Stella by Starlightby Sharon M. Draper
When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this New York Times bestselling Depression-era “novel that soars” (The New York Times Book Review) that School Library Journal called “storytelling at its finest” in a starred review.
Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.
After 11-year-old Stella and her brother witness late-night Ku Klux Klan activity, word spreads through their North Carolina town. It’s 1932, and every “Negro family in Bumblebee knew the unwritten rules—they had to take care of their own problems and take care of one another.” Draper (Panic) conveys a rich African-American community where life carries on and knowledge is passed along (“My mama taught me. I’m teachin’ you. You will teach your daughter”), despite looming threats. While in town, Stella notes the white children’s fine school building and speculates about who might be Klansmen; in her parents’ backyard, spontaneous potluck celebrations chase away gloom as adults trade tall tales: “remember last summer when it got so hot we had to feed the chickens ice water to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs?” Stella’s desire to become a writer parallels her father’s determination to vote. In a powerful scene, the entire black community accompanies three registered black voters to the polling location and waits silently, “Ten. Fifteen. Twenty-five minutes,” until the sheriff steps aside. This compelling story brims with courage, compassion, creativity, and resilience. Ages 9–13. (Jan.)
*"This compelling story brims with courage, compassion, creativity, and resilience." - Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
*"Storytelling at its finest." - School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
*"Her sense of honesty and justice make her a child with whom all readers can identify." - Shelf Awareness, STARRED REVIEW
Gr 4–8—Coretta Scott King Award winner Draper draws inspiration from her grandmother's journal to tell the absorbing story of a young girl growing up in Depression-era, segregated North Carolina. One frightening night Stella and her brother Jojo witness a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, practically in their own backyard. This meeting is the signal of trouble to come to the black community of Bumblebee. The townspeople must come together to find strength and protection to face the injustices all around them. This is an engrossing historical fiction novel with an amiable and humble heroine who does not recognize her own bravery or the power of her words. She provides inspiration not only to her fellow characters but also to readers who will relate to her and her situation. Storytelling at its finest.—Tiffany Davis, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY
When a young girl gains confidence from her failures and strength from what her community dreads most, life delivers magic and hope. Stella Mills and her brother Jojo witness the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross late one starry night, setting off a chain reaction that leaves their entire community changed. During the Depression, North Carolina was less than hospitable for African-Americans forced to work more to earn less while being deprived of basic human rights. Through the perspective of Stella, young readers glimpse the nearly suffocating anguish that envelops this black community, illuminating the feelings associated with suppression. In a telling passage, Stella's mother attempts to comfort her: " 'It's gonna be all right,' her mother whispered as she smoothed down Stella's hair. But Stella felt the tension in her mother's arms, and she knew that in reality, fear hugged them both." Draper expertly creates a character filled with hope, dreams and ambition in a time when such traits were dangerous for a girl of color. While the use of language honors the time period, the author is careful to avoid the phonetic quagmire that ensnares lesser writers of the period, allowing the colorful idioms to shine. A tale of the Jim Crow South that's not sugar-coated but effective, with a trustworthy narrator who opens her heart and readers' eyes. (Historical fiction. 9-13)
Read an Excerpt
Stella by Starlight
Flames Across the Water
Nine robed figures dressed all in white. Heads covered with softly pointed hoods. Against the black of night, a single wooden cross blazed. Reflections of peppery-red flames shimmered across the otherwise dark surface of Kilkenny Pond.
Two children, crouched behind the low-hanging branches of a hulking oak tree on the other side of the pond, watched the flickers of scarlet in the distance in fearful silence. Dressed only in nightshirts, Stella Mills and her brother Jojo shivered in the midnight October chill.
Stella yanked the boy close, dry leaves crunching beneath his bare feet. “Shh!” she whispered, holding him tightly. “Don’t move!”
Jojo squirmed out of her grasp. “It was me that saw ’em first!” he protested. “You’d still be ’sleep if I hadn’t come and got you. So lemme see!”
Stella covered her brother’s lips with her fingers to quiet him. Even though her toes were numb with cold and she knew they needed to get out of there, she could not take her eyes from the horror glimmering toward them from across the pond. “Do you know what would happen if they saw us?” she whispered, shifting her stinging feet, the crushing of dry leaves seeming far too loud.
Jojo pressed himself closer to her in answer.
Besides the traitorous leaves, Stella could hear a pair of bullfrogs ba-rupping to each other, but nothing, not a single human voice, from across the pond. She could, however, smell the charring pine, tinged with . . . what? She sniffed deeper—it was acrid, harsh. Kerosene. A trail of gray smoke snaked up to the sky, merging with the clouds.
“Who are they?” Jojo whispered, stealing another glance.
“The Klan.” Just saying those words made Stella’s lips quiver.
The Ku Klux Klan.
“What are they doing?”
“Practicing, I think.”
Stella paused and smoothed his bushy hair, trying to figure out the best way to answer. Jojo was only eight.
“Nothing good,” she said at last.
A horse whinnied in the distance—it sounded nervous. And there, in the shadows of the trees across the pond, Stella could make out half a dozen of them. The flames must be scaring them, too, she thought. The horses began to stamp and snort as the fire flared.
