Hi guys! Back in October, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with Linda Williams Jackson, who is super nice and wonderful, at the Southern Festival of Books, and she got in touch with her publisher to send me review copies of her MG historical fiction novels Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars, the latter being released next month! I hope you enjoy these reviews, and please consider buying these books either for you or for a loved one for Christmas! You will NOT regret that decision!
About Midnight without a Moon
It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.
Disclaimer: I received a free hardcover finished copy of this book from the publisher HMH in exchange for an honest review.
The moment I read the first chapter of this novel, I knew Midnight without a Moon would be spectacular. My heart was actually pounding from the events that unfolded in just the first few pages, and I tore through the pages like lightning. This year, I have found so many middle grade books that pack the punches, and I am so glad to include both novels of the Rose Lee Carter duology on the list! Jackson’s stunning debut truly shows the struggle of being an African American in the 1950s and presents Rose’s story in such a beautiful way that as you turn the last page, you would either be filled with hope or with tears of joy.
Midnight without a Moon is such a raw, emotional, gripping account of the challenges Rose faces as she comes of age as she grows up in a Mississippi town in which racism and segregation thrives. This novel definitely helped open my eyes up more to what African Americans had to face decades ago and are still encountering today in a different way. Honestly, I had never heard of the Emmett Till case until I read Jackson’s book, and I am so glad I learned more about it. Reflecting on this book (which I read back in late October) as I study about Reconstruction in my AP US History class makes me realize more the prejudice present in the Jim Crow Era. Can you believe that even though the Fifteenth Amendment stated that all men have the right to vote, blacks were killed by exercising that right? Or how an all white jury acquitted Emmett Till’s murderers even though the two men actually murdered the boy? Or how many African American sharecroppers felt so suppressed by white landowners that they felt society should stay the way it is? Midnight without a Moon does not sugarcoat any of these aspects, making the story thought-provoking for readers of all ages, not just young children. Along with its sequel A Sky Full of Stars, it has made a profound impact on my viewpoint on racism in the United States.
I was very touched by Rose’s journey through a turbulent time in her life. There were so many times when I felt as if I were literally standing in her shoes. I could connect with her so well regarding her internal struggles as she decides whether she wants to leave the South or stay to make a change. The author placed me on a wild roller coaster of emotions from fear to courage, joy to misunderstanding, indecision to hope. By the end of the book, I had end up loving almost all of the characters, even those such as Ma Pearl and Queen who have stood as obstacles in Rose’s path. The perseverance Rose exemplified in Midnight without a Moon has inspired me to fight for my dreams, regardless of the challenges I might have to face.
To be totally honest, it was a little hard to get into this book at first because the prose didn’t feel quite smooth to me. I think it was because I was either reading it slowly or trying to skim a bit that it felt choppy. However, this did not stop me from enjoying and savoring this delectable read. Midnight without a Moon is a book that kids and teens of all ages will enjoy! Jackson’s heartwarming and stunning debut novel has the potential to change the lives of people everywhere regardless of age or race to strive for unity. To celebrate my love for the book and the series, I am currently displaying the novel with the cover facing outward so that I may not only be able to marvel at the gorgeous artwork on the front but also to remind myself of the eloquence and power of the prose inside.
About A Sky Full of Stars
After the murder of Emmett Till, thirteen-year-old Rose is struggling with her decision to stay in Mississippi. Torn between the opinions of Shorty, a boy who wants to meet violence with violence, and Hallelujah, her best friend who believes in the power of peaceful protests, Rose is scared of the mounting racial tension and is starting to lose hope. But when Rose helps Aunt Ruthie start her own business, she begins to see how she can make a difference in her community. Life might be easier in the North, but Mississippi is home and that’s worth fighting for. Mid-Century Mississippi comes alive in this sequel to Midnight Without a Moon.
Disclaimer: I received a free ARC copy of this book from the publisher HMH in exchange for an honest review.
