Guest Teacher Post: Stella by Starlight Review
Hello, my name is Samantha Goldstein. I teach sixth grade language arts in the heart of New Braunfels, a Texas boomtown with a small town feel. Today, I’m going to tell you about the most remarkable book I read this summer: Stella by Starlight.
This unmatchable novel accomplishes the very difficult task of exposing some darker parts of American history, the Jim Crow Laws and the Klu Klux Klan in the segregated south, in a way that feels raw, real, and age appropriate for young readers (ages 10-12). A remarkable tale of bravery, courage, and fighting for your rights in the face of danger, this story is told the through the point of view of Stella Mills, a young black girl from Bumblebee, North Carolina. She is an extraordinarily dynamic character. You cry with her. You laugh with her. You swell with pride alongside her. You feel the anxiety of her family and community. You mourn with her. You root for her.
Jonah Mills, and two other prominent members of the black community in Bumblebee intend to fight for their right to register and vote no matter what scrutiny and threats come against them. The story opens up with our young protagonist Stella writing in her notebook outside at night—she’s embarrassed and thinks her writing needs improvement so she practices late outside while no one is around— when she sees the flicker of a flame in the distance. It is a burning cross. Trouble is coming. Read this powerful work of art to learn how the community battles its own deadly dragons for the sake of their family’s future and the next generation by standing in the face of injustice until they earned their rightful voice in the world. Stella is finding her voice too. Will she learn to write the way newspaper writers do? Can she make a difference with the stoke of a pen?
This book brilliantly balances the impossible— the painstaking struggle of social justice, the vibrance and life of black joy, and the story of a girl struggling with very normal twelve-year-old girl problem like trouble with writing assignments in school.
Stella by Starlight would be a great read aloud because it’s chalk full of history that could be paired as non fiction pieces. There are embedded excerpts from the poetry and songs of former slaves and gospel hymns throughout the story, and the book shows the true writing process (mistakes, crossing our words and all) with chapters that are strictly Stella’s writing. Use this as a mentor text not only for it’s rich southern dialect, themes, and figurative language, but also to mirror good writing as wells as the truth of the writing process when you have a growth mindset.
I savored this book sweetly to the very last drop. It is a timely must read in the middle grade world.
*Thank Samantha so much for her insight as a middle school teacher. This book is currently being offered on First Book Marketplace if you are able to purchase from there, or on Amazon by clicking here.
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