ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Stella the Rejected Star” by Marc McCormack

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Stella wasn’t like all the other stars in the skies above Bethlehem. She was a four-pointed star in a five-pointed world, and the other stars teased her because of it. Then one day, the stars heard an important event was about to happen-and God would choose one star to play a crucial role.

Could that star be Stella? Not if the other stars get their way, and they will do anything to stop her!

Stella’s story shows us that often the ones considered different in the world are the ones who shine the brightest through their faith, hope, and love.

Stella the Rejected Star was written by Marc McCormack when he was eleven. Almost forty years later, Stella’s story has turned out to be his son Brady’s story. Brady, who is blind and nonverbal with autism, navigates his way through the world as both a star who has sometimes been rejected, and one of the brightest-shining ones.

Set against the first Nativity, Stella the Rejected Star is more than a Christmas story and is for everyone, especially those young readers with four points in a five-pointed world.

Stella’s story is the perfect one to teach children the importance of empathy and acceptance. If your child loves Christmas and stars, even mischievous ones, they will love Stella the Rejected Star!

Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to autism-related charities.

REVIEW:

Once upon a time ….

The first time I read Stella the Rejected Star, I found myself humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” aloud to myself. There are definitely some parallels between the stories of Rudolph and Stella––bullying by one’s peers, physical difference as a subject to be grappled with, a sort of “inspecting of the troops” or competition to guide an important process, and a message involving the triumph of the innocent over the cruel––and I think this parallel provides a unique and interesting starting point for discussions between parents (or grandparents, or caregivers) and young children.

How are these stories similar? It certainly doesn’t hurt that both Rudolph and Stella literally as well as metaphorically shine brighter than their peers, or that when Stella and Rudolph are both brought to the attention of God and Santa respectively, they take the high road and refrain from punishing their peers, even though they have acquired the power to do so.

(A quick aside: I still feel uncomfortable about having put Santa into the same sentence as God, particularly since I grew up in a household where the secularization of Christmas was a regular discussion. Whatever your or my personal stances might be on this particular depiction of the divine, I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’re all aware that the Nativity story occupies a sacred and beloved space in many households around the world, and I definitely do not want to imply I do not take the faiths of my friends, family, and neighbors seriously. I do think it’s important to specify that this book resonates specifically with mainstream Christianity as experienced in America, to prevent confusion.)

How are these stories different? Well, we’ve established that God is not Santa (and vice versa). And while Rudolph’s mission is one of spreading good cheer, Stella’s is to lead the shepherds and wise men to the newborn Jesus. McCormack also distinguishes his story with an added twist: in Stella the Rejected Star, faithfulness magnifies a star’s light, while the bully stars discover that their unkindness leads to a loss of this same light. Not only does this provide an opportunity to talk about bad behavior and bullying with kids, but it also introduces the concept of faithfulness and the relationship between faithfulness and behavior.

I find it incredible that an 11-year-old wrote this story, but that’s the background: McCormick wrote it as a boy and published it in honor of his son Brady, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That Brady was himself was a preemie and only surviving twin underscores the importance of this story, both to McCormick, and to those who learn from his picture book. Beyond the value of teaching children to empathize with and be kind to those who stand out for their differences, there is another moral to this story. Hardship, McCormick hints, provides a backdrop against which both heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful stories can play out. All of this in 32 pages, half of them Seth A. Thompson’s colorful and evocative illustrations. I can’t imagine a better way for families of faith to finish out 2020 than with a story of hope, faith, and maintaining joy through hard times.

You can find another detailed review of Stella the Rejected Star on the Readers’ Favorite website, reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. It is encouraging to me personally that other highly-rated reviewers have begun to pick up on McCormack’s wonderful story.

