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The Magic in Changing Your Stars

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Can you change your fate—and the fate of those you love—if you return to the past? Journey to 1939 Harlem in this time-travel adventure with an inspiring message about believing in yourself.
 
Eleven-year-old Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance—so he’s certain that he'll land the role of the Scarecrow in his school’s production of The Wiz. Unfortunately, a talented classmate and a serious attack of nerves derail his audition: he just stands there, frozen. Deflated and defeated, Ailey confides in his Grampa that he’s ready to quit. But Grampa believes in Ailey, and, to encourage him, shares a childhood story. As a boy, Grampa dreamed of becoming a tap dancer; he was so good that the Hollywood star and unofficial Mayor of Harlem, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, even gave him a special pair of tap shoes. Curious, Ailey tries on the shoes  . . . and instantly finds himself transported to 1930s Harlem. There he meets a young street tapper and realizes that it’s his own grandfather! Can Ailey help the 12-year-old version of Grampa face his fears? And, if Ailey changes the past, will he still be able to get home again? Featuring an all-African-American cast of characters, and infused with references to black culture and history, this work of magical realism is sure to captivate and inspire readers.  
 

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2020

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About the author

Leah Henderson

6 books74 followers
Leah has always loved getting lost in stories. When she is not scribbling down her characters’ adventures, she is off on her own, exploring new spaces and places around the world.

Leah received her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University and currently calls Washington D.C. home.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for Olivia West.
9 reviews
January 26, 2022
It was really good! It started off really slow in the beginning but it reved up as it went on. It is a good book about a kid named Ailey, he wants to play a scarecrow for a school play called "The Wiz". Along the way he faces some challenges, and ends up traveling back in time.
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books228 followers
January 22, 2021
"It's an awful feeling to know you didn't give the things you love a true try." p.59
Profile Image for Sharon.
Author 38 books376 followers
October 3, 2020
Ailey Lane is excited to audition for his school's production of "The Wiz." He wants to play the Scarecrow. However, when he gets on-stage for his try-out, he freezes. Not one step or song lyric remains in his head. So, he goes home in humiliation.

That's when his grandfather tells him a story about how he, too, had frozen when he had a chance to audition. He was given a pair of tap shoes by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and told to come with them at a certain time -- and he chickened out. Benjamin tells Ailey where the shoes are hidden, and explains his shame.

Well, Ailey goes and puts on the shoes -- and winds up back in 1930s Harlem, where he meets his grandfather as a young boy. This is where the history comes in, as we get a look at life for African Americans during the time period.

Almost all of the characters are either named after or actually are important Black figures from the arts and sciences (there is a listing at the back of the book). We get to see them as young people, for the most part, and read about their struggles, challenges, and triumphs through Ailey's eyes.

Of course, one of Ailey's greatest concerns is getting home -- so we also see what he goes through as a kid out of place and time.

Time-slip historical fiction is, I think, a great way to help modern people relate to history. It puts contemporary concerns and mores in conflict with those of the past, and shows how we've grown and changed. This book adds the importance of confidence and kindness to the lessons.

Highly recommended for the 12 and up set.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
268 reviews
December 15, 2020
a nice retelling of "Back to the Future" from a different perspective. I began to wonder about the names being used when Mahalia Jackson was the protagonist's classmate who could really sing. This was purely intentional which made the book more meaningful.
Profile Image for Maggie Vallette.
139 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2021
Really sweet book that ties in the the NEA read across America middle grade book. Ailey is set on being the scarecrow in the school production of the musical ‘The Wiz.’ His nerves get the best of him and his audition didn’t go as planned. But when he finds out that his Grandpa has regrets about his tap dancing days Ailey finds himself magically transported to Harlem where he runs into his grandpa ‘Taps.’ Can Ailey help his grandpa overcome his fears and ‘change his stars.’ Can Ailey overcome his fears and ‘change his own stars?’ A great sweet magical realistic story for grades 4 and up
Profile Image for Ann T.
544 reviews22 followers
July 30, 2022
Magic and time travel with family at the center of it all. I loved how the author put historical figures in her writing but in all sorts of different characters. This book can inspire young readers to have confidence and give it their all.
Profile Image for Kimberley.
63 reviews
March 7, 2021
Back to the Future meets The Wiz!!! If you haven't seen The Wiz, stop reading my reviews!!!!! Joking, but seriously stop.
41 reviews
September 8, 2020
Ailey really likes to tap dance, and he is really good, too! He tries out to be The Scarecrow in his school play, but he freezes, forgets his lines, forgets the dance, and one of his (kinda mean) classmates wins the part. But one day, his Grandpa gets injured when he gets dizzy and falls. He tells Ailey that up on a shelf there lies a box of regrets, and tells Ailey to look there. Ailey goes and looks there, to find a pair of tap dancing shoes. He puts them on. They are way too big. He just taps around for a bit, when he suddenly finds himself back when his grandpa was his age. He tries to get his Grandpa onstage so that he doesn't stop tap dancing. In the end, he succeeds and his Grandpa gets to tap dance with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson himself! And both Ailey and his grandpa learn that believing in yourself is important.

