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The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Review

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

From debut author David Barclay Moore comes THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET, a beautiful, heartbreaking journey through one boy's grief and path to hope.

Christmas is rapidly approaching in Harlem, but 12-year-old Lolly Rachpaul is not excited. Lolly has recently lost his older brother, and life is no longer as vibrant and colorful as it once seemed.

For years, Lolly has been nearly obsessed with his favorite hobby: building Lego kits. His room is covered in model airplanes, buildings and cars --- all built perfectly based on the included directions. Although Lolly finds great comfort in these projects, he has never actually created anything on his own, a fact that many young readers will likely identify with.

One night, Lolly's mother's girlfriend comes in with two giant, nearly overflowing bags of Legos. For the first time ever, Lolly must tap into his own imagination to create something that is wholly his own. With the encouragement from his family and friends, Lolly begins building a mini-city.

"Moore's ability to bring his setting to life is masterful, and he wastes not one word on his descriptions....What truly sets THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET apart from its peers, however, is the diversity of its characters."

Outside of building his magnum opis, Lolly lives a normal 12-year-old's life. He goes to school, plays videogames with his best friend, Vega, annoys his mother and attends an after-school program meant to keep him out of trouble. As Lolly walks readers through the streets of Harlem, we learn about the invisible, but very real borders of different gangs, neighborhoods and class divisions. Early on, Lolly is chased by two boys who clearly intend to rob him, but once he crosses into his neighborhood, he is safe. Slowly, we also begin to learn about his brother and how he was killed at such a young age.

Unable to vent his frustrations about his brother's death and his grief, Lolly immerses himself in building his city. When he acts out in his after-school program, he is given special permission to build in a spare room, which attracts the attention of an oafish girl who is often bullied by her peers.

Moore's ability to bring his setting to life is masterful, and he wastes not one word on his descriptions. His writing is clean and crisp, but nearly passes into the realm of poetry on more than one occasion. Lolly Rachpaul is one of the most believable young characters I have ever read --- his motivations, even when they are flawed, are understandable, and although he is wise and thoughftul, he remains a child at all times, a quality that is missing from many other contemporary works.

What truly sets THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET apart from its peers, however, is the diversity of its characters. Lolly is African-American, his mother is a lesbian, his best friend is Hispanic, and by the end of the book, he has befriended a girl who is different from her classmates on nearly all counts. With such a broad cast of characters, it may seem as though Moore is throwing in his creations willy-nilly, but I can assure you that that is not the case. I said before that Moore doesn't waste one single word in this book, and that same sentiment rings true for his characters. They are all expertly-crafted and developed, and it was a joy to meet each one.

Moore is definitely a rising star in middle-grade literature. He nailed every aspect of this novel, and my one complaint is that I was not yet ready to part with Lolly and the other colorful characters who call his part of Harlem home. Expect great things from this fantastic talent.

Reviewed by Derek Lipton on September 29, 2017

The Stars Beneath Our Feet
by David Barclay Moore

  • Publication Date: September 19, 2017
  • Genres: Children's 10+, Fiction, Friendship
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1524701246
  • ISBN-13: 9781524701246