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February 2015 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / The Book Worm

Historical fiction that’s perfect for kids

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Have you ever wanted to do something big — but you didn’t know how?

It might have been a small action, and it might have been something great, but never giving up was the way to go. In the new book “Stella by Starlight” by Sharon M. Draper, for instance, a young girl wanted to become a writer. Her daddy wanted to vote.

When Stella Mills saw the sparks from across Kilkenny Pond that night in 1932, she knew there was nothing good about the nine hooded men surrounding it. Quickly she and her brother ran to wake their parents because they knew that everybody in their neighborhood was in danger when the Klan was about.

Normally life in Bumblebee, North Carolina, was a safe place for Stella and her friends. Yes, it was true that there were places they couldn’t go because they weren’t white and no, their blacks-only school wasn’t nearly as nice as the whites-only school, but Stella loved her schoolmates and neighbors because they always watched out for one another. When one lacked, the others shared, and that made her proud.

But the Klan was another matter, and every black person in Bumblebee knew it. Even Stella’s teacher, Mrs. Grayson, understood the seriousness of what was happening and she tried to keep her students calm and safe by distracting them with writing and with stories. Stella loved stories, and she loved writing but she didn’t think she was any good at either of them.

That would change, though, when her friend, Tony, told her to write what she knew — and so Stella did. She wrote about the Klan and their dragons; about airplanes and books and grown men making boys bleed. She wrote about gifts, her father’s reason for celebration, and the courage it took to stand up for your rights.

Yep, I loved “Stella by Starlight,” and there are many reasons why.

Its authenticity is at the top of the list. Author Sharon M. Draper gives this story a historical basis, yet she keeps it fictional so young readers can understand and identify with the characters.

Those characters are second on the list: I loved Stella! She’s sunny and smart, and her determination will make it easy for your child to want to know what happens to her and her family.

I also liked the way Draper lends child-friendly, not-too-detailed, not-too-scary action in this chapter book, and the anti-racism theme really struck me as timely.

And then there’s the … well, I could go on and on, but let’s just say that this is the perfect book for a 7-to-12-year-old reader who enjoys a good historical novel. For that kid, “Stella by Starlight” is a book she’ll want.

“Stella by Starlight” by Sharon M. Draper [336 pages, 2015, $16.99].

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill with two dogs and 12,000 books.

Posted 12:00 am, February 23, 2015
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