The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ailey Lane is excited to audition for his school’s production of “The Wiz.” He wants to play the Scarecrow. However, when he gets on-stage for his try-out, he freezes. Not one step or song lyric remains in his head. So, he goes home in humiliation.
That’s when his grandfather tells him a story about how he, too, had frozen when he had a chance to audition. He was given a pair of tap shoes by Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and told to come with them at a certain time — and he chickened out. Benjamin tells Ailey where the shoes are hidden, and explains his shame.
Well, Ailey goes and puts on the shoes — and winds up back in 1930s Harlem, where he meets his grandfather as a young boy. This is where the history comes in, as we get a look at life for African Americans during the time period.
Almost all of the characters are either named after or actually are important Black figures from the arts and sciences (there is a listing at the back of the book). We get to see them as young people, for the most part, and read about their struggles, challenges, and triumphs through Ailey’s eyes.
Of course, one of Ailey’s greatest concerns is getting home — so we also see what he goes through as a kid out of place and time.
Time-slip historical fiction is, I think, a great way to help modern people relate to history. It puts contemporary concerns and mores in conflict with those of the past, and shows how we’ve grown and changed. This book adds the importance of confidence and kindness to the lessons.
Highly recommended for the 12 and up set.
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