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The Stars Beneath Our Feet

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A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity.

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world.

David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.

304 pages, Library Binding

First published September 19, 2017

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About the author

David Barclay Moore

6 books168 followers
Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Follow DAVID BARCLAY MOORE online at DavidBarclayMoore.com, on Twitter at @dbarclaymoore and on Instagram at dbarclaymoore.

David is a Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe Award-winning author whose novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet, is being made into a film by actor/director Michael B. Jordan.

Wanna know more?

Writer, filmmaker, photographer, super geek, cherry cobbler gobbler. Knows the Death Star plans backward and forward. Adores Mark Twain, Haruki Murakami and old Prince songs. Loves the ocean. Sincerely wants to fly. David is constantly trying to see the world differently.

He was born and raised in Missouri where he read too many novels and comic books as a child. After studying creative writing at Iowa State University, film at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and language studies at l’Université de Montpellier in France, David moved to New York City, where he has served as technical producer for Sony StudiOne, communications coordinator for Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone and communications manager for Quality Services for the Autism Community.

David has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Yaddo, and the Wellspring Foundation. He was also a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

He now lives, works and eats Twizzlers in Brooklyn.

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5 stars
1,774 (27%)
4 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,016 reviews
Profile Image for Nic Stone.
Author 38 books4,200 followers
April 4, 2017
A beautiful glimpse into the life of a grieving young boy on the cusp of a number of decisions that will determine the direction of his life, my favorite thing about this amazing book was the way it perfectly highlighted the contradictory nature of black-male adolescence: Lolly is very much a kid who dreams of greatness and loves creating things with Legos, but because of his circumstances, he's forced to think about very adult things.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,156 reviews1,463 followers
March 18, 2018
Really great, kinda wish I hadn't done the audiobook cause I know I missed some things. But holy crap a kid dealing with a lot of grown-up things. Also: really great to see representation of queer people of colour in a middle grade book (the main character's mom is a lesbian).
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,680 followers
March 25, 2018
Wonderful, heartfelt look at how a young boy in Harlem deals with grief and growing up. An interesting look at creativity and art as well, and perfect for those who aren't quite ready for The Hate U Give, as this is solidly middle grade.
Profile Image for Andrew.
97 reviews8 followers
August 28, 2019
The book The Stars Beneath Our Feet is an exceptional book talking about a boy's life after the death of his older brother. This book is really heartfelt and emotional. Wallace Richpaul (nicknamed Lolly,) is a 12-year-old boy who has a mom who divorced and married another woman. Lolly is very young when his brother named Jermaine gets shot by a rival gang member. Where Lolly lives, everyone has a gang and a territory except for the young kids. Jermaine was part of a gang. Lolly has to cope with the tragic death of his brother. He decides to let his sadness out by building a massive Lego city in the storage room in his school. He got the Lego's from his 2nd mom, Yvonne. He comes to his after school activity each day and his teacher let him build nonstop. He builds a magnificent Lego world so he can focus on anything but the death of his brother. Then, one day, a girl named Rose barges in and starts building her own city. After a few days of silent building, they start to warm up to each other. They start connecting their buildings and they create an even more magnificent Lego world. Then everything seems to spiral out of control when their teacher says that they have to tear the world down. Both Rose and Lolly are devastated. Bad things don't stop there though, a pair of kids beat up Lolly and take his phone away when he walks home. He doesn't want to tell anyone what happened because he is afraid the bullies will think he can't man up for himself. After a lot of problems and hardships later, he finally finds a way to deal with the bullies and creates a friendship with Rose. Everything is going well until he founds out that Yvonne actually stole the Lego's from her work. Yvonne gets arrested and Rose is tested that she has autism. Lolly's life once again spirals out of control but in the end, he finds a way to make everything right and he lives his life, not that depressed about his brother's death. He grows up to be a Lego artist with Rose. This book is really heartwarming and a tiny bit sad. David Barclay Moore, who is the author, also wrote Hello, Universe, another great book. He is a talented author and I recommend this amazing book to you

Profile Image for Autumn.
997 reviews28 followers
July 17, 2017
So on point with the dialogue and perspectives of tweens growing up in urban America -- still kids, like any twelve or thirteen year old, but sometimes dealing with some very grown-up stuff as best they can.

Super smart about the extra pressures placed on young men and women of color to grow up fast.

I love this book for taking place in an afterschool program, for honoring play and creativity, and for the hilarious sweetness of the characters' perspectives.

Oh, and did I mention it's LGBTQIA friendly in the chillest of ways?

EDIT: OK, after reading a few reviews, I see that some folks are concerned with the way Lolly and his friends talk to and about one another. To me, that honesty is a strength of the book. Kids his age would crack on Butteray and Rose (at least initially) b/c of their own insecurities and need to fit in. Depicting the behavior is not the same as condoning, and it makes Lolly much more realistic to me.
Profile Image for Nat.
261 reviews
October 20, 2017
I feel like it takes a lot to be surprised by a realistic fiction novel anymore... and The Stars Beneath Our Feet definitely did (surprise me, that is), but slowly; as slowly and methodically as a twelve-year-old constructing a city out of Legos. I finished it yesterday and needed to think before reviewing about what was most valuable to me about it. Here's what I've settled on: the plot was both creative and believable, the main character was a twelve year old I could both root for and recognize, the messages were both important and without preachiness, and the relationships in the story felt both intentional and pure. This is a balanced novel, y'all. Recommend to all of my Goodreads friends, bookstagram friends, friend-friends, and collectors of good stories.
Profile Image for Wesaun.
33 reviews
July 9, 2017
Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of changes that have occurred in the final version.

I am not a well-read reader when it comes to middle grade novels and so this book did not suit me so well due to the level at which it was at. But this was a book that I wish had been put in my hands when I was in that middle-grade books stage, just to see black kids not for any other reason. This book and its characters came alive with its cast of marginalized characters. I loved reading a book with children that were so...real and delightful. I loved the descriptions of Lolly's world and the adventures that he went on. I loved seeing his evolution throughout the story and seeing him grapple with the darkness within himself. That was something that I want to spend time thinking about and that I personally haven't really seen in the books that I have read. I have seen characters deal with dark circumstances and insecurities, like anyone else. But dealing with the darkness coming from within that sprouted from those circumstances, I don't know if what I am saying will make any sense or sound any different but it was different. Moore made it so...fresh even when parts could come off as trite. I loved how for most of the novel though some parts were shorter than others, most of it wasn't filler. The varied vernacular was...stimulating from time to time. I loved Rosamund, especially. She was beautiful and complex, though I am unsure of the accurate representation of autism, sometimes it made me uneasy, and am not sure how correctly it was done. Someone else would have to weigh in that was actually autistic.

Now for the things I didn't love. Some circumstances in the last few chapters seemed unnecessary and gave off an annoying, filler vibe.  There was a cast of queer characters within this novel. If I'm giving Moore the benefit of the doubt, I would say it was to normalize or to include a realistic variety of characters considering the setting is where one might expect a variety of people. However, the way these characters are portrayed is unsettling. Moore chose to include caricatures. I wish I knew why. These characters were not respected or treated with decency in this novel. They were constantly picked at, poked, and degraded. I'm not saying that that isn't real life. I'm just saying the way that was portrayed made me uneasy. He (referring to Moore) seemed to be trying to regard these characters with respect but failed miserably.

Jonathan got constantly mentioned but almost no development or anything really attached to him besides being called "limp wrist" on repeated occasions. The reader will never learn much of who he really is, just see other characters make fun of him in what maybe is supposed to be affectionate but really just comes off as the characters being disgusted with him for nothing besides his identity. There was no breakdown of discrimination in this novel, at least when it came to Jonathan. There was no setup of characters saying these things and then someone speaking out against it. It just was  silently carried along and that validated it in a way that could be considered hurtful but maybe some would just shrug at. I don't really think it is a healthy thing for kids to be exposed to and could just perpetuate the cruelty of making fun of boys that come off in a way that is different than the others which always leads to bigger problems as we should all be well aware of by now.

Aston Stewart was all right, in that the character seemed confident, but he was wronged in this novel every step of the way, by the other adults he interacted in this novel and subconsciously by Lolly? I found it very confusing especially considering Lolly's mother, which you will find out in the first pages of the novel, should technically be more accepting of Aston. I found the reactions when Aston was introduced appalling.

Butteray Jones was made fun of which made me uneasy for kids like him reading this novel. I feel like any attempt to try to support him afterwards in this novel was half-baked and not well done in a way that would combat the already negative message and its impact. I don't think any of the malice in this book was intended,because no one could be this bad, but it is there and I found it nauseating and it was perplexing. I felt like there was some back and forth underlying message that ended up being unclear static. It didn't fit to me since the book was going so well to stop every once in a while to include characters and basically knock them down.

This book will end up, unfortunately, sending a message to children that are like the characters that were made fun of that there is something wrong with them. That they might be sort of accepted but remind them that who they are could never be, at least not completely and might encourage other children to make fun of them which, as I said before, always leads to more problems that keep on the hateful society that we are burning in now.

And since the book is so lovely in other aspects, I found it a combination of deeply disparaging and confusing. If queer characters are just going to be made fun of, why even include them? It just clouds the positive message that you were trying to send with fat raindrops of negativity that might be found imperceptible to some but what about those who pick up on that message? What then for them? I hope that Moore improves his handling of characters not like himself (if that happens to be so and if not then I apologise for my assumptions that are based off of the book). No one can be perfect, of course, but this book would have been way better with a little help from sensitivity readers who would have caught these details. This book was, in the end, bittersweet. It was full of the potential to be beautiful and to bloom and bloom it started, and then suddenly stopped midway and wilted. I will recommend it but only for those who wouldn't be triggered or as deeply disappointed by this sort of message being put out during this time or those that do not notice or are not good at paying attention to details and reoccurring underlying messages.

Profile Image for fer.
508 reviews89 followers
November 16, 2020
Minha mãe me deu de presente. Li com muito carinho <3

A leitura fluiu bem rápido pra mim. Eu enrolei um pouco no inicio mas quando comecei a entender a história e os personagens fluiu muito bem.

A uns meses atras li um livro chamado Pride (uma releitura de Orgulho e preconceito) e esse livro falava muito dessa cultura de bairros e bairros tipicamente negros dos EUA, especificamente de ny. Porem em Pride achei esse tema meio cansativo e repetitivo. Não senti isso com As estrelas sob nossos pés. Aqui as vivencias de pessoas que moram nesses bairros, a cultura que é mantida ali, foi muito bem ambientada no livro sem ficar uma coisa cansativa.

Uma coisa que me incomodou durante o livro foi como a personagem Rose foi retratada. De inicio não tinha percebido, mas com o passar dos capítulos você percebe que ela muito provavelmente é uma personagem que esta dentro do espectro autista. Não entendi porque não falaram disso diretamente durante o livro. No final tem um capitulo breve endereçando isso de forma mais direta, então fiquei OK, nao vou reclamar tanto kkkkkkkk mas foi uma coisa que me incomodou um pouco no decorrer da leitura. (MAS ENFIM NÉ, quem sou eu, os personagens desse livro tem vivencias totalmente diferentes das minhas e crianças no espectro autista são tratadas de diferentes formas em decorrência das suas origens, vivencias, ambiente e etcs)

Fora esse pequeno incomodo foi uma leitura fluida, um livro com uma lição bonita e fácil de ler.
Profile Image for Mid-Continent Public Library.
591 reviews195 followers
August 5, 2022
This story really grew on me. It was believable and we watched Lolly growing and changing in a realistic way in relation to his environment and experiences. Loved the way the book on architecture and the Legos transformed the lives of him and his friends. A great read for middle grade boys, especially those who love to build with Legos. *Review by Darla from Red Bridge*
Profile Image for MaryBeth's Bookshelf.
391 reviews91 followers
October 30, 2018
The Stars Beneath Our Feet is a middle grade story about death, gang violence, family, and learning who you are. I enjoyed reading this with my student. It was the perfect book to help a young, reluctant reader connect with.
Profile Image for Almira.
581 reviews2 followers
August 29, 2019
There are so many thoughts swirling around in my "little" brain about this book, I don't know where to begin my review.
Here goes...……..

First, I picked this book up because of the Legos on the cover - I offer Lego programs at my library several times a year, so anything Lego catches my eye.

Second, I just want to thank David for opening my eyes to a totally different world from which I live. At the end of the story, David discusses the use of African American Vernacular or Black English - I found it very easy to pick up on the differences of language used to tell the story.
There are "so many" different issues addressed in Lolly's story, yet each done with grace and understanding - not overly discussed, just enough on the surface. I have a vague knowledge of Harlem, but not enough to really know what it must be like to live there.

Lolly (Wallace) Rachpaul is still greatly suffering over the loss of his older brother Jermaine (victim of murder still unsolved), he finds the greatest release by building with Legos. His mother's girl friend brings home large black plastic garbage bags filled with Legos, on a daily basis - she tells Lolly that they are discards from the store where she works - to the point that his creation is taking over their apartment.
Lolly has been "receiving" counseling from Mr. Ali, at the neighborhood after school project, at some point Lolly will finally open up about his feelings, but not just yet. Mr. Ali provides a supply room (sounds more like the size of a school gym) for Lolly to build his creation.
Along comes "Big Rose" -aka Rosamund Major - she really is bigger than all the other kids in the program, she also has anger management issues (actually she has a form of autism), and is made fun of by the others - Lolly and Rose have a competition to see which one of them can build the tallest tower. Eventually Lolly and Rose form a unique friendship.

Outside influences of the street "crews" are still a daily threat to boys over the age of 13, so Lolly and his friend Vega have to tread lightly whenever they go out - especially if they travel to different areas of Harlem.

The opening poem is especially poignant to the story and I quote
"We have not met on earth again.
And scarcely shall; There doth remain
A time, A place where we shall meet,
And have the Stars Beneath Our Feet"
Richard Chenevix Trench, "The Story of Justin Martyr"

And so, I really enjoyed this story, I fell in love with Lolly along the way. I hope that David will write another book with Lolly.

Profile Image for Alicia Farmer.
621 reviews
July 10, 2018
Books like this make me wish I taught middle school English. In addition to the poor, white boys of the American Heartland in "The Outsiders," or the island-bound white schoolboys in the "Lord of the Flies", I'd have my students read about poor dark-skinned boys on Manhattan Island that populate this book. And not just boys. Girls, too. And adults. And people who are gay, who are on the autism spectrum, who have disabilities. It's an inclusive story where everyone is doing their best to survive. I hate that cliche (which I'd have my class discuss), but it seems apt here.

Tween-aged kids are flirting with adulthood in Harlem. In the projects. Do they join the gang whose members keep threatening and harassing them? Do they find false security behind owning a gun? Do they follow their creative impulses or turn hard and abandon them?

There's a lot going on in this story, not least the recent death by shooting of the brother of the main character, Lolly. Lolly has the constant reminder of his brother's empty bed to remind him of his loss. He also has a largely absent father, whose abandonment he feels keenly. Lolly's mother and her girlfriend are loving and active in his life, but they're trying to earn a living in a world that doesn't welcome people of their race, gender and sexual orientation.

Lolly's solace is Legos. He escapes to imaginary kingdoms that he builds. His passion leads him on an adventure in which he makes new friends, gains acclaim, makes NYC his own, and discovers the content of his character. Along the way we readers meet the "people in his neighborhood," from drug dealers to street vendors, store proprietors to grandmothers. We even glimpse another wily but vulnerable being: a coyote in St. Nicholas park.

I loved this story's loving core and gentleness with its characters (even though police violence and gun death make their appearances). The author's afterward endeared David Barclay Moore to me. He wrote this for kids like Lolly, so they can see themselves in books, too, not just the Pony Boys and Piggys school gives us.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,070 reviews34 followers
January 24, 2018
So, I feel like this will be an unpopular opinion, but I just was not that impressed with this book. What I hoped was going to be a clear Middle Grade alternative to the other rock star texts Dear Martin and The Hate U Give , but it was nowhere near those books, IMO. While the subject matter was similar (a young black boy in Harlem is dealing with the death of his older brother and trying to figure out what to do with his life-art vs gangs), the writing and character development was lacking. The story was choppy. The character was unlikable at times, and not in a way that made you hope for his growth or change, but just in a way that made you annoyed with him. His friends were shallow character sketches that never felt fleshed out. The side stories did not develop enough to feel relevant or important.

