Stars Beneath Our Feet
by Moore, David Barclay






Unable to celebrate the holidays in the wake of his older brother's death in a gang-related shooting, 12-year-old Lolly Rachpaul struggles to avoid being forced into a gang himself while constructing a fantastically creative LEGO city at the Harlem community center. Simultaneous eBook.





DAVID BARCLAY MOORE was born and raised in Missouri. After studying creative writing at Iowa State University, film at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and language studies at l'Université de Montpellier in France, David moved to New York City, where he has served as communications coordinator for Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone and communications manager for Quality Services for the Autism Community. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Yaddo, and the Wellspring Foundation. He was also a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. David now lives, works, and explores in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow him online at DavidBarclayMoore.com, on Twitter at @dbarclaymoore, and on Instagram at dbarclaymoore.





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. Copyright 2017 Booklist 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 tr aumas 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) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





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.






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