THE MAGIC IN CHANGING YOUR STARS, by Leah Henderson, Sterling Children’s Books

Can you change your fate—and the fate of those you love—if you return to the past? Journey to 1939 Harlem in this time-travel adventure with an inspiring message about believing in yourself.
Eleven-year-old Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance—so he’s certain that he’ll land the role of the Scarecrow in his school’s production of The Wiz. Unfortunately, a talented classmate and a serious attack of nerves derail his audition: he just stands there, frozen. Deflated and defeated, Ailey confides in his Grampa that he’s ready to quit. But Grampa believes in Ailey, and, to encourage him, shares a childhood story. As a boy, Grampa dreamed of becoming a tap dancer; he was so good that the Hollywood star and unofficial Mayor of Harlem, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, even gave him a special pair of tap shoes. Curious, Ailey tries on the shoes  . . . and instantly finds himself transported to 1930s Harlem. There he meets a young street tapper and realizes that it’s his own grandfather! Can Ailey help the 12-year-old version of Grampa face his fears? And, if Ailey changes the past, will he still be able to get home again? Featuring an all-African-American cast of characters, and infused with references to black culture and history, this work of magical realism is sure to captivate and inspire readers.  

Out April 2020

304 Pages


I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

The 1930s were not a great time for African Americans. Because of the Great Depression, jobs were scarce for whites and almost impossible to find for African Americans. The south was worse. Most African American dancers, honed their craft on the streets, dancing for change to survive. The biggest form of dance was eccentric tap which was athletic and accompanied by contortion and rubber leg movements or other movements like high kicking. A lot of the dance involved elements of comedy too.

Its origins in the USA were through the fusion of many ethnic styles that included Scottish, Irish, English, and African tribal dances. Cutting contests were common in the Five Points District in New York City. Henry Lane and Master Juba’s challenge is one of the very known firsts. As more and more mastery of techniques occurred, tap became more recognized and seen in the primary showcase of the time–minstrel shows (1850 to 1870).

From that time on, more styles entered the mix, including: buck tapping, soft-shoe and buck and wing dancing. The tap as we know today didn’t come into play until the 1920s. This is when pennies, screws and taps were screwed onto the toe and heels of shoes to make better sounds. Harland Dixon and Jimmy Doyle were well-known for the buck and wing style of dancing during this time. Many other emerging dancers influenced music and dance over the next several decades.

I loved how most of the characters were named after a famous and influential dancer of the 1930s and the use of time travel to educate readers about them. The further use of accurate historical facts throughout, built the story’s creditability and added to my liking of the author’s ingenuity and creativity. Very effective and affective. Put that together with a fantastic writing style and pleasant author’s voice… I was greatly entertained. I can see this book in school libraries as an educational tool.

I gave this book:

Five star rating – shiny golden stars

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