It is a hard feat to write a sequel that is as great–and even rarer, better–than the original, but Jackson pulled it off. A Sky Full of Stars is much more impactful and heart-wrenching than Midnight without a Moon, that I just could not put it down. A powerful coming-of-age tale that examines Rose’s life during the aftermath of the Emmett Till murder, A Sky Full of Stars is one of the most inspiring middle grade novels I have ever read. One of the most stunning aspects of this book is that it takes such a different and unique arc than the first book, giving readers a refreshing new storyline that introduces new characters and conflicts and retains many beloved characters from book one. The author just blew me away with this book, and it’s one of the few that I am so proud and honored to have not only as an ARC but also as a physical copy sitting on my shelf.
Jackson continues to display the violence and external and internal conflicts African Americans faced in the Deep South without sugarcoating any single aspect. If you had previously read my review of Midnight without a Moon, you would know how thought-provoking the entire duology was. A Sky Full of Stars follows Rose as she chooses (minor spoiler alert) to stay in Mississippi to help bring about change, but she is torn between follow her best friend Hallelujah’s nonviolent protests and (her cousin, I think?) Shorty’s violent tactics. Because she has to figure out who to side with and how to overcome her fear, Rose–as she learns to become empowered and fight for what is right regardless of the opposition she faces–will inspire readers of all ages. If you look at my ARC copy, there are about 30 to 40 page flaps that have bookmarked certain passages and quotes, from the consequences of deception to finding strength in God. That is certainly a good indicator (for me) how much I just loved this book.
I found myself more emotionally invested into A Sky Full of Stars to the point where I rejoiced so much with Rose’s triumphs, cringed during her mistakes, and even became shocked (and possibly cried, I can’t remember but it’s possible) at all the plot twists. I just could not, and I mean could NOT, put this book down at all. I found everything, from the prose to the plot to the characters to the conflict, much more improved than its prequel. It was as if I became Rose herself. I felt her moral dilemmas, her fear, her curiosity, her hope for the future. I felt very changed and impacted from this novel–it’s one that is so powerful it gave me an actual glimpse of racism and change that took place during the Civil Rights Movement at its inception (there is a mention of Rosa Parks in the book which I was so happy at). It effectively combined that backdrop with Rose coming of age and trying to heal, help, and learn more about her family in the process–which provided the perfect recipe for a book that gave me all the chills and all the feels.
A Sky Full of Stars is the perfect conclusion for the Rose Lee Carter duology. It is definitely one of the most powerful middle grade books I have ever read–I would recommend this to younger readers in a heart beat! I rarely use this term a lot in a review, but this novel was just perfect. Jackson stepped it up in this sequel to Midnight without a Moon (which you should still read nonetheless), and A Sky Full of Stars is so unforgettable that it will stick with you for a long time. If you need a last minute Christmas gift, or just a good historical fiction read for either you or your kid (the Rose Lee Carter series is perfect for children and adults of all ages!), then you need to get these two books. Linda Williams Jackson is one of the most promising MG authors I’ve read. I am excited to see what she has in store in the future!
About the Author
Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta in the teeny-tiny town of Rosedale , Linda Williams Jackson likes to spin stories about everyday people in small-town settings. Though she has lived in a few other states (Alabama, Missouri, and Kansas), Linda currently makes her home in a not-so-small city in Mississippi with her husband and three children.
While a degree in Math and Computer Science from the University of Alabama allowed her to enjoy careers in Information Technology, Linda now prefers manipulating words rather than numbers and symbols. Besides her debut middle-grade novel Midnight Without a Moon from HMH Books for Young Readers (January 3, 2017) and the sequel A Sky Full of Stars (January 2, 2018), Linda is published in multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul titles and has written reading assessment passages for various educational publishers.
Purchase Midnight without a Moon here:
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Have you read Midnight without a Moon? Are you hyped for A Sky Full of Stars?
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