2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup: Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Stella by Starlight is an excellent work of historical fiction for middle graders. Set in 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina, it tells Stella’s experiences growing up in the segregated South. Recent Ku Klux Klan activity in the area both frightens and challenges the African American community, but it doesn’t keep Stella’s father and two other men from registering to vote, despite the obstacles and threats they face. The support for the community supports and augments the courage of these men.

Stella is also struggling with a challenge of her own. She feels she is a poor writer who needs lots of practice, but the pieces she writes for her teacher and self-published newsletter show otherwise, and middle graders will pick up on that right away. Draper has once again given readers the gift of an engaging and meaty story, and one that is expertly told.

Now, a little about the book covers:

The cover above was the one for the original release of the book in January 2015.


The cover to the left is the one used by Scholastic for both hardcover and paperback copies of the book. To me, Stella looks like a modern girl, not one from the 1930s. In fact, there is nothing about this cover that leads me to believe this is a work of historical fiction.

I know that covers are changed for a variety of reasons, but I wonder about Scholastic’s choice here and can’t find any information about it (not that cover choices are widely discussed by publishers). It is certainly an attractive cover, but one that conveys much less of the story and setting than the original, with its powerful burning cross image. Perhaps Scholastic felt young readers might be more inclined to pick up a book with a more “realistic fiction” feel to the cover.  Perhaps the burning cross was the motivation for the change. Whatever the reason, I have to say that I much prefer the original cover, and the more I think about it the more I wish I had made sure to purchase all of my copies with that cover. I will make this a “teachable moment” for myself and try to consider variations of book covers when making purchasing decisions in the future.

Anyone else have an example to share?


2 thoughts on “2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup: Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

  1. We used to discuss the ACAB award – Awful Cover Awesome Book.

    I agree that the original cover represents the book so much more accurately, but I’m guessing Scholastic went for kid appeal.

    1. Yep, I have done ACAB book talks before, too. And now at Books and Bites our November theme is almost always Talking Turkeys–includes awful covers, weird titles, and books that for some reason just don’t circ well.

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