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Review of The Stars Beneath Our Feet

The Stars Beneath Our Feet
by David Barclay Moore
Middle School     Knopf     295 pp.
9/17     978-1-5247-0124-6     $16.99
Library ed. 978-1-5247-0125-3     $19.99
e-book ed. 978-1-5247-0126-0     $10.99
Twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul loves his Harlem neighborhood, that “big glowing crossword puzzle” bisected by 125th Street. (“If Harlem was a human body, then 125th would be its pumping heart, throbbing all the time.”) But Lolly’s life isn’t going well. His father has left, he’s being threatened by Harp and Gully of the East Side crew, and his older brother Jermaine is dead — he became a “street pharmacist” and was shot and killed. What do you do when your world turns upside down? Lolly builds another world, a LEGO world, constantly growing and evolving. And when it overtakes the apartment in the St. Nicholas Houses he shares with his mother and her girlfriend Yvonne, he builds it during afterschool at the community center instead. There he slowly befriends Big Rose, an outcast, and is supported by program director Mr. Ali, who talks to him about Jermaine. Debut author Moore’s affection for his characters and his Harlem setting is palpable, and Lolly’s first-person point of view conveys his inner turmoil, especially effective when he and his friend Vega decide to take matters (and a gun) into their own hands to stop Harp and Gully’s harassment. The moral decision they must make is akin to Will’s in Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down (rev. 7/17). Though the conclusion is didactic, repeating a lesson more neatly embedded in the narrative twenty pages earlier, the novel will be powerful and memorable for a wide audience.
From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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