The Stars Beneath Our Feet
The Stars Beneath Our Feet

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Annotation: Reeling from the death of his older brother in a gang-related shooting, a young boy in Harlem uses a project--building a fantastical Lego city at the community center--as a bridge to a new and better world.
Catalog Number: #148775
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 294 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-524-70124-6 Perma-Bound: 0-605-99172-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-524-70124-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-99172-9
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Realistic problems and vivid depictions of family and city life make this middle-grade debut stand out. Twelve-year-old Wallace "Lolly" Rachpaul lives in the St. Nick projects at 127th street in Harlem, New York. Wallace copes with the death of his older brother, Jermaine, due to "crew" violence, by making masterpieces with the LEGOs his mom's girlfriend, Yvonne, brings him. He likes hanging out with his best friend Vega, and when he makes his own world with LEGOs and creates a game around it after school with a new friend Rose, things seem to be looking up. But when crew members interested in recruiting Wallace start following him around, and his friend Vega thinks about joining, Wallace must confront his grief and the events that led up to his brother's death. A Sundance Screenwriters Lab finalist, Moore imbues his first novel with a strong voice and includes a diverse cast. Fans of Jason Reynolds' When I Was the Greatest (2014) will enjoy this moving and poignant novel.
Horn Book
Twelve-year-old Lolly's father has left, his older brother was shot and killed, and he's being threatened by the East Side crew. His world turned upside down, Lolly builds another world from LEGOs at the community center, where new friends support him. Debut author Moore's affection for these characters and the Harlem setting is palpable, and Lolly's first-person point of view conveys his inner turmoil.
Publishers Weekly
Wallace -Lolly- Rachpaul, 12, is still reeling from the murder of his older brother, Jermaine. The only thing that makes him feel better is building with Legos, and after his mother-s girlfriend, Yvonne, gives him two trash bags full of loose Legos for Christmas, he lets his imagination soar. When Lolly-s creation outgrows his West Indian family-s Harlem apartment, he moves it to the rec center. Encouraged by the facility-s director, Mr. Ali, Lolly and Big Rose, a girl with autism, begin to build -the alien metropolis of Harmonee.- Outside the safety of the rec center, life for Lolly and his best friend Vega is getting more complicated. Two older boys, Harp and Gully, are hassling them, and their menacing presence escalates into an act of violence. Debut author Moore delivers a realistic and at times brutal portrait of life for young people of color who are living on the edge of poverty. At the same time, Moore infuses the story with hope and aspiration, giving Lolly the chance to find salvation through creativity. Ages 10-up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Multicultural Harlem lives again in this daringly diverse tale of growing up against the odds and the imaginative, healing possibilities that we can create through the choices we make. Moore turns his back on the newly whitewashed Harlem, taking readers to the St. Nick projects to meet brown-skinned West Indian (Trini, to be exact) Wallace "Lolly" Rachpaul, full of contradiction and agency. Moore surrounds Lolly with a grand ensemble of characters that echo the ample cross sections and cultural milieus of the big city. There's Lolly's mother, who has embraced her queer sexuality with toy-store security guard Yvonne, who becomes a secondary caregiver after the tragic loss of Lolly's older brother, Jermaine to the drug-hustling crew underworld of Harlem. Lolly hopes that he and his dark-skinned Dominican best friend, Vega, can resist its allure. Mr. Ali is the veteran social worker with marginal resources and a big heart, refashioning his little basement space to unravel the traumas and difficult choices that could lead astray the black and brown youth he serves. And don't forget Big Rose (who doesn't like to be called Big). Then there are Lolly's Legos, which, block by block, help him imagine a healthy future. These characters are vibrantly alive, reconstituting the realness that is needed to bring diverse, complicated stories to the forefront of our shelves. A debut that serves as a powerful instructive for writing from and reading the intersections—125th Street-size intersections for all readers to enjoy. (Fiction. 10-14)
Voice of Youth Advocates
Narrator Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul lives in Harlem and in Harmonee, the Lego city he constructs to cope with the violent death of his older brother. At twelve years old, Lolly and best friend Vega are next in line for gang recruiting, though Lolly prefers Legos and Vega prefers his violin. Lolly’s parents are estranged, and while the moms’ lesbianism is no big deal, dad’s emotional distance and sporadic physical presence are. When the moms’ friend Yvonne starts bringing trash bags full of discarded Legos from her job, Harmonee outgrows their tiny apartment. Ms. Jenna and Mr. Ali give it a temporary home at the after-school program, but the favor comes with a fellow builder: autistic Big Rose. While Lolly builds from his imagination, Rose is a gifted literalist, reconstructing buildings from a book on New York architecture. The two become friends, visiting buildings from the book they both enjoy. When Vega gets a gun, however, Lolly must figure out how to be a friend to both. Moore’s work with the Harlem Children’s Zone and Quality Services for the Autism Community serve him well in creating this debut, slice-of-life narrative with an authentic adolescent voice and strong adult supports, all of whom are true to their urban world. Though this may be a tough sell to teen readers who prefer more action, educators will be grateful for a well-written male counterpoint to Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin Random House, 2014/VOYA October 2014). It will find a home in classrooms and book clubs, especially where diverse books are earning a well-deserved place on the shelf.—Donna L Phillips.
Word Count: 58,662
Reading Level: 4.4
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.4 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 191434 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.7 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q71805
Lexile: 650L
Guided Reading Level: Z+
Fountas & Pinnell: Z+

