Goodreads: Stella by Starlight
Stella lives in a segregated town in the Depression-era South and life has never been fair. The white school has better books, she is not allowed to use the library, and some stores she can’t go into at all. Still, folks seem to have accepted the state of things until the KKK reappears in town. Then the pastor calls Stella’s community into action and they all must decide if they are willing to pay the price of bravery.
Stella by Starlight begins quietly, celebrating the small town life Stella enjoys with her family and showcasing the close-knit ties of the Bumblebee, North Carolina’s black community. Soon enough, however, readers begin to see the cracks in the picture. Stella’s days brim with small happinesses, from a school pageants to impromptu gatherings, but also with repeated instances of racial prejudice. Though readers may not find themselves fully invested in the story at the start, the snowball effect of Stella’s experiences and the brave response of her friends and family are sure to have the audience engrossed by the end.
Stella proves the perfect character to take readers on this journey, carefully observing everything she sees and trying to understand it through the writings she secretly does at night. She feels the injustices around her keenly and, because she is so young and has not had so much time to become jaded, she burns to make a change. She simply cannot understand why the adults around her seem so fearful, why they repeatedly experience hatred and do nothing. Readers will feel her pain and long to fight along with her, even if some of them will also understand the factors that keep the adults silent.
Stella and the adults all grow in this story, however. A few men in her community finally take a stand, confronting prejudice and submitting to humiliation in order to register to vote. Their bravery, however, leads the bigots in their town to retaliate and suddenly Stella understands–some people have enough hatred in them that they are willing to kill. To take a stand means that simply going through every day becomes an act of courage.
Stella by Starlight excellently balances the illustration of racial prejudice with the everyday details of Stella’s Depression-era life in order to help young readers understand the dark parts of American history without every becoming unbearably heavy. It is a moving and an inspiring work.