The Magic in Changing Your Stars

Sterling. Apr. 2020. 304p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454934066.
Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Ailey is a dancer, all the way to his bones. But when he chokes at a school audition for The Wiz, he thinks he’s finished. Then his grandpa tells him something amazing: He was a tap dancer so talented that Bojangles himself gave him a special pair of shoes and a chance to audition—and Grampa choked, too. Ailey finds the shoes, tries them on, and is whisked back to 1939 Harlem where he might have the chance to change both Grampa’s life and his own. Ailey’s story may have elements of fantasy, but it reads like a work of realistic and historical fiction. The historical setting is well researched and immersive, making any reader feel that they, too, have plunged into 1930s Harlem. Parallels to The Wizard of Oz are unmistakable, but this is no simple retelling. Ailey and Grampa are their own heros, and Ailey’s quest to get home is filled with twists and turns, raps and tap dancing. A “Black Excellence List” at the end provides extra information about the famous people and places referenced in the book.
VERDICT A fast-paced story about family, bravery, and the arts, this story will have readers wanting to visit Harlem and tap alongside Ailey, Grampa, and Bojangles himself.

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