Draper, Sharon. Stella by Starlight
January 6th 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Stella and her brother are sneaking around in the woods near their house in Bumblee, North Carolina one night, and see the Klu Klux Klan burning a cross. They know how serious this is, and run right home to tell their parents, who are scared and angry at the children for putting themselves in danger. The community is aware that African Americans in the south in the 1930s are supposed to keep to their "place", but they also know that things are changing. Stella questions why the school for white children is so much better; she struggles with her writing, but works very hard in school, and starts her own newspaper when she is given a typewriter. Stella's father and several other local men decide to register to vote-- they jump through all of the unnecessary hoops that the white men set for them, and manage to go vote, even though the reaction of the Klu Klux Klan is to burn down the house of one of the men, displacing his large family. The community rallies to help. There are more ordinary events going on in Bumblebee, and Stella and her family enjoy Christmas pageants, visits from a traveling vendor (my mother referred to the one that visited her family as "the dish man", so that was fun to read!), and soldiers on through triumphs and tragedies.
Strengths: This was clearly a labor of love on Draper's part, and she has drawn on the childhood of her mother to put together these stories. Civil Rights in the 1930s are covered occasionally in middle grade literature, but not very often, so this is an interesting book to add to Draper's oeuvre.
Weaknesses: Historical fiction is a hard sell in my library, and at 336 pages, this is rather lengthy. I would have liked to see this without the lengthy stories and songs that are included; I know this follows the African American tradition of storytelling, but slowed the story down for me. While they give more atmosphere to the setting, they dilute the Civil Rights message. Still, I will look forward to the book Ms. Draper is going to write about her father's childhood experiences.
We had a snow day yesterday, so I got a lot of extra reading done. The roads were certainly bad, and it was very cold, but today I need to try to fit in three classes every period to get books!
Hey, makes the day go quickly, and it's never a bad thing to have the line at the circulation desk looking like the land office in Oklahoma in 1889!