IN SUMMARY:

Stella the Rejected Star is a sweet and wholesome picture book for those looking to re-invest the holiday season with the magic of love and kindness present in the Nativity story. Marc McCormack’s story and Seth A. Thompson’s illustrations combine to create what will quickly become a modern classic for English-speaking Christian families.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Stella the Rejected Star wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

There are several more children’s books in my TBR pile for me to get through before the end of 2020, with my next review scheduled for the afternoon of January 1st. I can’t imagine a better way to start off a new year than with a good book!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Saturday Book Review: “More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of CharlesAshbacherReviews:

moreheaven

More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special

by Dr. Jo Anne White

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478765479

Synopsis:

A Top 10 Amazon Best-Seller in 3 Categories! Autism – Special Needs – Children’s Health

Based on a true story, More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special about six children with autism and special needs and their teacher who gives them a chance at learning and life. Despite challenges and a lack of support, Miss Tina Randolph’s commitment to reach, teach, and inspire these children is unwavering.

By accepting their uniqueness and participating in their private fantasy world, while at the same time engaging them in the real world, she eventually succeeds. Tina, her teacher’s aide, Kaye, and the children mount a tireless, daily battle to shift the tide toward the acceptance of people who are different.

The experiment, begun in chaotic, uncharted waters, bridges the gap of understanding and paves the way for the inclusionary practices of education and society’s acceptance of children and adults with special needs. This is a road that continues to need paving, making the messages in More Heaven: Because Every Child Is Special equally relevant today.

The book evolved from an experiment in the Philadelphia school system in the late 1970’s in response to the 1975 Education for the Handicapped Act, ruling that public schools in the US educate all children with disabilities, despite their severity.

Previously, many of these special needs children were kept at home-isolated and denied access to the mainstream. More Heaven is a powerful story of compassion, determination, disappointment, triumph, and love.

More Heaven reaches in from the heart outward to all children; they will be heard!

Critique:

Five out of five stars

This is a work of fiction based on actual events and it is clear to the reader that it is far more actual than fiction. It is the story of a special needs teacher and her adventures and struggles in educating six children that have a lot of needs.

Given that thirteen years of daily education (K-12) is necessary to prepare the modern child to function in society, progress is almost always measured in small increments. That is even more the case with these children, in general they are in this class because nothing else has worked and their education level is much lower than their chronological age. Furthermore, they are not mentally challenged, underneath their behavior problems there is a great deal of intelligence and capability.

It is a story of struggle, frustration and very slow triumph as these children are gradually coaxed out of their self-imposed (and often defensive) bubbles. As you read this account it is clear how expensive the education of these children is and how important it is that it be attempted. For if they are not drawn out of their shells at a young age, it seems clear that they will never emerge. Leaving long-term institutionalization as the only alternative, which would be far more expensive.

reviewed by Charles Ashbacher ]

Here’s what other reviewers are saying:

 

“MORE HEAVEN: Because Every Child is Special” by Dr. Jo Anne White is a powerful book that is well written and heartfelt. Based on a pioneer teacher’s experience of working with children with autism and special needs, it offers rare insight into the minds and hearts of these children. It gives us an opportunity to enter into their inner world, experiencing their challenges and accomplishments. One caring teacher makes a difference in the lives of her students by never giving up and offering them more than education. Her unwavering hope, acceptance and love remain constant and through this constancy, their world enlarges and they expand into learning and trust.”

– Amazon Reviewer Dr. Joe Rubino

A heart-opening look at breakthrough work with autistic children. In these vivid stories drawn from the author’s journals, we step into the room with Dr. White: “When I look again, Eva’s outstretched on the floor, blankly staring out of a glazed smile. What magical incantations do I recite to break the spell?” And later: “Something big is taking place here—real play, non-verbal communication, one-on-one contact, and I marvel at all of it while reminding myself this is a beginning.”

Through the writer’s keen observing eye, we see so much of what is unique about each of six children—their agonies, their victories. “There are no promises though; we live in the moment here.” We come to share the author’s loving wish to nurture the children, and that is a very great thing.

– Amazon Reviewer Fran Shaw, Ph.D.

Book Trailer:


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