Welcome to the second installment of Brightly’s Book Club for Kids, where we encourage kids to read together, explore important topics through books, and have some fun! The idea of a book club is that everyone in the group reads the same book and then gathers together to discuss it and take part in book-themed activities. It’s a great way to get kids together and encourage a lifelong passion for books in your children. Now on to this month’s pick!
This Month’s Selection
Best For: Kids ages 8 – 12.
What It’s About: Stella is an 11-year-old African-American girl growing up in the segregated South. When she and her brother witness a Ku Klux Klan meeting, her family and community rally together. She admires her father’s courage in registering to vote and discovers her own courage as she faces learning challenges, racism, and life-threatening danger to her loved ones.
Major Themes: Family, community, African-American history, power of the human spirit, racism, civil rights, kindness, and fairness.
Why We Picked It: Stella by Starlight is a beautiful narrative based on the life of the author’s own grandmother. We love Stella’s introspection and courage as well as the artful embedding of important history throughout Stella’s story.
A Word of Caution for Sensitive Readers: The story depicts and alludes to ugly acts of racism, including the beating of a child, lynching, and arson. Key characters also endure great danger and near-death experiences.
Suggestions for Younger Readers: If your kids are too young to read Stella by Starlight, try these picture books:
What You’ll Need for Book Club
You’ll need the book, pencils, paper, Southern food, decorations, and craft supplies.
The community potluck for Spoon Man included many classic Southern dishes. Make some (or all!) for your book club feast.
- Hang newspapers on the walls and spread them on the table for a tablecloth.
- Stella’s dad is excited to vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt. Who would you like to see become president? Make campaign posters for your ideal candidate to decorate your home!
- Make a ballot box for a centerpiece.
The Book Club Discussion
We know that discussing a book leads to deeper understanding of both the story and how the story’s themes affect our lives today. Use these discussion questions to guide you, or make up questions of your own. Consider empowering your children by letting them act as the discussion leaders. Remind them to set the guidelines for the book club: respect for all opinions and no interrupting when someone else is talking.
- Why is it important to Papa that he register to vote?
- Papa says, “Sometimes bravery is just doin’ what you gotta do.” What’s your definition of bravery? Who in this story is brave, and what makes you think so?
- Stella struggles with her writing and works hard to improve it. Why do you think she doesn’t give up? Share a time in your own life when you, like Stella, have had to be persistent to overcome a challenge.
- The schools in Stella’s town are segregated. What else in the story is segregated, either officially or unofficially?
- What do you think Spoon Man’s chicken and eagle story is really about? Is it a metaphor?
- Talk about a time you’ve experienced or observed racism. Is what Stella endured still happening today?
- Stella wonders if kids grow up to be like their parents. What does she decide? What do you think?
- It can be scary to stand up for what’s right. Have you ever had to stand up for what is right even though you feared the consequences?
- Can you think of all the occasions throughout the story when members of Stella’s community come together to support one another, both in good times and in bad? What does this tell you about the strength of her community?
- This book is based on the life of the author’s grandmother. If you could write the story of one of your relatives, whose story would it be, and what would it be about?
Kick It Up a Notch
Games and Activities:
- 20 Questions: One person picks one of the book’s characters. The rest of the group tries to guess the character by asking questions that can be answered only with “yes” or “no.” Example: “Is this person female?”
List of main characters:
- Why Vote?: On a piece of paper each person writes all the reasons for voting. When finished, all the players put their papers in the ballot box. Then everyone takes turns reading other people’s lists.
- Freedom Quilts: Make traditional African-American quilt patterns using colorful paper or cloth.
- Music Appreciation: Stella’s community rallies around songs of hope. Listen to some of the spirituals from the book, as well as more current current gospel music (examples below). See if you can notice the differences and similarities.
- Journals: Make blank books for your own moonlit writing.
What to Read Next
Read other books about civil rights and everyday heroes fighting for human rights.
Middle Grade Books
Upper Middle Grade and Young Adult Books
Let us know what you think of Stella by Starlight and share your own ideas for Book Club for Kids in the comments below!