In the end, not for me. Right now I have it on order for my library, but am not sure if I will keep it or not since I wasn't that impressed.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,519 reviews619 followers
February 9, 2018
This story really grew on me. It was believable and we watched Lolly growing and changing in a realistic way in relation to his environment and experiences. Loved the way the book on architecture and the Legos transformed the lives of him and his friends. A great read for middle grade boys, especially those who love to build with Legos.
Profile Image for Jaeden Goh.
2 reviews
September 26, 2018
When I started reading this book I just thought that even though this boy Lolly is living in a harsh environment of losing the brother and having his parents get divorced. Still having a creative and positive mindset. I thought that he use lego to maintain his sanity.
Profile Image for Amy.
209 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2019
3.75 stars

Read for 2019 Washington Post KidsPost Book Club

To be honest, I probably wouldn't have read this book if it hadn't been on the book club list, but I'm glad I did.

Here's the last paragraph: "Since then I had learned the most important thing: the decisions you make can become your life. Your choices are you."

Characters are diverse in terms of race, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation. One character has autism. Additionally, one character has Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder that prevents the skull from growing normally, affecting the shape of the face and head; it also results in webbed fingers and toes. I know a little about this condition because one of my nieces has it, but until now I had never come across a work of fiction that includes a character with this exact issue.

Kids who love Legos, kids who have family struggles, and kids who are faced with tough choices (read: all kids) will be able to see themselves in this book. I think reluctant readers also might be drawn to the plot.

Profile Image for Cassie Thomas.
466 reviews17 followers
February 13, 2018
It amazes me how books have a way of finding their way to you. I started reading this after my dad passed a couple of weeks ago having no idea what the story was in its entirety. Lolly is finding himself while being consumed in his grief of his brothers death. It’s a story to help kids see the big picture, to see there is life after death and you can choose to live or slowly die yourself. It’s powerful.
Profile Image for Mary Thomas.
377 reviews13 followers
March 20, 2019
Update: after re-reading I think this book claims a spot in my top 5 middle grade books of all time. I LOVE this story ❤️

5 Stars for this amazing audiobook! I loved the characters so, so much. This will appeal to fans of Ghost and is a book I can picture students REALLY enjoying. I love the journey that Lolly takes to grieve his brother and the overarching themes of discovery, revenge, friendship, and how we heal.
Profile Image for Christopher Hicks.
321 reviews4 followers
September 12, 2018
It was an ok story. It was predictable and dragged in places. A few storylines felt unresolved but it had a positive ending.
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews109 followers
November 20, 2017
It’s Christmas Eve, and Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul,12, is walking along 125th Street in Harlem, trying to get home as quickly as he can. Lolly has a new pair of sneakers from his mostly absent dad and he’s not about to let the two older boys following him snatch them off his feet. But when Lolly quickly turns the corner of 125th Street and 8th Avenue, the two boys abruptly stop, because Lolly lives in a world of imaginary protected borders, each border guarded by its own crew, and crews know better than to cross those lines.

Lolly, who is West Indian, lives in the St. Nicholas House, a public housing project on West 127th Street, with his mom and his mom’s girlfriend Yvonne, a security guard in a large toy store. His older brother, Jermaine had gotten involved with a drug dealing crew and was shot and killed outside a Bronx nightclub just a few months back and, while Lolly is still trying to come to terms with his loss, he is also trying to resist the pressure to join a crew.

One thing that Lolly does like is Legos, and he has painstaking put together all kinds of kits, following the instructions to the letter. But late Christmas Eve, he takes them all apart, suddenly wanting to built something else, something of his own. Later, when Yvonne comes home on Christmas morning, she has two garbage bags full of Legos for Lolly, and just in time. Pretty soon, Lolly has built a castle so big his mom is complaining about how much space it is taking up, so he is allowed to build in an empty storeroom in the after school program he goes to, run by Mr. Ali, an understanding, but underfunded social worker.

Soon, Lolly is joined by Big Alice, a special needs student suffering her own family loss, and who never speaks to anyone, but stays by herself reading. In the Lego room, she helps herself to Lolly’s Legos (Yvonne brings him more and more bags full) and begins building her own buildings, which resemble their neighborhood perfectly. At first, Lolly resents Big Alice, but soon the two are taking trips into midtown Manhattan, exploring the different buildings found in a architecture book Lolly was given for Christmas. Eventually, the two begin to build Harmonee, an enormous alien world, together.

