From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7–In 1921, when her father is sent to a tuberculosis sanitarium, motherless 13-year-old Celeste takes the train from her home in Raleigh, NC, to Harlem, NY, to live with her glamorous Aunt Valentina. She soon finds herself scrubbing theater floors with Val and living in a windowless studio apartment. When Val lands a spot in the chorus of a groundbreaking Broadway musical, Celeste mixes with African-American celebrities until she is called back home to care for her abusive Aunt Society, who has suffered a stroke. This enjoyable story is crammed full of well-researched historical details. Celeste evolves from a wide-eyed, naive, bashful girl into a young woman unafraid to speak up for herself and follow her dream to be a doctor. Aunti Val is a self-absorbed yet charismatic woman struggling to make her way, too often at the expense of Celeste's needs. Tate deftly handles the complexities of their relationship. She draws her characters with charming humor and multidimensional candor. At times her tone is cloying, though, and the dialogue tends to lay on a Gee whiz! aspect with a heavy hand. She loads the book with references to real historical figures and events, sometimes to the detriment of narrative flow. The predictable plot aside, however, fans of historical fiction will stick with Celeste, eager to see her true blossoming at the end. Gail Carson Levine's Dave at Night
(HarperCollins, 1999) is a faster-paced novel set during the Harlem Renaissance.–Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS
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After her mother dies and her father falls ill, 13-year-old Celeste is sent to her aunt Valentina, a singer and dancer in Harlem. Leaving Raleigh, North Carolina, is hard, and once in New York City, she is upset to learn that her aunt isn't a famous performer after all. Barely scraping by, Valentina asks Celeste to scrub floors for money. The Harlem Renaissance has begun, though, and Valentina introduces Celeste to the many legendary artists who congregate at the local cafe. Then Celeste is called back to North Carolina to help care for an elderly aunt, and she meets her challenges with the strength, realism, and courage she discovered during her stay in New York. Celeste's encounters with famous African Americans often feel contrived, but readers will connect with her strong, regional voice ("I felt lower than a snail's tail"), her ambitions, and the enormous responsibilities she confronts at such a young age. Both sobering and inspiring, Tate's novel is a moving portrait of growing up black and female in 1920s America. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved