. These themes are woven by characters that sing and tell folk tales that gives the story a rhythm, voice, and cadence that is beautiful.

While it shows the tightness of the African American community, some might find the song and community building slow. The songs show how it gave them strength to rise above social injustices, to be joyful, and to find hope. The storytelling was another way to rise above circumstances and the peddler and school teacher's story add depth. I thought the incidence with the white girl predictable. However, it supports the overarching theme of choice in human beings regardless of the color of their skin.

This can be a starting point for discussions on fear, humaneness, and courage. Storytelling, oral traditions, writing and song are ways to get people to unite, to think about social injustices, and live a life that is full of potential. Draper is a terrific writer. The rhythms and steady beat of family and friends point to bigger truths for all of us. Don't miss this one.
Profile Image for Kelly (Diva Booknerd).
1,106 reviews299 followers
July 3, 2017
Stella By Starlight was phenomenal, poignant and inspirational. Told through the eyes of twelve year old Stella in 1932, after witnessing the Ku Klux Klan burning a sacrificial crucifix in the middle of the night. Stella lives in a world of segregation, where one day she dreams of a world where everyone is equal, regardless of colour. Slavery may have ended, but the community of Bumblebee will never be free. Living in fear of being the next victims of the Klan, Stella's own father is determined to make a stand, if not for himself, but for his children to find strength in his own actions. He enrolls to vote.
'For once in my life, I must be a man,' Papa replied. 'I'd like to think I am standing up, along with Mr. Spencer and Pastor Patton, standing up for all of us. If I don't stand up, I feel like I'm crouching low. And I ain't gonna feel low no more.'
Throughout the storyline, Stella begins to share her inner thoughts in the form of short stories. She's a strong willed girl living in a time of prejudice and injustice, but shares the underlying message of hope. I loved her fiercely, wavering between wanting to protect her against the cruel history of segregation and championing her to spread her wings. As the saying goes, It takes a village to raise a child, no truer word has been spoken about the Bumblebee community. They band together through the threats of the Klan, a devastating house fire and a child beating. It's confronting, uncomfortable and incredibly emotional. But a story that needs to be told.

But beneath the brutality, lies a beautiful story about family, hope and the spirit of a community that won't be broken.
Nearly the entire negro population of Bumblebee stood in the street, quietly waiting while the three men voted.
This isn't just another middle grade novel, it's an experience.
Profile Image for Catherine.
1 review1 follower
December 15, 2017
Sharon M. Draper’s historical fiction, Stella By Starlight, has a beautiful overall message over all. The story takes place in the mid 1900s in Bumblebee, North Carolina. Stella is African American girl. Being an African American girl and living during the 1900s is a tough time for her. The black people of Bumblebee are highly discriminated against and get very little money, public services, support and respect from white people. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) makes their way into town. The Ku Klux Klan is a group of extreme racists that commit hate crimes against African Americans. Stella, her family, and the black community need to stay strong and stick together in this time of hardship. One theme in this story suggests in times of hardship it is very important to have faith in the others around you. This theme is shown in many places around the book to when Stella was going to school and eating dinner with her family. A few main moments were this theme was shown was when the Spoon man comes, when the Spencer's house burns on fire, and when Mr. Spencer, Mr Hobart, and Stella's father go to register to vote.

Even though Stella by Starlight had a good theme this story will not go on my favorites list. I found the pace of the story very slow and I felt it dragged on through Stella's everyday life. The story also was an easier read for me which could also have caused me to not like it as much. I also did not like how everything in the story happened at the end. There was no dramatic buildup to anything that happened. Overall I gave Stella by Starlight two stars. I gave Stella by Starlight two stars because the story itself did not grab my attention but the story has a beautiful theme and the author does a very good job showing it in the story.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Joyce Yattoni.
298 reviews23 followers
October 26, 2016
I do enjoy listening to books and this book was no exception. Although Stella is only about the age of a middle schooler she is wise beyond her chronological age. Growing up in Bumblebee, NC in 1933, during segregation, Stella and her family are forced to endure the humilities of being a black person in the South. The KKK is alive and well. The hatred shown toward her family is heartbreaking. My favorite scene in the story is when Stella's father and two other black men go to register to vote so they can vote for FDR for President. The hoops they made these men jump through just to vote was ridiculous. Did you know you had to pay a fee and take a test in order to get your voter's registration card in NC at this time? Stella showed courage throughout the story when she first noticed the clan, again when she found a lost girl in the woods, saved her Momma from a snake bite, and stood up to racist bigots in town. Throughout all of this Stella begins to write about her experiences. I loved how the author showed her struggle with the writing process. If you enjoy learning about history and the racism and hatred that permeated society this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Angela Critics.
331 reviews7 followers
July 7, 2015
Absolutely beautiful work of historical fiction for middle grade readers about an amazingly strong young girl. This story is loosely based on the author's grandmother and is dedicated to her father. It speaks directly to the heart. There are so many layers to this book. Storytelling and singing and a real sense of community serve as a counter to the awful experiences of segregation and discrimination. So while the book doesn't shy away from the horrors of the Ku Klux Clan and other evils of race relations, it doesn't feel like a dark, depressing story. It's a story of human determination, mutual support and love, and the importance of family and friends.
Profile Image for Haley Duncan.
5 reviews2 followers
September 17, 2016
This book was sad, but inspiring. Stella's family is black and so are all their friends in Bumblebee, North Carolina. They live in a segregated town where the Ku Klux Klan is back and constantly threatening everyone. As Stella saves 4 peoples lives throughout the book, she realizes that anyone can be a hero and that being black doesn't make any difference.
Profile Image for Mary.
1,167 reviews38 followers
March 28, 2017
A fine historical fiction choice for upper elementary and middle school readers. Set during the Great Depression, we meet Stella, a young girl with a loving family living in Jim Crow south. The KKK becomes active putting Stella, her family, and community in danger. A story of perseverance, empathy, and strength.
Profile Image for La La.
1,014 reviews126 followers
February 17, 2019
I would give it six stars if I could.

I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages who loved the Little House series; especially White readers. It is a story I will re-read again and again. I cannot for the life of me figure out why it wasn't a Newbery winner.
Profile Image for Monique.
1,016 reviews60 followers
August 1, 2021
On to a new book as about 25% in I had to abandon a Kindle DC Library hold--sigh--I hate to do it but I don’t struggle through books LOL..My reading list, personal library and school libraries have too much for me to get through I give a book the same number of pages as my age and if I am not feeling it I just move on simple as that..Went to our school’s elibrary this time to an author that holds a rare distinction to me as it is from her book Out of My Mind that I shed my first tear while reading..I love to read and feel with the characters but can usually separate my emotions..that book got me and I am forever a fan of Sharon Draper..
This historical fiction fiction read was one I was intrigued by just because she wrote it so here we go with Stella and her little brother JoJo and the book starts with the two hiding from the Klu Klux Klan and their cross burning..As headstrong passionate kids after telling their parents they want action--

““What do you think the old folks are talking about?” “They’ve gotta be worried,” Stella said. “Real worried. But not one of them ever does anything!” She stomped her foot on the rough wooden step. “But, Stella, what can they do? They got no power. No money. Like my daddy says, it’s hard to live like there’s a boot on your back every second of your life.”(p. 17).

Stella learns the hard way about life through her school experiences and the segregation there as she gazes enviously at the white school she cannot attend; through the candy store where she never has money and watches the white kids spend freely and even in the adult talks where she learns that her father is not allowed to vote for the next president Roosevelt.

“It would to me,” her father replied stubbornly. “I live in this country and I ain’t no slave, and dagummit, I oughta be allowed to vote!” (p. 76).

As this is a middle grade novel there are the challenges of a young girl trying to learn to express herself through writing which was done really well in excerpts on her sneaking out and telling her thoughts and practicing in the quiet night..

“I come out here to practice, Mama. I’ve got stuff in my head, but I don’t know how to get it out. I try to write it down sometimes, but I’m not very good at it. It’s like my brains are dumplings in somebody else’s soup.”(p. 98).

As Stella is getting her words together and trying to write she is asked by her father to join him in registering to vote--a dangerous and noble practice for black men where they not only had to pay but pass a test on the constitution..all that then just to deal with the consequences of blacks trying to do and be more in the segregated and racist times of the 1930s..

“So, Papa, why are you going to register today? The pastor talked about being scared.
Aren’t you?” Her father looked up at the sky—clouds were rolling in from the west. “Of course I’m a little scared. But I’m doing this for my family, for you and your brother. I gotta show that I am somebody—no one else is gonna do that for me.”(p. 132).

Stella’s father was dope--he was just as strong and passionate about his rights as a man and a human as he was about being a father…reminds me of my Daddy :)

“I don’t want to just tell her about bravery—I want to show her what it looks like.” (p. 134).
Of course there were the known consequences which do come from the cowardly and foolish KKK who come through and burn the house of a fellow voting black man where his wife and thirteen children live..Horrible, but the way the community came together was inspiring and beautiful though how they could continue to live in fear like that I have to commend their bravery--

“Mama drummed her fingers on her knees. “But he never really gave any answers about what to do about the Klan.” “There are no answers,” Papa said. “You just gotta keep goin’ for your family, like the pastor told us. Sometimes bravery is just doin’ what you gotta do.”(pp. 201-202).

“Mama, what if . . . well . . . what if the Klan decides to burn down our house? Or . . . do something worse?” Stella asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
“I have no idea. It’s been spooky quiet since the Spencer fire.
No threats. No midnight riders.
It’s the silence that scares me.”(pp. 226-227).

As the town comes together to rebuild the life of the Spencer family there is also a writing competition from the local newspaper and realistically and sadly Stella’s writing doesn’t make it to the finals and while she is devastated she becomes even more determined to grasp this concept of writing down all her deep thoughts.

This was an enjoyable read--you really feel like a part of Stella’s town, her family and that you know about this hardworking humble and proud group of people wanting to make a difference, provide for their families and be treated as equal..There are sad parts but overall this is a novel of hope and perseverance with just enough lessons on writing and self-expression that is will or should appeal to kids and basically anyone..I am a fan of her middle grade YA books and this will definitely be a recommendation this upcoming school year!!!
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