Grades 4-8, Lexile 740

Told from the perspective of Stella, a young African-American girl, Stella by Starlight (Grades 4-8, Lexile 740) begins one starlit night when she and her brother, JoJo, are out way past their bedtime witnessing something that they should never have seen. In the distance, the siblings see a Stella By Starlightflicker of flames burning upon a cross, which can only signify one thing: the Ku Klux Klan is back! The small town of Bumblebee, North Carolina, is about to be completely upended because change is in the air as the unwelcome Ku Klux Klan re-emerges in their segregated town. Bumblebee’s black community must come together to protect themselves from the injustices that surround them. As Stella tries to understand it all, she learns to recognize her own bravery and the power of her words during this tumultuous time.

Sharon Draper has truly captured the African-American experience once again in her latest middle grade novel inspired by her late grandmother’s journal. Against the backdrop of the most devastating economic crisis in history, the Great Depression, Draper portrays the struggles African Americans faced in the segregated South decades before the accomplishments of the 1960s, providing a unique historical perspective. Draper brilliantly depicts the prejudices, intolerances and economic inequalities encountered by the small African-American community, leaving readers with the strong sense of kinship and bravery of these people as they fought against the oppression around them. Draper’s hope is that by the end of the story people will learn from these historical experiences and use that knowledge in a positive way today (check out the video below to hear more from Draper).


Sharon Draper discusses Stella By Starlight.

As well as showcasing a lesser-known era of history, this novel can be a mentor text for launching a writing workshop. Stella is an inspirational character who finds her own voice. Everyone has a story to tell and, although Stella struggles with her writing at times, she soon realizes she should write about what she knows best—herself. With this newfound realization, her confidence in her writing builds throughout the novel, and she starts her own newspaper, Stella’s Star Sentinel, to report about the events in her community and her life. This book is a great way to introduce your students to journalism and the power of the press. Start a classroom newspaper where students can each write about their community, school or their own personal lives. Stella by Starlight is the kind of book that will motivate your students to find the courage to express their inner voice and realize that each and every one of them is a writer.

Booksource Book Recommendations for Avid Nonreaders 


Booksource Scout Award*Stella By Starlight has been nominated for a Scout Award, an internal Booksource award. Booksource will nominate books throughout the year and then ask readers to vote on their favorites to determine the winners. The Scout Award is named in honor of the main character of Booksource’s most popular title, To Kill a Mockingbird. Read more about the awards here.