All the while, Lolly, and his Dominican best friend, Vega are being harassed by the same two boys who followed Lolly on Christmas Eve. Part of a crew that wants Lolly and Vega to join them, they soon resort to violence as a means of persuasion. And it almost works…but then things in Lolly’s life take another totally unexpected turn.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet is a debut novel for David Barclay Moore. It is an all-to-realistic coming of age contemporary novel, and Lolly is a wonderfully flawed character full of contradictions (like choosing Legos over video games). As Lolly tries to reassemble his life through the metaphor of Lego building blocks, life on the city streets is also becoming more and more complicated. Luckily, Moore has surrounded him with people who are caring and supportive - his gay mom, Yvonne, who is trying to help him through the grieving process by giving him Legos, the only thing she can do, Mr. Ali, who has recognized that Lolly needs to work through the trauma of losing his brother so violently, even his dad comes through, though not as much as Lolly would like. And their story threads together with those of Lolly, Big Alice, and Vega make this such a full-bodied novel.

Harlem is also as much a character in this novel as anyone, providing a living backdrop for Lolly’s important slice-of-life story. But, the danger those street hold for young men of color like Lolly isn’t something most people know or even think about and Moore has captured it with brutal honesty, compassion, and even humor.

From the moment I started reading The Stars Beneath Our Feet, I could’t put it down. It may not be a book for everyone, but it is certainly a worthwhile read and, I think, a real eye-opener for many. Moore’s final message in this novel - it is not just family, but also community that can help change things for kids.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an ARC received from the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf
Profile Image for Noah Carpenter.
47 reviews4 followers
September 23, 2019
A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother's death. This book shows a lot to me as a reader. I felt like i was in his shoes through the book. I recommend you to read it.
Profile Image for mytaakeonit.
218 reviews39 followers
February 15, 2019
I liked the idea behind this story a lot, but it was a little choppy. I think it was supposed to feel a little disjointed, because that's how the character was feeling...however, it made it a little hard to follow in my opinion.
Profile Image for Rachel J.
22 reviews
October 20, 2022
I came across The Stars Beneath our Feet while looking at John Steptoe award winners. The book was published in 2018. I read a paperback version of the novel.
This book is about a boy named Lolly who has recently lost his brother, Jermaine, to gang violence. As a result of this loss, Lolly feels a heavy rock inside of himself. He worries about his safety and wonders if he should join a gang to gain some kind of protection. Jermaine’s friend, Steve, encourages Lolly to stay away from gangs and be creative instead. Thanks to this advice, Lolly begins building Lego cities at his after school club. This seems to bring him some peace. The novel is brought to a critical point when a pair of gang bangers jump Lolly; he feels like he must finally decide whether or not to join a gang.
I believe this book is a good example of diverse literature because it is culturally specific. In his novel, David Barclay Moore used language that he overheard from teens in his Harlem neighborhood. The dialogue sounds natural to me, although I am not a cultural insider in a black family living in Harlem. Moore also shows the concerns of teens in an urban environment with his references to friendship, after school clubs, violence, and even cellphones.
I think this would be a great book to use in a junior high or highschool setting. It would be a good mirror for students living in an urban environment and a good window for students who are not African American.
Finally, I really enjoyed Moore’s use of symbolism in this book. The symbol of a rock in Lolly’s chest showed how his anger abated at times and then would return. I also liked the symbol of the coyotes as a creature that Lolly could relate to. They were survivors even though they were not always wanted in the city.
Profile Image for The Reading Countess.
1,759 reviews59 followers
June 13, 2018
With writing that is as much raw as it is honest, Moore draws the reader into a Harlem family rampant with issues. Divorce, gang activity, loss of a child, autism, and poverty thread throughout the book, but this is not a bleak read. No, it encourages the reader to do what is right even if it is hard. It reminds the reader that though it may feel as if you are alone, we really are all connected. And The Stars Beneath Our Feet is a nod to creativity, to uniqueness, to being open to all types of people, as well as a love song to poetry and the strength of the teacher-student bond. I loved the narration-Lolly is a remarkable young man. My one complaint, if it is one, is the final sentence in the book. It reminded me of how I teach my kids to write their personal narratives-to end strongly with what Nancie Atwell calls a "so-what." In my humble opinion, Moore is capable of more than a ten year old's 1-2 punch.