I think you will like this book if you like fiction with a touch of nonfiction (some of the characters are based on or named after real people) and a tiny little pinch of sci-fi (traveling back in time). I would say the age range for this book is 9 or 10+ because of some scary parts.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maeve.
2,066 reviews19 followers
September 22, 2020
Ailey is excited when he learns his school will be putting on a production of The Wiz. He wants to be the Scarecrow, but he freezes at the auditions. But something even worse happens, his grandfather becomes seriously ill. While confiding in him about his auditions, Ailey's grandfather shares a story about his biggest regret: not taking the chance to perform in front of Mr. Bojangles Robinson. This leads Ailey on a time-traveling adventure to change his grandfather's stars.

It was very cool to read a story inspired by so much Black excellence (the author includes a list of the real people and places that were mentioned in the story)...but the writing style made it hard for me to stay engaged. It was a struggle to finish.
Profile Image for J.L. Slipak.
Author 13 books28 followers
December 31, 2020
Can you change your fate—and the fate of those you love—if you return to the past? Journey to 1939 Harlem in this time-travel adventure with an inspiring message about believing in yourself.

Eleven-year-old Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance—so he’s certain that he’ll land the role of the Scarecrow in his school’s production of The Wiz. Unfortunately, a talented classmate and a serious attack of nerves derail his audition: he just stands there, frozen. Deflated and defeated, Ailey confides in his Grampa that he’s ready to quit. But Grampa believes in Ailey, and, to encourage him, shares a childhood story. As a boy, Grampa dreamed of becoming a tap dancer; he was so good that the Hollywood star and unofficial Mayor of Harlem, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, even gave him a special pair of tap shoes. Curious, Ailey tries on the shoes . . . and instantly finds himself transported to 1930s Harlem. There he meets a young street tapper and realizes that it’s his own grandfather! Can Ailey help the 12-year-old version of Grampa face his fears? And, if Ailey changes the past, will he still be able to get home again? Featuring an all-African-American cast of characters, and infused with references to black culture and history, this work of magical realism is sure to captivate and inspire readers.

Out April 2020

304 Pages

MY THOUGHTS:

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

The 1930s were not a great time for African Americans. Because of the Great Depression, jobs were scarce for whites and almost impossible to find for African Americans. The south was worse. Most African American dancers, honed their craft on the streets, dancing for change to survive. The biggest form of dance was eccentric tap which was athletic and accompanied by contortion and rubber leg movements or other movements like high kicking. A lot of the dance involved elements of comedy too.

Its origins in the USA were through the fusion of many ethnic styles that included Scottish, Irish, English, and African tribal dances. Cutting contests were common in the Five Points District in New York City. Henry Lane and Master Juba’s challenge is one of the very known firsts. As more and more mastery of techniques occurred, tap became more recognized and seen in the primary showcase of the time–minstrel shows (1850 to 1870).

From that time on, more styles entered the mix, including: buck tapping, soft-shoe and buck and wing dancing. The tap as we know today didn’t come into play until the 1920s. This is when pennies, screws and taps were screwed onto the toe and heels of shoes to make better sounds. Harland Dixon and Jimmy Doyle were well-known for the buck and wing style of dancing during this time. Many other emerging dancers influenced music and dance over the next several decades.

I loved how most of the characters were named after a famous and influential dancer of the 1930s and the use of time travel to educate readers about them. The further use of accurate historical facts throughout, built the story’s creditability and added to my liking of the author’s ingenuity and creativity. Very effective and affective. Put that together with a fantastic writing style and pleasant author’s voice… I was greatly entertained. I can see this book in school libraries as an educational tool.
534 reviews2 followers
December 23, 2022
The Magic in Changing your stats by Leah Henderson

Read Glossary first!
List of people of Black Excellence. Knowing who the characters in the book are based off of makes it more meaningful.

