Mr. Reischer, my 5th grade ELA teacher and collaborator, got five or six copies of Sharon Draper's Stella by Starlight for me last Spring with his Scholastic points. I can't believe they sat in the library untouched. No longer! This will definitely be on my Newbery 2016 list.
Stella lives in Bumblebee, North Carolina in the 1930s. She goes to school with her younger brother in a one room school house. Shoes are a luxury. She comes from a good family and strong community. This is Stella's story. It's about finding out who she is during a time when the Klan is present and the black men in her community are about to take advantage of their right to vote for the first time. It's a story of a young girl who wants to be a better writer and who is given the advice to "Find your family. Find your destiny. Find your wings." (p. 94) Then when Stella's dad and two other men in town try and register to vote, Papa says out loud for Stella to hear, "What's the sense of living if you're ashamed of yourself?" (p. 112) and later, when it could be dangerous to vote that he is "...standing up for all of us. If I don't stand up, I feel like I'm crouching low. And I ain't gonna feel low no more." (p. 228) Like her Papa, Stella stands strong in daylight and by the starlight, making us all crave more when it is over.
It took me a day to read Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle. This is a lovely memoir in verse about the author's life from birth till her teens. Her mother is from the beautiful island of Cuba and her father is American. They live in America but travel to Cuba up until the Cuban Missile Crisis. The book opened up my mind and heart to the people of Cuba, their families and how life was in the early-mid 1960s. It gave me a lot to think about, especially now since we are re-opening our doors to Cuba and it is in the news so often.
My favorite poem in the book is on page 54. Here is an excerpt:
When I climb a tree, I take a book with me.
When I walk home from school, I carry
my own poems, inside my mind,
where no one else
can reach the words
that are entirely
Although I would love to have this on my 5th grade Newbery list, I think the content is a little mature. But I will surely be watching out how it does during the Awards. The copy I borrowed from the library actually has a "YA" sticker on the spine.