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Your Eyes in Stars Hardcover – January 3, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up–In 1934, teenaged Jessie lives in a small upstate New York town where her father is the warden in the state prison. Her mother is a bit of a social climber, while her father has allowed himself to become overly friendly with a prisoner, Slater, a young Southerner with a heartbreaking background and a keen musical talent. Jessie is pleasantly surprised when the daughter of the German professor who has moved into the neighborhood makes direct appeals for friendship. So unfolds the first section of this deceptively straightforward but sophisticated and engrossing novel. Jessie's friendship with Elisa is interrupted when the Stadlers abruptly return to Germany, an event that happens at the same time that Slater is killed in a situation that makes it appear that he murdered a local man. Jessie and Elisa correspond during the next few years, their letters–as well as those from their acquaintances–making up the latter portion of the novel. Years later, in 1946, Jessie learns what really happened to Elisa. Kerr weaves an authentic story in which characters can know only so much at any given moment of their lives, and actually misunderstand much of what they think they know. The period and the place are re-created with excellent detail. Kerr doesn't have to make Jessie pronounce the big questions because she does such a thorough job of showing that they should be every reader's questions: what is really going on, both under our noses and inside the lives of people we care about but cannot know completely?–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 9-12. From the award-winning Gentlehands (1978), in which a teen discovers that his beloved grandfather was a Nazi, to Slap Your Sides (2001), about a teen struggling with his pacifist convictions, Kerr's historical fiction moves beyond simplistic divisions of friends and enemies. Her latest haunting novel, set in a small town in upstate New York during the Depression, is told from the perspective of teen characters and explores complex relationships--this time between Germans and Americans, Jews and gentiles. Fourteen-year-old Jessica, the daughter of the local prison's benevolent chief, becomes friends with new neighbor and classmate, Elisa, who is from Germany. While Jessica's mother is glad the newcomers are not Jews, who would bring down property values, Elisa's elitist mother won't even mix with the locals. Interwoven with Jessica's immediate, first-person narrative are stories of a young wrongfully convicted prisoner, a rich businessman bankrupted by the Depression, and an aristocratic, assimilated Jewish family that learns some shocking news. When Elisa returns to Germany, at first her letters are warm, but then they change. It's hard not to wonder if she has joined the Hitler Youth. Although there is a lot going on, secrets, intimate and political, drive the plot, expanding the warm friendship and coming-of-age story to reveal big issues of racism, class, and patriotism. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 810L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060756829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060756826
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,014,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Williams on January 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Your Eyes in Stars by M. E. Kerr is an intriguing glance into the life of the daughter of prison warden in Cayuta, New York, during the Depression. Jessica Myrer is a tomboy who finds it hard to express herself other than through tall tales and posters of gangsters plastered on her wall. At least that is the case until the German girl Elisa Stadler moves in across the street. The girls become fast friends and often talk about Slater Carr, the inmate at the prison who can play the bugle like an angel and looks like one too. But the actions of that man eventually change the entire town, and make the two girls realize that they are no longer children.

The characters in this novel were incredibly vivid and delightful. You could see Jessie grow up before you, gradually learning that life is not as clear as wanted posters pasted on her wall. I find that I really enjoy reading about this time period. It is interesting to look at the beginnings of the Holocaust from the eyes of an outsider, and to realize how little people outside of Germany actually knew about it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on February 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is 1934, and fourteen-year-old Jessica Myrer lives next door to the prison. That might bother most people, but Jessie has been living next to prisons her entire life. Her father, as the warden, oftentimes assigns actual convicts to do supervised yard work just outside Jessie's window. Jessie feels comfortable around them and even admires them, collecting wanted posters of famous criminals like John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, and begging her father for the inside story. She is especially interested in the newest arrival, Slater Carr, a young and talented musician incarcerated on a life sentence for involvement in murder.

Jessie doesn't have many friends and pretends not to care, maybe to ward off the hurt she feels at her classmates' rejections and her own mother's coolness and criticism toward her. But that begins to change when the new neighbor drops in to say hello. Elisa hails from Germany, and her family moved to town for her father's teaching job. Jessie first thinks of Elisa as exotic, refined and arrogant. But she soon learns that Elisa is just a bit shy, not used to making friends for having moved a lot. The two become fast and true friends.

Through her friendship with Elisa, Jessie begins to open herself up, expand her interests, and really care about others. But then one day, Slater Carr starts off a series of events that may force Jessie and Elisa apart.

This wonderful book by the talented and award-winning M. E. Kerr is a ticket to a past life when our country suffered a terrible depression, and the world moved towards war. YOUR EYES IN STARS is divided into two parts: the first tells the tale of their blossoming friendship, and the second consists of letters shared over the following years. Kerr's characters are full of life and very realistic. She offers a glimpse into different cultures, and her touch of humor helps ease the serious undertones of racism and war.

--- Reviewed by Chris Shanley Dillman
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Princess VINE VOICE on June 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Young Jessie and Elisa are firm yet unlikely friends living in upstate New York in 1934. Jessie, the daughter of the region's prison wardon, is chatty, tomboyish, the collector of wanted posters of infamous criminals and tall-tales is the extreme opposite of her German friend Elisa, who emits elegance and assurance with her foreign culture and many languages. They both swoon over Slater Carter, the prison's new inmate who can play the bugle and trumpet like no other and becomes Jessie's father's special undertaking and whose actions are the catalyst on which the story is woven in a very intriguing way.

What is especially compelling is the way Kerr uses her secondary characters, (Seth, Jessie's brother's testing relationship with his father, her mother's coolness, a friend's pacifism), and the way she fully observes and senses what Jessie and Elisa are thinking and misunderstanding as young adolescents including the common and uncommon events and occur in their lives, and in every respect merges thoughts and actions to a satisfactory end.

My only gripe was with the ending which was abrupt, it felt very much like Kerr was trying to wrap things up quickly, which went completely against the pace of the entire book and its explanations about the Holocaust were shallow and weak and could have delivered more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jalyn on December 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I had a hard time choosing between 2 and 3 stars for this book so I'm giving it a 2.5. The first part of Your Eyes in Stars wasn't bad. The characters were interesting, but I just didn't feel that wow factor. There were times when I was a little confused by the writing. I'm not really sure what Slater Carr had to do with the book. He could have been left out of the book completely and I don't think it would have hurt the story. I kind of felt like his part should have gone somewhere at least, but it just ends. To be honest, I probably would have given this a 2 star rating if not for part two. I wish the whole book would have been written in the form of letters. I couldn't put it down once I started reading that part. The ending left me feeling sad, but I'm glad I found out what eventually happened to Jess and Elisa.
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