Each chapter has a title linked to Wizard of Oz

Ailey’s raps read like poetry throughout the story.

Ailey wants to be the scarecrow in the school play. Unfortunately the day of his audition he chokes. He forgets his lines. When he gets home his grandfather tells him that he also missed a chance as a young boy. He tells Ailey that Bojangles gave him some tap shoes and invited him on stage when he was little in the streets of Harlem. Unfortunately he never made it there because he was too unsure of himself. He does not want Ailey to have the same experience. He tells Ailey about his special tap shoes in his closet.

When grandpa gets sent to the hospital Ailey goes to the closet and puts the special tap shoes on. After making a wish that his grandfather would be better to shoes transport him back in time to when his grandfather was a young man and meets Bojangles.

Ailey sleeps over Tap’s house. When he falls asleep really wants to look in the velvet bag to see the shoes and Sammy catches him. Uncle Sammy thinks he’s stealing and kicks him out of the house. After a night on the street someone cuts off Ailey’s shoes from his feet. The next day he asks Tap’s for another chance to explain. He tells the truth about Aida’s star and his grandpa and traveling back in time. Taps believes him.

Ailey brings Tap’s to Bojangles. Taps freezes on stage. Franny, King and see are there. Ailey and Franny help Taps find confidence. Ailey’s rap about regrets inspires Taps. He taps his heart out and it results in him having a totally different life experience. He travels the world and becomes a famous dancer. His hardware store changes to a dance studio.

Ailey wakes up at home right before JoJo’s birthday. He and Granpa share a knowing look and conversation.

Ailey had helped Grampa change his stars.

Grampa helps Ailey change his stats when he gets a second audition for the Scarecrow.

With the help of friends, wishes, stars, determination, courage and family (and a little magic) you can change your stars.

Recommended: grades 3+ (read aloud)
Topics: confidence, stage fright, time travel, family, tap dancing, black culture 1930’s, people of black excellence
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,510 reviews94 followers
March 21, 2022
Ailey thinks he's all that with his raps and moves, and he should totally be the Scarecrow in the school's production of The Wiz, but he blows the audition by completely freezing up. Gramps relates a secret to Ailey afterward. He also blew a big opportunity once, a chance to be a tap dancing star. And he has a pair of tap shoes given him by a famous Black tap star to prove it. When Gramps ends up in the hospital, he asks Ailey to find the shoes and promise to take care of them. Ailey puts the shoes on and finds himself transported back in time to 1939 Harlem, with a chance to encourage Gramps to change his future. But will Ailey be able to convince Taps he has what it takes to be a star and overcome his stage fright? And can Ailey learn the same lesson?

This is a sweet grandfather/grandson story. It is a fun idea to be able to travel back in time and not only meet your grandfather as a young man, but help him overcome a regret that has stuck with him. I like all the Black historical figures Henderson wove into the story, either through names or guest appearances. (There's a nice list at the back of the book the author provided of all the people she gave nods to and what they are famous for.) I definitely had to google a few of the slang terms that Ailey used in the present, but most kids should be able to do the same thing. Hand this to kids who have theater dreams, and love rap and/or dance.

Notes on content: No language issues. No sexual content. A gangster chases Ailey threatening harm and another person steals something from him, but he is not hurt.
Profile Image for Erica.
699 reviews35 followers
March 23, 2021
Ailey knows he has the moves to make the Scarecrow in his school's production of The Wiz really shine. But at his audition his mind goes blank and he completely chokes. He isn't looking forward to telling his family, but when he gets home there's much bigger problems: his grampa is in the hospital. Grampa tells Ailey about the time he met Bojangles and was given a pair of tap shoes and invited to audition, but he never worked up the courage to try. It's his biggest regret in life. When Ailey finds the tap shoes in the closet and makes a wish, he's transported back in time. He has the chance to change his grampa's life, and maybe his own too.