1

What I couldn't get out of my skull was the thought of their rough, grimy hands all over my clean sneaks. What I couldn't get out of my heart was this joy-grabbing stone I felt there. Partly because of these two thugs trailing me now, but more because I knew Jermaine wouldn't be here to protect my neck this time.

He would never, ever be coming home.

My daddy, Benny Rachpaul, had bought me these sneakers when I turned twelve over the summer. I wasn't about to let two older boys strolling down 125th Street snatch them off me.

Besides me being humiliated by it, my mother would whup my butt if she knew I had let some dudes swipe my shoes. And then, when he found out, Daddy Rachpaul would drive over and whup me again.

I flipped up the collar of my blue parka and continued down 125th Street, but rushed my step a little bit more. I heard the two boys following me quicken their pace. Their footsteps behind me crunched on the ice that much faster. My heart was beating faster too.

The streets around me were cheery, though. Harlem's main street was laid out tonight with bright lights, and Christmas tunes played constant on loudspeakers. I guess to put you more in the Christmas spirit.

But for me, there was nothing, and I mean nothing, that would ever make me feel Christmassy again. I was through with it.

Done.

Done with all of the Christmas music, wreaths, ornaments and happy holiday shoppers. I had decided weeks ago that I would never be happy again.

Because it wasn't fair.

Wasn't fair to get robbed of somebody I thought would be there for the rest of my life. Someone who was supposed to spend this Christmas with me, plus lots more Christmases!

It also wasn't fair that I couldn't even walk down 125th Street without being harassed. Rushing along down the sidewalk, I glanced up at all the men who were passing. All of them older and most of them Black like me. I was the youngest one out here and one of the few who felt scared to walk down this street.

For us young brothers, taking a stroll down here, even on Christmas Eve, was not relaxing at all. I felt like I had put my life on the line, straight up.

All of these old dudes lived in a different world from me.

I crossed the street and dipped into a gift shop on the corner. Grinning wide smiles, my two "buddies" waited for me outside, one of them sitting down on a fire hydrant and wiggling his fingers at me like I was a little infant in a stroller.

I sucked my teeth and turned toward the salesclerk.

"Happy holidays, my young man," the clerk said. "Help you find something?" For a minute, his eyes peeped outside at the two boys waiting. He frowned at them.

I watched them leave and sighed with relief. The clerk cocked his bald head to one side.

"I need a excellent Christmas gift," I said. "One for my mother, and another one for her, um, friend. And for my father. But I don't have much money."

"Last-minute shoppers," he said, smiling at me. "Come on. We'll get you straightened up. You're lucky we're open this late on Christmas Eve--125th Street is shutting down." 

 ###

125th is a big street that runs from the East River on the east side of Manhattan to the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan. The street cuts right through the neighborhood of Harlem and is where most of the main stores and shops and businesses are. The Apollo Theater, the Adam Clayton Powell Building and the Studio Museum are all lined up along 1-2-5. If Harlem was a human body, then 125th would be its pumping heart, throbbing all the time.

I don't know what the neighborhood's brain would be.

As I flew back toward home, I suddenly realized how heavy the gifts were that I had just bought in that shop. Ma and Yvonne would both be happy, I hoped. And Daddy, with his gift too.

But the bag handle cut into my fingers.

And just as I switched the plastic shopping bag to my other hand, I saw them. Across the wide blacktopped, slushy street, those two older boys had caught sight of me again. I started to step even faster down 125th Street, toward St. Nick, hoping I could make it to the border before they could catch me.

