Book Review of The Star That Always Stays

Anna Rose Johnson’s THE STAR THAT ALWAYS STAYS is middle-grade fiction that so engrossed this old guy that I forgot it was supposed to be for young people. Johnson’s prose are very immersive and she keeps such a tight POV on the main character, Norvia, that the reader lives the story from the inside. I can certainly see why this book was recommended on ABC’s The Book Case podcast (discussed at the 43-min mark). @HolidayHouseBks

Norvia Nelson is a child of divorce in the early twentieth century when such a thing was a cause for shame. She is of Ojibwe heritage and conflicted by the adults in her life who are either proud of this or think it is something to be hidden. On top of all this, her mother has recently remarried and moved to a new town where Novia is starting high school. She deals with her unique problems while also struggling with the normal problems concerning someone her age: self-worth, popularity and an evolving personal sense of fairness and goodness. Johnson develops these issues so realistically that they brought to mind the way my own grandchildren of the same age are currently having the same struggles. A major source of the realistic feeling that comes across to the reader is Johnson’s mastery of characterization. Norvia’s world consists of a wide range of parents, grandparents, siblings (both biological and step), relatives, friends and adults in many roles. All of them come across as unique and interesting people that give the story a richness and depth missing in most fiction.

After I read the novel, I was fascinated, but not surprised, to learn in the Author’s Note that the character’s were draw from Ms. Johnson’s own family history from the time period. She also went to great length to get all the details from the time and place correct. It certainly added an unparalleled depth to the narrative. Another thing that added much to Norvia’s character was her love of books and her desire to be like the heroines in her favorites. Ojibwe stories were shared in flashbacks along with details in the main narrative from classics like Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, and Little Women. This novel is a loving homage to those stories from the past.

You can’t go wrong if you pick up this novel as a holiday gift for a middle-grade child in your life. In fact, it would also be a fantastic gift to yourself.

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