The author's love for history shines through. I love how the characters are named after Alvin Ailey, Benjamin Banneker, Mahalia Jackson and more (there's a list in the back with brief bios of their real-life counterparts). Henderson also does an amazing job conveying the tap sequences through onomatopoeia (although I would love if it was made into a movie just so I can see the dances). Ailey's love for his family is the moving force behind the novel and a great warmth radiates from that. It's great for younger readers and would make an excellent read-aloud with plenty of jumping off points for discussion.
Profile Image for Jocelin.
1,856 reviews45 followers
February 18, 2023
The Magic In Changing Your Stars answers the question about meeting your heroes. In this case a grandson gets to right a crucial moment when his grandfather gave up an opportunity because of the crippling grip of fear and regret.
Our protagonist Ailey Lane has an opportunity to perform in a school play of The Wiz.He is overcome with fear in the audition and things happen to drive story towards going ‘Back To The Future”. He meets his grandpa aka “Taps” via time traveling tap shoes courtesy of show biz legend Bill”Bojangles” Robinson. Grandpa Taps has his own brush with greatest and a missed opportunity.
What I really liked about this is the strong presence of family. You could really feel the familial love coming through on the pages. I liked the fact that the author used real life Black pioneers in the arts, science and historical figures in American history as some of the characters in the book. What really hampered the book for me was the slow pacing of the story. I felt like there were pockets of the story that were missing.
All in all I did enjoy this book. It was a sweet homage to the past and it highlighted a special relationship between a grandfather and grandson.
Profile Image for Melanie Dulaney.
1,376 reviews66 followers
November 25, 2020
The basic plot of righting a mistake in the past might make it seem like Leah Henderson’s book will be redundant, a rehash of an over-used storyline, but several factors make “The Magic in Changing Your Stars” unique and well worth the read. First, icons in current and past black history are sprinkled throughout the text, sometimes the names are merely included in passing, but most have a direct connection to the historical figure or are an actual representation of the famous person. Back matter lists all notable POC names and briefly describes their contribution. The tightly woven storyline with its interesting characters and similar difficulties across multiple generations is a strong second reason for trying this book with students in grades 4-6. While my copy was an ARC, if the final edition uses the same font and spacing, readers will find it to be easy on the eyes.

Thanks for the advance copy, Amazon Vine.
Profile Image for TheNextGenLibrarian.
1,744 reviews
May 30, 2022
The Wiz meets Back To The Future with this MG magical realism book.
👞
Ailey loves to dance, just like his Grampa used to, but when they get in front of a crowd, they freeze up. One night while wearing Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s tap shoes that Grampa got from the Mayor of Harlem himself, he’s transported back to 1939 just before the two meet. When Ailey gets there he realizes that his mission is to change Grampa’s fate by making sure he auditions for Bojangles. Will Ailey be able to change the course of his family’s history, as well as his own?
👞
I got major Saving Lucas Biggs vibes when I read this middle grade novel. I loved the time traveling aspect, as well as all the historical elements included. This is one kids need to read for many reasons. The relationship between grandfather and grandson isn’t one we get to read about a lot so I like that the author made it the focus, as well as sharing Black excellence and joy. Grab a copy now!
Profile Image for Jenna Grodzicki.
Author 39 books31 followers
October 19, 2020
When Ailey bombs his audition for his school's production of The Wiz, Grampa shares with him the story of his life's biggest regret. A pair of tap shoes with a "smidgen of magic" later, Ailey finds himself in Harlem in 1939 and in front of his then 12 year old Grampa. Ailey knows this is his chance to help Grampa forget his fears, get on that stage, and change his stars. This is a story filled with love, family, hope, tap dancing, rapping, Black Excellence, and a little bit of magic. I especially loved the strong bond Ailey had with Grampa and the scenes where Ailey was in the apartment in 1939 with his family (unbeknownst to them). I could feel the love coming right off the pages. This book will surely resonate with anyone who has ever let the fear of failure prevent them from following their dreams. Definitely a must read!
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews108 followers
January 23, 2021
I've always been a fan of Leah Henderson, but this book just didn't work for me. After messing up an audition to play the Scarecrow in The Wiz, his school’s annual play, Ailey, 11, is ready to give up. His grandfather, in the hospital, tells him how he had also give up his dream and lived to regret. He gives Ailey custody of a pair of tap shoes that belonged to Bojangles Robinson, which sends him back to 1939 Harlem, where he tries to change his grandfather’s fate, but learns a lesson about not giving up. This felt like a dated first draft that needing some editing. Ailey’s time is 2010 and he listens to a Nano - will anyone know what those are nowadays? The story is interesting, the execution not so much. A little more editing and this would be a 4 star book.
Profile Image for Stephanie P (Because My Mother Read).
1,122 reviews40 followers
March 3, 2021
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review.

This charming middle grade novel is full of heart and spirit. It follows a boy who loves to dance but freezes up when it is his chance to audition for his dream role in the school musical. After some encouraging words from his grandpa and a shared secret he suddenly finds himself thrown back in time to 1939 Harlem where he has to encourage his grandpa to overcome his fears and prevent a life long regret.

