A Sky Full of Stars

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
A Sky Full of Stars Book Poster Image
Exciting conclusion to teen's saga in 1955 Mississippi.

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age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story's set at the beginning of the civil rights era, and there's lots of you-are-there detail as narrator Rose is caught up in those events. Also, there's a lot of history that'll be new to many readers, such as the work of former slave Frederick Douglass, the town of Mound Bayou. Church and the Bible play a big role in Rose's world, and she often uses biblical references to describe what's going on.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about courage, determination, self-respect, kindness, respect for education and learning. Also don't judge people based on their appearance, the way they talk, their social status.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cheer-worthy Rose doesn't always do what she's told and will stretch the truth a lot with adults trying to keep her from learning or accomplishing something, but she has plenty of self-respect and is also kind to those even less fortunate than she is -- even when they're mean to her. Rose's aunt, who has left her drunken, abusive husband, advises Rose not to have children unless she has a good husband to support her. Seeing all this, Rose is determined to stay far away from that kind of trouble, and to make something of her life. Rose's BFF, Hallelujah, is a loyal friend and helps keep her eye on the possibilities of a good life. While some adults are racist, mean, and even murderous, others are kind and supportive.

Violence

Events in the background are a constant, frightening presence, including the murder of Emmett Till and the acquittal of his killers, as well as other, frequently deadly violence against black people. Rose's abusive grandmother beats Rose and other kids. The emotional violence is also a heavy load; e.g., the plantation owners threaten the whole family with eviction if anyone gets involved in civil rights activities.

Sex

Rose's slightly older cousin is pregnant with the child of the plantation owner's son.

Language

Racial slurs, especially the "N" word. A black character tells another, "Quit ack'n like a triflin' nigga," and calls another woman a "heffa." References to butts, outhouses, hell.

Consumerism

Occasional mentions of brand names that still exist, such as Buick, Joy. "For her dishes, Mrs. Robinson used a creamy, liquid soap, called Joy. The radio advertisement was right: my hands really did feel good immersed in Joy's lotion-soft suds, but that didn't mean I did the dishes 'with joy' as the radio announcer so proudly proclaimed I should."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A boy in Rose's class smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Sky Full of Stars is the conclusion of a two-part series that began with Midnight Without a Moon. Set in Mississippi at the dawn of the civil rights era, it stars 13-year-old Rose, who, with her brother, is being raised by her sharecropper grandparents after their mother fled north with her new husband. Rose has a lot to contend with, from family problems to historic forces. Vivid, mundane examples (like Rose wolfing down rich white ladies' discarded sandwiches instead of feeding them to the pigs like she's supposed to) make the era's racial injustices especially real as Rose learns about other worlds -- like college! -- and how she might get there. As some community members advocate violence, others hold with peaceful resistance, and others just try not to get killed, author Linda Williams Jackson presents the 21st century reader with lots to think about -- including how it feels to be a regular person caught up in world-changing events.

User Reviews

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Kid, 9 years old March 7, 2018

Everyone should read this book!

Linda Williams Jackson has managed to amaze me once again! I loved this book and it was definitely amazing. Books like this I always give 5 stars. Some of the l... Continue reading

What's the story?

As A SKY FULL OF STARS opens, it's 1955 in Stillwater, Mississippi, and 13-year-old Rose Lee Carter (Midnight Without a Moon) is wondering why she loved her home so much -- racists, abusive relatives, poverty, and all -- that she turned down her aunt's offer to take her in up North. Following the murder of Emmett Till and the acquittal of his killers, black people in the community fear for their lives as racist murderers become bolder, or find themselves faced with losing their jobs or homes if they have anything to do with civil rights. Against this backdrop, her rough-around-the-edges cousin, Shorty, advocates violence, while her BFF, Hallelujah, the preacher's son, holds with peaceful protest. Meanwhile, spoiled (and now pregnant) cousin Queen continues her spiteful ways, Rose's brutal grandmother loves rich white ladies and hates her own grandkids, and things are tough. But some adults -- Hallelujah's dad, a teacher, and others -- are kind, supportive, and there to show Rose a possible future very unlike her past.

Is it any good?

This exciting conclusion to the story of growing up amid the dangers, injustices, and surprising joys of 1955 Mississippi focuses on irresistible 13-year-old Rose Lee Carter. From the outside world to her own family, Rose has a lot of obstacles and challenges -- but she and her loved ones show courage, cleverness, and determination in looking out for one another. As she deals with history unfolding and daily mundane events, Rose's spirit shines throughout:

"If Ma Pearl wanted to work someone, she should have taken Queen out of school. She wouldn't be allowed to finish anyway once folks noticed that she was in the family way. Of course, even though Ma Pearl claimed a seventh grade education was more than I needed, she herself knew that finishing high school was the better option for any Negro who had the opportunity. This is why she was trying her best to keep her favorite grandchild -- Queen -- in school, and her least favorite grandchild -- me -- out."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the challenges and dangers of the civil rights era as portrayed in A Sky Full of Stars. How do you think things have changed since that time? And how have they stayed the same?

  • Did you know about people like Frederick Douglass and Nat Turner, or places like Mound Bayou, before you read A Sky Full of Stars? Does reading about them here make you want to learn more?

  • Do you know kids whose parents favor some of their children over others? How does it make them feel, whether they're the favored ones or the not-so-favored ones? How do they cope?

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