Hello my little book-loving chooks! It’s time once again for one of my haiku reviews, and today I have one of those books that leaves a deep feeling of cuddly special-ness in your heart-cockles after you’ve finished reading. I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful hardback copy of Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper from Simon & Schuster Australia for review…and since I enjoyed the story so much, and the edition is so beautiful (with dust jacket and everything) I am also offering it in a GIVEAWAY at the end of this post. But the giveaway is for Australians only. Sorry everyone else.
Stella is a young girl just trying to get along during the Great Depression in Bumblebee, South Carolina. Her head is full of ideas but she has all sorts of trouble putting them down on the page, so Stella creeps out of her family’s shack each night to practise that troublesome writing. On one of her night-time jaunts, Stella and her younger brother Jojo spot a burning cross across the river, surrounded by men on horses, dressed in white sheets. The Ku Klux Klan has come to Bumblebee.
As the adults worry and keep watch over the neighbourhood children as they go to and from school, all Stella wants is to win the writing competition at school and have her words published in a real newspaper. But when Stella’s daddy is among a few local men who decide to register to vote in the upcoming election, the danger posed by Klan members in the town comes to a terrifying head. Will Stella be brave enough to do what needs to be done, or should she keep her head down to keep her family safe?
can be fought with pen, paper
Stella By Starlight is a thought-provoking piece of historical fiction that is all too relevant to contemporary young people. Stella is an immediately relatable character – a cheeky but protective big sister, a keenly intelligent student who wants to be heard, and a sensitive member of a community that is brought low by persecution. Draper has done a wonderful job of pitching these quite scary and disturbing historical events at a level that will best engage the intended age-group. The scenes involving the Klan are (rightly, I think) frightening, but are tempered with the presence of steadying adult characters, so that the children (and young readers) aren’t left to process the implications of these events alone.
I also appreciated the depth that Draper has delivered in the various character groups – not all the white folk are horrible, violent racists, and not all the African-American folk are lion-hearted revolutionaries – so the story reflects the graduations of feeling and action found in any community, and particularly in a community in the grips of conflict.
Throughout the book there is a pervasive feeling of familial love and affection, driven by the closeness of Stella’s family. It was in these parts that I really became most engaged, and enjoyed Stella’s attempts to put her thoughts down on paper. The passages in which Stella gains access to a typewriter were quite funny, as both her thoughts and her commentary on the difficulty of wrangling the machine are collected in the one essay.
I think this is an important book for youngsters to read from a historical perspective, as it is vital for the building of peaceful communities that young people know what went before. But just as important, this is a warm, winsome and witty story that will draw young readers in through the strength and diversity of its young characters. I highly recommend Stella By Starlight and I wish there were more novels in this style, pitched at this age group, that deal with Australia’s difficult history from the perspective of our indigenous people.
So as this book is too good to keep to myself, on to the GIVEAWAY! Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing the giveaway prize.
If you live in Australia, you can enter using the Rafflecopter link below. The winner will receive a hardback copy of Stella By Starlight. Rafflecopter will choose a random winner and I will contact the winner at the end of the giveaway. Ready? Set? Enter!
Good luck to all!
Until we meet again, may your days be filled with the simple warmth of a homespun haiku,