It is a beautiful story of family, believing in yourself, and not holding yourself back from reaching for your dreams. It is also sprinkled with actual figures in Black history with additional information shared about all of them in the back.
Profile Image for Terry.
3,789 reviews51 followers
Read
February 28, 2020
There is so much to love about the story and its characters that it is hard to know where to begin. Ailey takes center stage, but he isn't the only star of the show. His relationship with his grandfather is special and their bond is palpable. Family dynamics and interactions with kids at school also come across as authentic and genuine. The time travel component of the story is integrated flawlessly. Even though you know it is historical and science fiction, it still feels real and "in the moment."

Highly, highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.
153 reviews
April 14, 2021
I really liked the time traveling concept of Ailey going back to help his grandfather fix a regret, and I love how noteworthy Black individuals made appearances throughout the story. The list of Blck Excellence at the end was a great addition in identifying these individuals and helping young readers learn why the person was so important. At times, the novel was a little repetitive and wordy, but overall, had a great storyline. At one point, the main character, Ailey, keeps running into problem after problem that I wasn’t sure he’d ever get home!

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Gulshan B..
237 reviews10 followers
January 3, 2022
An endearing story written with a lot of adoration!

The story is told from the perspective of a little boy who has to change his Grandfather’s and his Family’s stars.

There’s just one catch - he has no idea how.

And that’s the story.

Along the way, he makes friends, finds his courage, learns to make decisions and and comes up with a brand new version of a coming-of-age story that’s bound to bring a broad smile to your face by the time you’re done wit it.

The story is full of nods to famous historical Black personalities, all of whom are mentioned in the afterword. Loved those references!

Lots here for all curious readers, with simple storytelling and (yet) lucid prose!

Delightful!!
Profile Image for Eileen Winfrey.
970 reviews5 followers
January 11, 2021
Ailey bombs his audition for the school play, as everyone expected he would, and learns that paralyzing stage fright also robbed his beloved Grampa of living out his dreams. Thanks to a hidden family heirloom, Ailey finds himself traveling back in time to a key moment in his grandfather’s life to try and erase what became a lifelong regret.

I was surprised by the storyline and kept reading to see what would happen next. The family scenes in the past and in the future are very cozy and the setting in late 1930s Harlem is romantic. A solid read for older elementary students.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 2 books24 followers
February 18, 2021
An entertaining read about Ailey who loves to dance and rap, yet freezes with stage fright. This story twists when he discovers Grampa had a dream to tap dance but fear stopped him from trying. In his Gramps' tap dancing shoes, Ailey time-travels back to Harlem in 1939 and changes his grandfather's destiny. Henderson had fun re-purposing the names of famous Blacks throughout the book, and it was fun recognizing them.
6 reviews49 followers
February 2, 2023
I loved the idea of this story more than I loved the story itself. Perhaps it was intentional on the part of the author to make sure young readers really understood the message, but the dialogue and narrative felt like they were pushing against a wall - there was nowhere more for them to go and yet they kept circling around to the same bits.

Still, I'm a sucker for time travel stories and alternate realities, and I didn't dislike the book - I just didn't love it like I'd hoped I would.
Profile Image for Joanne.
Author 2 books28 followers
August 23, 2020
Fast-paced, heartwarming, filled with suspense and love and Black excellence. Ailey is a lovable character and I adored his Grampa. All the characters are named for famous Black people, not just dancers like Alvin Ailey, but inventors, historians, authors, politicians, athletes, teachers, entrepreneurs. Perfect for libraries and schools!
Profile Image for Ellon.
3,402 reviews
August 27, 2020
This was a pretty great book about trying your best (but actually putting forth the effort). I do struggle with the time travel aspect because of the butterfly effect but I’m willing to mostly over look that.
I loved that the author named the characters based off notable Black figures and explained the connections in the back matter.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 2 books23 followers
November 15, 2020
With Harlem and African American history baked into the characters’ names and the plot, Henderson’s main character, Ailey, takes an unexpected trip to 1939 Harlem to meet his grandfather and change a crucial moment in the past so they can both realize their dreams for the future. A little slow to start but fun and full of hope!
Profile Image for Holly Andreason.
Author 5 books5 followers
April 6, 2021
I read this aloud with my 9 and 11 year old kids. My son wasn't sure at first if he'd like a book about tap dancing, but all three of us got sucked into the story and loved it. My daughter was literally cheering at the end for Ailey. A special touch was the list of real-life counterparts to the character's names we read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews

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