Where I live, it's all about borders.

And territories.

And crews.

When you're a little kid in Harlem, you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything as long as you're careful. But when you start to get old--about my age, twelve--things start to change.

You can't go everywhere.

You got to start worrying about crews. Crews are like cliques. Groups of mostly boys, and sometimes females, who hang out together. Mostly for fun, but for protection too.

And each crew got its territory in their neighborhood. And if you ain't from that hood, or a member of that set, you need to stay out.

When I was young, I used to have a friend over on East 127th Street. His name was Cody. We used to play boxball and dodgeball on East 127th all the time, even though I lived on the West Side.

Nowadays when I see Cody and he's with his crew, we don't talk at all. He just glares at me like I'm about to get jumped. He does it because we live in different places and we're old now.

That's how crews work.

So tonight, when I finally turned off of 125th and onto Eighth Av', the boys following me had to stop right there. There wasn't no real roadblock set up for them. If they had really wanted to, they could'a kept on following me, right up the block and straight into St. Nick projects.

But if they'd done that, somebody would'a jumped them boys.

Or worse.

 ### 

"Yo, whattup, Lolly," Concrete said to me when I walked up the path into St. Nick. We slapped hands. "Lolly Rachpaul," he said again.

"Hey, 'Crete," I said to him. "How Day-Day?"

"He fine," Concrete said. "Thanks for asking. How your moms?"

"She fine," I said. "Merry Christmas!"

"Yo, man, I don't celebrate White Jesus Day no more!" he shouted. "This is the holiday of the Oppressor."

Concrete, about thirty, was ten years older than what Jermaine would'a been. 'Crete was what we called him. I didn't even know what his real name was, and he probably didn't know that my real name wasn't Lolly, which is what everybody called me.

"Sorry, man," I told him.

'Crete didn't even live in St. Nick, but he was always there, hanging around the big courtyard at its center. As far back as I remember, he had always been in that courtyard, peddling weed. He was a dealer, or "street pharmacist."

The place where I lived, the St. Nicholas Houses--otherwise known as the projects--was like a big family. Just like in a real family, you got some "relatives" you're cool with and others you can't stand, or who act up all the time.

St. Nick Houses was just like that.

It was home.

I got to my building, where I lived with my moms, walked in through the broken door and took the steps, because our elevator was jacked up too--the city didn't never fix nothing.

Seven flights of stairs!

About half the way up, the stairwell got all dark. The lights on this floor had burnt out, meaning I had to be careful climbing stairs in the gloominess.

Being in the dark forced my brain to concentrate more on the smell, which was mostly laid-over pee. You got used to it, though, the pee smell.

Just then, I raised one foot up and hit something. Something big and lumpy. The big lump jumped and clubbed my leg.

I stumbled back and almost tripped down the stairs, until I realized the big lump was Moses. Who was a old drunk man. When it was real cold outside, like it was tonight, he sometimes slept in the stairs.

Until the kids ran him out of here.

Or the cops.

"Merry Christmas, old drunk," I said to him.

"Show respect, boy!" he shouted after me. "I ain't no drunk. I only booze it up twice a year--"

"Yeah, I know, Moses: when it's your birthday and when it's not your birthday."

His jokes, I'd heard them all before.

Moses cackled like a old witch in the darkness while I continued climbing stairs.



Excerpted from The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

"The right story at the right time. . . . It’s not just a narrative; it’s an experience. It’s the novel we’ve been waiting for." —The New York Times

A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity.

** WINNER OF THE CORETTA SCOTT KING JOHN STEPTOE AWARD FOR NEW TALENT! **

MICHAEL B. JORDAN TO DIRECT MOVIE ADAPTATION!

SIX STARRED REVIEWS!

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
 
His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world. 
 
David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.
 
MORE PRAISE FOR THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET:


A New York Times Notable Book
A Time Magazine Top 10 Children's Books of the Year
A Boston Globe Best Children's Book of the Year
A Publisher's Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year
A YALSA Quick Pick
An ALA Notable Book

A fast and furious read in which we meet some amazing people, people that stay with us. David Barclay Moore is an exciting new voice. We definitely haven’t heard the last of his brilliance.” —Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery Honor and National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming

The Stars Beneath Our Feet is about the weight of the world on the back of a child, and the creative tools necessary to alleviate that pressure. I found myself rooting for Lolly, and you will too.” —Jason Reynolds, Coretta Scott King Honor Winner for As Brave As You


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