"...when you die, they bury you, but your soul flies to the stars. Your mama, your daddy-they were buried under the ground, but they're stars now, girl, stars beneath our feet."
"I had learned it was better to share your stuff. You get back more than you think you would."
"Sometimes, Wallace...you just do what you know is right, even if it seems dumb at the time."
"...I had learned the most important thing: the decisions you make can become your life. Your choices are you."
Profile Image for Estee.
475 reviews
May 18, 2018
This is a modern day bildungsroman (a coming-of-age novel) featuring a 12 year old boy growing up in Harlem and dealing with the loss of his brother.

I liked the writing style. It was easy to read and very descriptive. Here is one of the sentences that I highlighted because I liked the feel of it.

"I hung the hood of my blue parka over my head and let the rest of my coat float behind me. It was cold today, but I was feeling hot inside."

ooh the imagery. I can totally see it! I love that!

This book was a little slow for me at times. And I had to constantly keep reminding myself that Lolly was a 12 year old boy. He seems so much older. While I was reading, I kept comparing it to The Hate U Give, because it had a similar feel to it. But I liked THUG a lot more. Overall it was a good book with some really important messaging for young adults.

"Since then I had learned the most important thing: the decisions you make can become your life. Your choices are you."

Yes. Thank you.

I will leave you with a little bit from the authors note:

"Listening, I think, is the best way to learn about those who differ from you. Reading is a form of listening."

Thank you David Barclay Moore!
109 reviews
February 23, 2021
Our local librarian recommended this book because my kids like Lego. She recommended I read it before my kids. It's a middle grade reader, but I think too heavy for my 12 year old (although we're all pretty sheltered). Main character is 12 year old in Harlem, NY. His brother was recently shot and killed. There is implicit or explicit talk of selling drugs, suicide, gang violence, gay parents. I like the focus that creating can be an important outlet and way for us to direct and manage our emotions. I like that building/creating is something that connected the protagonist with other characters. I just feel sad that there are many kids and families that are dealing with these hard issues and such a young age! Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds both had positive things on the back cover of the book.
Profile Image for Amy.
262 reviews2 followers
February 6, 2018
12 year old Wallace (Lolly) is grieving the death of his brother while trying to navigate life in St. Nick, the low-income housing development in Harlem where he lives with his mother. As Lolly pursues an interest in architecture expressed through legos and photographs, he and his best friend are being recruited by one gang and routinely followed and attacked by another. Lolly wants to avoid gang life, but it is hard to see another path. Lolly finds support at a community center and from neighborhood mentors. The setting is vividly described and glimpses of a wide variety of cultural backgrounds (Dominican & Trinidadian to name a few) bring depth to family traditions shared with the readers. Lolly is at a turning point in his life and Barclay deftly navigates the readers through his confusion, grief and complicated decision making process. This is an excellent choice for grade 5 and up.
Profile Image for Duds Saldanha.
88 reviews88 followers
November 25, 2018
"Crianças como nós - eu, Vega e Rose - estavam nas próprias ilhas, vivendo em um rio feroz. Nós tínhamos que nos cuidar."

Estamos muito acostumados a ler histórias de perspectivas negras contadas por adultos ou adolescentes quase coming of age, e elas são sempre poderosas. Mas e quando se é uma criança negra?

O mundo de Lolly é confuso e aos pedaços - não só pelas suas perdas mas porque eles está sempre tendo pedaços de coisas: pedaços de paz, pedaços de raiva, pedaços de tempo, pedaços de violência -, e é uma delícia e ao mesmo tempo dilacerante aprender com ele. Como é crescer negro, no Harlem, e precisar fazer escolhas ainda muito cedo que podem moldar sua vida? E quando a vida te força a fazer essas escolhas?

Esse livro é muito poderoso, e eu agradeço mais uma vez à Plataforma 21 e ao Bruno por terem me presenteado com essa história incrível.

Façam boas escolhas.
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