Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.
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.
Huge thank you to Atheneum Books for Young Readers & Edelweiss for this ARC!
I adored this book. Stella was such a fantastic and methodical protagonist to follow around, and I loved her sense of curiosity, especially given the time period this novel focuses on. This book is insanely thoughtful, and it’s definitely one where you’ll find yourself nodding along to the story and having your heart captured by Stella and her wonderful family.
This story is not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination. It’s story that deals with the KKK and issues of segregation. There’s a lot of hard emotions, and Stella’s community is some easy to fall in with that the hardships and racism that they face is extremely heartbreaking. Draper writes this novel with such honesty, and it’s really quite lovely in parts. I found myself tearing up or raging during parts of this novel, because dammit, I cared about this community of people, I cared about Stella’s family, I cared about how they were being mistreated.
Move over, this is a novel that has a lot of charm outside of the tougher topics. Stella writes her own newsletter and it’s completely full of heart (and spelling errors). I loved these very personal moments in the story, and I loved the level of depth we get from her as our heroine. Her desire to know and to understand is really what makes her a truly wonderful character, and I loved her move from innocence to experience. It was simply well done!
Stella by Starlight is a wonderful read, and a somewhat timely book given some of the issues within the news. There’s intense, very beautiful story telling, and I love that Draper never avoids the tough topics or dumbs them down for the reader. This book is meaningful and difficult, but it reminds us of a horrific period in time, and brings these issues into a context that a middle grader could understand. Stella by Starlight is simply something special, and worth the read.