Sharon M Draper
Simon and Schuster Australia
Published: January 2015
Reviewed by Debbie Berger
Set in 1932, Stella lives in North Carolina at the peak of the Klu Klux Klan activity. Stella is a black 11 year old girl who, by accident, witnesses Klu Klux Klan members burning a cross at night. The community is scared that this is happening in their backyard but they will not allow it to ruin their lives. When Stella’s father and two other brave men enrol to vote, which was almost unheard of, they are warned to ‘look out for trouble because it’s coming’. Disaster strikes for one of the families in town but their spirit can’t be broken by this terrible racism and injustice. True community spirit shines through as everyone pitches in to help. Everyone that is, except the fire brigade, who are ‘too busy to attend’, because a black families home is burning to the ground.
This is a great story of a brave girl who teaches us to believe that everyone should have the same rights and to be positive no matter what you are faced with. Stella is very likable, as are her family members, especially her father, who treats Stella with much respect; and her mother, who is proud of her brave and intelligent daughter.
It is a real eye opener about how everyday black families were treated in the 1930s and during the height of segregation. The author does a wonderful job of weaving history through this fictional story. Personally, after I finished reading this I was intrigued as to how the Klu Klux Klan lost their power over time and how many brave people had to stand up for equal rights. I alternated between feeling sad and angry that this time in history existed.
This book is suitable for upper primary and middle school students who enjoy reading historical fiction. It is an important story for all to read to gain a greater understanding of civil rights.