Stars in the Darkness

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Overview

In the imagination of a young inner-city boy, police sirens sound like howling wolves, streetlights look like stars, and shots fired by neighborhood gangs sound like those stars cracking the darkness. But when his older brother joins a gang, he can no longer pretend. With the help of his mother, he comes up with a plan to save his brother and unite his neighbors in a stand for peace. The realistic yet uplifting words of best-selling author Barbara M. Joosse combine with powerful illustrations by award-winning ...
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Overview

In the imagination of a young inner-city boy, police sirens sound like howling wolves, streetlights look like stars, and shots fired by neighborhood gangs sound like those stars cracking the darkness. But when his older brother joins a gang, he can no longer pretend. With the help of his mother, he comes up with a plan to save his brother and unite his neighbors in a stand for peace. The realistic yet uplifting words of best-selling author Barbara M. Joosse combine with powerful illustrations by award-winning artist R. Gregory Christie in this hope-filled story. One young boy's courage can make a difference.

A small boy joins with his mother to find a creative way to save his older brother from the dangers of gang violence. Includes a list of organizations and websites dealing with gang prevention.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Sometimes, Mama and me look down at the street and pretend it's not the city," explains the wistful young African-American narrator of this affecting story by the author of Mama, Do You Love Me? But imagining that the sirens are "wild wolves howlin' at the moon" and that gunfire is "the light of the stars crackin' the darkness" can't cloak reality. In bed, with his older brother Richard holding him tightly, the boy acknowledges that he's afraid. When Richard begins staying out all night and one day comes home with his arm wrapped in a blood-soaked bandage, his brother and mother admit to each other that Richard has become a "gang banger." Mama says, "We can't pretend no more . We gotta be strong now." Richard does not quit the gang, but the ending offers both hope and inspiration: the neighbors band together to hold nightly "peace walks" in an attempt to discourage gang violence. Joosse explains in a concluding note that she told this story, based on the experiences of a real "banger," to reach gang members' little brothers and sisters"the stars in the darkness"and supplies a list of resources on gang prevention. Featuring bold hues and some arresting perspectives, Christie's (Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth) stylized acrylic paintings poignantly convey the anguish and sadness of this sympathetic narrator and his mother. Ages 4-8. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the heart of the inner city, a young boy tries to ignore the threat of violence "out there," staying close to his mother and big brother. One night when brother Richard doesn't come home, our narrator is afraid he may be out there with "the bangers." His mother has warned Richard about getting into trouble but he doesn't listen. The worried mother and brother finally decide to organize the neighborhood. The families take turns in a Peace Walk so that every night their flashlights form the stars of the title, offering hope that the gang activity can be stopped. The story, with its roots in today's reality, is visualized in equally gut-sy pictures. Christie uses pigments as a sculptor might carve wood, to create facial features rough-hewn with facets and shadows, and bodies with almost crude suggestions of color. The settings are minimal, with lots of flat, unadorned areas of dark hues and only hints of furniture. Don't miss the art interplay on jacket, cover, and end papers. The text is straightforward with some use of the vernacular, which makes it seem more real. The author fills in the story behind the story of a real Richard, whose words she recorded. She adds a list of resources on gang prevention. 2002, Chronicle Books,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-An African-American child narrates this powerful and unusual picture book. Sometimes he and his mother pretend that the wail of sirens is the howling of wolves and that the sound of gunshots is "stars crackin' the darkness." One night, his older brother, Richard, does not come home, and the child begins to accept the gut-wrenching reality that the teen is being swept into gang life. Mama implores Richard, "Don't you be hangin' out with those bangers.-Don't. Be somebody for this world." But the next morning, he comes home bleeding, and his brother and mother decide to organize the neighbors into taking Peace Walks, trying to make the nights less scary. The book ends on a bittersweet, yet hopeful note. In an afterword, the author tells about having met the real "Richard" several years ago, and having decided to write the story as a picture book to reach the siblings, the "stars in the darkness." The book concludes with a list of resources on gang prevention. The story is both sad and sweet, and the acrylic illustrations, done in a raw, expressionistic style with jarring perspectives and flat, unsettling colors, suit the text. Nonjudgmental and sobering, this book deals sensitively with a serious issue that is plaguing today's youth.-Anna DeWind Walls, Milwaukee Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Joosse (A Houseful of Christmas, 2001, etc.) tells the story of a boy's sadness over his older brother's growing gang involvement and of his idea to speak out against it. The young narrator talks about the night outside his house: "Sometimes, Mama and me look down at the street and pretend it's not the city. We shut our eyes so only a crack is open, lookin' through our eyelashes, and pretend we live on the moon. . . . If there's shots fired, we say it's the light of the stars crackin' the darkness." He is "afraid of what's out there," and depends on his brother Richard sleeping by his side (the window side) to protect him. Despite the narrators protestations that "We got each other. . . . We sure don't need no bangers," Richard starts staying out nights and wearing colors, and so the narrator and his mother get the idea to organize neighborhood peace walks, bringing families out into the streets at night. Christie's deep and vivid palate frames the story, playing perspectives and shapes against the joy and tension-filled faces of the characters. His naive style of painting may not appeal to all kids, who will also be aware that this is a "teaching" story, in the vein of Eve Bunting's Smoky Night (1994). Nevertheless, it is well executed in word and picture, and shows an aspect of urban life that is rare in picture books, but sadly common in many kids' lives. An annotated list of resources on gang prevention is included. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811821681
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 1/1/1902
  • Pages: 36
  • Age range: 1 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 1.00 (w) x 1.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Joosse is a full-time writer and mother. She lives with her family in a little stone house in Wisconsin. Ms. Joosse has a degree in journalism, but for the past 19 years she has devoted her time and talents to writing nearly twenty books for childr

R. Gregory Christie is the award-winning illustrator of The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children, Richard Wright and the Library Card, and Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth, which was on the New York Public Library's list

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2002

    A story of hope and courage

    Author Joosse chooses a tough subject and writes about it in the most touching manner. The love of a family, a mother and a younger brother, are not enough to keep a boy from joining a gang. Even though Richard tries to hide his gang activities from them, the young narrator of the story tells us "I know what I know." The boy and his mother come up with a plan that involves their neighbors, making them true "stars in the darkness." Every parent and child will find in this powerful book a way to connect to the feelings, fears, and hopes of the families whose lives are affected by gangs.

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