Stella inched forward, trying to get a better look. One of the harnesses seemed to sparkle in the darkness. Or was it just a stray ember from the flames? The men in the white hoods were now all raising their arms to the sky, and they cried out as one, but their exact words were muffled by cloth and wind.
“Jojo, we’ve gotta get out of here!” she whispered, now edging backward.
“Should we tell Mama and Papa?” Jojo asked.
Stella did not answer her brother. Instead she caught his hand in her tightest grip and ran.
Meet the Author
Sharon M. Draper is a New York Times bestselling author and recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring her significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens. She has received the Coretta Scott King Award for both Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. Her Out of My Mind has won multiple awards and has been a New York Times bestseller for well over three years. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year. Visit her at SharonDraper.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Synopsis- The year is 1932. Stella and her family are African-Americans living in a segregated southern town. Stella loves her family, her community and her schools, but isn’t comfortable with being second class because of her skin color. When the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is spotted doing a ritual near Stella’s house, Stellla’s community does everything they can to stay under the KKK’s radar. But when a conversation in church results in bringing up the fact that there is a chance for African American’s to vote, some of the men in Stella’s community go to sign up. And that’s when the KKK starts acting up. Stella decides to take a stand. What I Liked- This is a marvelous historical fiction novel set in the segregated south. The description of the time and place brought vivid pictures to my mind. Ms. Draper really transports you into the story, and you can feel the strength of Stella’s community. It just makes you want to smile. Stella is a great main character whom you care greatly about and really understand her feelings. Stella is loosely based on Ms. Draper’s grandmother. I like the addition of Stella’s journal writings in the book, with misspelled words slashed through, and when she was typing, some simple mistakes on the typewriter, etc. It is an incredible authentic touch to the story, and it brought out Stella’s character even more. The story has great historical information about segregation and the civil rights movement. Ms. Draper has packaged an incredible history lesson in a captivating story. *NOTE* I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
AudioBook Review: Stars: Overall 5 Narration 5 Story 5 The year is 1932 and eleven year old Stella and her little brother Jojo are witness to a cross burning deep in the North Carolina woods. Now Stella knows that the world isn’t always fair to her: she walks past the white school daily, she can’t enter the stores using front doors, and somehow, this new sight makes her feel unsafe for the very first time in her life. The small town of Bumblebee is divided: segregation is a fact of life, and the KKK’s arrival portends many changes and dangers. While Stella is trying to navigate these changes and her first-ever feelings of danger in her life, Draper presents characters and choices in small vignettes from Stella’s point of view. This technique allows younger readers to identify with the situations and questions that arise, while understanding the evils of prejudice and segregation in action. For me, this story was easier to relate to in terms of younger (middle grade) readers: presenting some complex subjects in a way that is clearly spoken by one of their peers – Stella. Stella’s voice is solid, her questioning of the ‘status quo’ honest, and her recitation of her parent’s fears, and her own interactions outside of her small section of town are honest. And, seeing the story through Stella’s eyes gives readers that peculiar viewpoint that is at once informed and prejudiced by the warnings, restrictions and dangers present to those of color in the time. While not perfect: there are very few characters nuanced with the good and bad that is part of every being, as an introduction to how things were and the dangers of seeing and judging everyone in terms of color first are quickly apparent to young and old alike. I keep coming back to the fact that this story is written for younger readers, and my own experiences and knowledge are hindering my hearing the story with a child’s ear, tuned to the nuances and storytelling that make a story more authentic and approachable to a child. Narration in this story is provided by Heather Alicia Simms, and her tone, her voice and even the pauses in which she honors the quiet moments of the story are perfectly executed and appropriate. Lovely inclusions of song bring a lightness and spirituality to the story: not in a religious sense, but appropriate to the feel of the actions before and after. While there is a hollowness to the recording, as if one of the filters was left open, the story flows beautifully, it’s meant to be listened to rather than read, and young and old can appreciate the production. A story that is meant to be on every child’s shelf, as they learn to navigate the world and its many challenges, Stella by Starlight personalizes a moment in time that still resonates in behavior today, and presents listeners and readers, young and old, with moments of truth and questions for conscience that will inform, influence and impact their thoughts. I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
This book was alright. It was kind of disappointing though. The author had a great beginning, but didn't wrap it up as well as l had hoped. I would still recomend it though.
This book is really good .i recomond this book to 4-6 grades.
This book whas amazing .I'd recomend this book to evry one.One of my favrit parts whas the cristmas play
Awesome read this author never fails!
Draper takes you back in time; a time of great turmoil in our nation. She conveys true facts to the reader through the life of the main character, Stella. A beautifully told story that ended just a bit too quick. A lot is left to the reader's imagination when the story abruptly ends leaving the reader wanting more.
Hi what ages are appropriate to read this book? I recently finished another book by the same author and loved it so now I'm looking for other books by her. I'm 13.. I am concerned this book might be a too easy read for me. Any suggestions? Is it written for the same ages as Out Of My Mind? Thanks! -sm