The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

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THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET
Written by David Barclay Moore
(Random House BYR; $16.99, Ages 10 and up)

 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore cover image

 

Starred Reviews: Bulletin, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, VOYA

The Stars Beneath Our Feet  by David Barclay Moore introduces us to Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul, a twelve-year-old boy reeling from his older brother’s recent murder. Lolly almost thinks it’s a joke, that Jermaine will reappear and everything will be fine. However, the heaviness in Lolly’s chest makes him realize life is unfair: “it’s all about borders. And territories. And crews.”

For years, Lolly built Legos per the box’s instructions because they provided relief from the real world. When Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend begins giving him garbage bags full of Legos, it unleashes his imagination but their apartment isn’t big enough for his artistic endeavor. At his community center after-school program, Lolly finds the storage room a peaceful retreat where he can build alone, forgetting about everything else until he must share his space and blocks with a quiet girl the kids call Big Rose.

When Rose does speak, she repeats comforting words to herself: “Your mama, your daddy—they were buried under the ground, but they’re stars now, girl, stars beneath our feet.” Her seemingly obscure statements affect Lolly. Their unlikely friendship evolves to include an understanding of shared pain. In the Harlem projects, death is too commonplace.

Throughout the book, Lolly and his best friend, Vega, feel pressure to join a gang for protection; yet, that’s what led to Jermaine’s death. Lolly wavers between fear, anger, and acceptance of what seems to be his only path. The question of how to fit in pulls Vega away as they search for their own answers, boys on their way to becoming men.

Moore’s book reveals our world’s imperfections and complications. Yet, hope shines through. We relate to Lolly’s conflicting emotions and understand his worries about the future. We all must decide how to best live our lives. The Stars Beneath Our Feet shares a glimpse of one boy’s journey.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

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Gotta Love a Mystery

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Middle grade readers love to solve mysteries, and after reading The Seals That Wouldn’t Swim ($5.95 Stone Arch Books, ages 9 and up) one of several books in the Field Trip Mysteries Series, I know I love to solve them too. In this story, a 6th grade science class takes a trip to an aquarium to observe the marine life. But not long after they arrive, they discover the seals at that aquarium are sluggish, and the marine animal show has been cancelled. Just as the students try to figure out why the seals are so sleepy, those students learn that the seals are now missing from the aquarium. Where can they be? Who could be involved in their disappearance?  With some methodical thinking and clever detective work, can they solve the mystery?

What I like about this book, written by Steve Brezenoff and illustrated by Marcos Calo, is that it is easy to understand, yet it really makes the reader pay attention to the details and think outside the box. The solution is not obvious, so I found myself going back to previous pages to check the facts to try to figure out who was responsible for the missing seals. The students in the story explain in detail how they reached their conclusions, which really helps kids at this age develop their reasoning skills. In the back of the book is a detective’s notebook with more information for further detective work. The Field Trip Mysteries Series would make a great collection for any middle grade reader who enjoys a good whodunnit. These are the kind of stories kids have fun reading and solving together.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade