It’s Monday and Here’s What I’m Reading #IMWAYR : Stella by Starlight and two picture books


It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and Sheila at BookJourney


I have been reading so many rave reviews of Sharon Draper’s Stella By Starlight that I couldn’t wait for my own copy to arrive, I had to jump on the first available copy at my town library.  This is a another slice of America’s sad history of segregation and racism, set in the time period when our country was firmly  in the grip of the Great Depression and getting ready for the election of FDR.  Here’s the jacket copy:

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.

Stella is an enchanting character; she is high spirited and yet perceptive and wise for her age.  She chafes against the inequities of the Jim Crow South, and yet is justifiably fearful of every vestige of the white power structure that jealously guards its privileges – from voting rights to schools with books and supplies.  Stella is blessed with a loving family and a close knit North Carolina community which shares even its smallest blessings with a wide open heart.  But she can see the tension that arises when men like her father decide it is time to exercise their Constitutional rights and register to vote.  Their determination leads to direct confrontation with many in the white community who decide to strike back through intimidation and fear.

Draper brings these tensions alive vividly.  The scenes when the menfolk try to register to vote, and when racism rears its ugly head feel real and true. I love the way that all the characters interact and reveal the many layers of the spirit in the African American community which allowed them strength and the determination  to fight back.  This is a book that will give my students much to talk about – it is a book they will love.

Here is Sharon Draper, discussing what inspired Stella by Starlight.



I’ve been trying to make room in my reading life for picture books once again.  Jane Bahk’s Juna’s  Jar is the charming story of Juna whose best friend Hector suddenly moves away.  Juna is bereft – Hector had been such fun to have adventures with, especially to find interesting things with which to fill her kimchi jar.  After Hector leaves, Juna tries to find another friend – perhaps her kimchi jar will lead her to another friend as wonderful as Hector?  Felicia Hoshino’s lovely illustrations make this a delightful picture book for the younger set. 

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Albie’s First Word: A Tale Inspired by Albert Einstein’s Childhood written by Jacqueline Tourville and illustrated by Wynne Evans is the imagined story of Albert Einstein’s famous lack of early speech. In this story, his worried parents try this and that to get Albie to finally speak.  On the advice of their kind doctor,  they take Albie to the symphony, and a lecture by a famous physicist, and even a boat race, in the hopes that these experiences would inspire Albie to finally speak. But, to no avail. Then Albie looks out of the window one night, and the starry sky finally inspires his first word: Why?  



10 thoughts on “It’s Monday and Here’s What I’m Reading #IMWAYR : Stella by Starlight and two picture books

  1. I wish I was shoveled out so I could go buy Stella right now! Your review is excellent, but Sharon Draper gave me goosebumps! The picture books are both new to me, and also sound terrific. Thanks for sharing, Tara!

  2. Hi Tara, I loved your reviews here so much. I think I will have to read Stella by Starlight. I’ve been reading a lot of 60’s history lately and my partner and I went to see Selma on the weekend. It’s a strange thing to relive history that you lived through, in books and movies, but it’s also fascinating to see the world again in a new way.

  3. I’m always on the look out for picture books and Juna’s Jar looks like a great one! I, too, have heard great reviews about Stella and I am now even more excited to read it! Thanks, Tara!

  4. I adored Stella. Draper did an amazing job with the historical fiction, but I loved how she wove the relationship between Stella and her mom through everything. Beautiful story!

  5. I heard about Albie’s First Word when I did my multicultural PBB presentation in Baltimore, as shared by one of the teachers who attended the session. I can’t wait to find it and read it. Stella by Starlight sounds like a beautiful lyrical read.

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