Today we're excited to chat with David Barclay Moore, author of The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Read on for more about David and his book, plus a giveaway!
Meet David Barclay Moore!
It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world.
David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.
“The Stars Beneath Our Feet is the book I’ve been waiting for. Rarely do you see this side of New York rendered so authentically and generously. So much heart here. And so much talent.” —Matt de la Peña, Newbery Award–winning author of Last Stop on Market Street
“The Stars Beneath Our Feet is a fast and furious read in which we meet some amazing people, people that stay with us. David Barclay Moore is an exciting new voice. We definitely haven’t heard the last of his brilliance.” —Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery Honor and National Book Award–winning of Brown Girl Dreaming
“The Stars Beneath Our Feet is about the weight of the world on the back of a child, and the creative tools necessary to alleviate that pressure. I found myself rooting for Lolly, and you will too.” —Jason Reynolds, Coretta Scott King Honor Winner for As Brave As You
Q: THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET is your debut novel for middle-grade readers. How did you come up with the idea behind the story?
A: Most of my work tends to center around Black male cultures, and being a Black male myself, I’ve come into contact with many of our stories and experiences. Often, those stories aren’t told enough. The Stars Beneath Our Feet is one small example of one of those stories. I am also a creative person for whom imagination and creativity are my engine. My novel encourages readers to value their own creativity.
Q: Did you know you always wanted to write a novel, and that the audience would be young readers?
A: I’ve been a storyteller all of my life, practically. And though it sounds trite, I’m still a big
kid at heart. I’ve got lots of stories inside of me. In particular, I love children’s stories, middle grade, and YA. There’s a purity to middle-grade fiction that is hard to find elsewhere.
Q: Lolly is a young boy navigating his way through life in Harlem, where he is dealing with the grief over losing his brother and figuring out the path he will need to take in life. Why did you set the book in Harlem, and did you pull anything from your own life and experiences when writing this book?
A: I love Harlem. It’s one of the first neighborhoods I lived in when I moved to New York. There are lots of stories in Harlem. In some ways, the neighborhood is a metaphor for Blackness. Over the years that I’ve lived in New York, I’ve always listened very carefully to its inhabitants. And though the city is safer than when I first moved here, it still has its pockets of violence—specifically, gun-related violence. Parts of Harlem are home to some of that. Too many children and young people die from gun violence. I lived in Harlem for several years and also worked there. During the eight years that I spent as communications coordinator at Harlem Children’s Zone, one of the country’s most successful anti-poverty organizations, I got to experience Harlem’s people in a different way, a much more intimate way. Harlem and its residents inspired much of The Stars Beneath Our Feet.
Q: Legos play a big role in this book. How does Lolly use them to help him work through his grief?
A: Legos serve several roles for Lolly. First, they are an outlet for him to release creative energy and to shape that energy into something real. Moreover, his Legos hold memories. Both happy and sad times are remembered through the act of building. Also, I think, the blocks are a coping mechanism for Lolly. He is able to partially retreat to this constructed world when the pressures of our real world are too much to deal with.
Q: Creativity and art can be seen throughout the novel, and in Lolly and Rose’s relationship. Why did you choose to interweave that throughout the story?
A: I think we need more art in our elementary schools. When I was in grade school, I benefited a lot from music, art, and even PE classes, which have fallen by the wayside in too many school systems. For poorer school districts, the resources devoted to these classes are even scarcer. I had wanted to draw attention to how important the arts are to ALL of our lives and how curative they can be. We can solve so many problems through our imaginations. Unfortunately, we as a culture have lost how very beneficial the arts and creativity are. They aren’t superfluous; they are necessary. I believe The Stars Beneath Our Feet reveals how crucial the arts are to emerging young lives in particular.
Q: Do you have a favorite character from the book, and if so, why is he or she your favorite?
A: Well, I like all of my characters as i they were my own children, so I don’t like to pick favorites. But I really enjoyed creating and writing Lolly. Though I put him through a lot of hardship in my novel, I think he emerges from it stronger. I like his creativity and intestinal fortitude, which are traits I believe he and I share.
Q: Where do you write?
A: Besides writing at the library or at my favorite café, I have a nifty home office where I write. It’s small and filled with shelves of toys, knickknacks, books, art, and figurines along the walls. My office is painted all orange and is the closest place to being inside my head without actually being inside my head.
Q: What is your favorite moment from the book?
A: One of my favorite moments from The Stars Beneath Our Feet is when Rose comes to Lolly’s rescue and saves him from being terrorized by Harp and Gully. Though it’s a tough scene, there are some funny moments. It also allows the readers to cheer both Rose and Lolly. The experience helps draw those two even closer together.
Q: What is something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
A: When I was born, I nearly died. Though I was a big baby, I was born with complications and had to remain in the hospital for several weeks until I got better. According to my parents, visitors to the hospital’s maternity ward would often wonder aloud why such a big, healthy-looking baby was there amongst all of the vastly smaller preemies.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away after reading this book?
A: I hope readers, principally young ones, come away with an insight into the process of grieving and healing and the impact that both violence and creativity can play in our lives.
Q: There is a lot of discussion in the literary world right now about diversity and the need for more diverse books. What is your response to this, and where will your book fit into the conversation?
A: The Stars Beneath Our Feet is definitely a “diverse” book. But I think it doesn’t
wear its diversity on its sleeve. I wrote it in the same spirit as I encounter life;
much of my own perspectives on life and art and community are included in its
pages. Not only does my book give voice to communities who are not usually
heard from, but it also sheds light on ways of being and living that may be foreign to so many more readers. I hope a lot of people learn from it.
Q: Are you working on a new book right now?
A: Yes! I am writing another middle-grade novel in the vein of The Stars Beneath Our Feet. This one deals with issues around STEM and poverty and friendship and prejudice—not just along racial lines, but along other extents as well. Plus, it should be a lot of fun!
Q: Where do you see Lolly in five years?
A: In five years, Lolly will be content. And headed off to college to explore the next exciting phase of his life. I think he will have figured out a way to appropriately deal with his antagonists, Harp and Gully. He might even befriend them and have some positive effect on their lives. Sadly, I don’t believe he and Rose will meet again. As is often in childhood, we lose friends, mourn, and then move on. But those experiences we share with them may last a lifetime.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet
By: David Barclay Moore
Release Date: September 19, 2017