Genre: middle grade historical fiction
Length: 320 pages
Font: Scala OT
Setting: Bumblebee, North Carolina, 1932
Summary: Stella and her family are getting by just fine, even if the white folk have it a bit easier than they do. Then, out late one night, Stella sees a group of local Klansmen burning a cross. That makes the black community very nervous. Even so, Stella’s father goes with the preacher and Mr. Spencer to register to vote. The Klan retaliates by burning down the Spencer’s house. The community comes together, including some of the white members, to put out the fire and replace what was lost in the first. From that generosity, Stella gets a pair of shoes and a typewriter. She has stories in her head, but they have a hard time getting on the paper. As Stella and her mother are gathering some of last plants before winter, Stella’s mother gets bit by a poisonous snake. The white doctor refuses to help her, but luckily the black doctor is brought back from his conference in time to save her. The book ends with the annual Christmas pageant.
Final thoughts: I loved the book and thought it was perfect for the kids to learn a bit about why the Civil Rights movement happened. Stella and her family were subject to prejudice in almost every aspect of their lives – school, work, going into town, voting. Even so, they didn’t let themselves get discouraged and worked to do the best with what they had. There were time of joy, as when Spoonman came for a visit, and sorrow, as when Tony got beat up in town. The book showed a mix of experiences but ultimately put us in Stella’s life. With all the calamities she and her community experienced, you didn’t have to worry about the book being boring! It did end a bit abruptly for my taste, but the kids didn’t complain.
Title comes from: Stella did her best writing at night. It was also how she discovered the Klan was active again.
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #16 for the year, and a D in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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