Review: The Star That Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson

The Star that Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson

The Star That Always Stays
Anna Rose Johnson
Holiday House
Published July 12, 2022

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About The Star That Always Stays

When bright and spirited Norvia moves from the country to the city, she has to live by one new rule: Never let anyone know you’re Ojibwe.

Growing up on Beaver Island, Grand-père told Norvia stories–stories about her ancestor Migizi, about Biboonke-o-nini the Wintermaker, about the Crane Clan and the Reindeer Clan. He sang her songs in the old language, and her grandmothers taught her to make story quilts and maple candy. On the island, Norvia was proud of her Ojibwe heritage.

Things are different in the city. Here, Norvia’s mother forces her to pretend she’s not Native at all–even to Mr. Ward, Ma’s new husband, and to Vernon, Norvia’s irritating new stepbrother. In fact, there are a lot of changes in the city: ten-cent movies, gleaming soda shops, speedy automobiles, ninth grade. It’s dizzying for a girl who grew up on the forested shores of Lake Michigan.

Despite the move, the upheaval, and the looming threat of world war, Norvia and her siblings–all five of them–are determined to make 1914 their best year ever. Norvia is certain that her future–both professionally and socially–depends upon it… and upon her discretion.

But how can she have the best year ever if she has to hide who she truly is?

Sensitive, enthralling, and classic in sensibility (perfect for ANNE OF GREEN GABLES fans), this tender coming-of-age story about an introspective and brilliant Native American heroine thoughtfully addresses serious issues like assimilation, racism, and divorce, as well as everygirl problems like first crushes, making friends, fitting in, and the joys and pains of a blended family. Often funny, often heartbreaking, THE STAR THAT ALWAYS STAYS is a fresh and vivid story directly inspired by Anna Rose Johnson’s family history.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

The Star That Always Stays on Goodreads

My Review

I found this book to be absolutely charming. Norvia is a reader and shares her interest in a wide variety of books. Some, readers will be pretty familiar with– THE LITTLE PRINCESS, THE SECRET GARDEN, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES for example. Others may be less familiar, but are no less accessible through Norvia’s passion for them.

One of the things I liked a lot about THE STAR THAT ALWAYS STAYS is Norvia’s journey through becoming part of a blended family. At the beginning, she’s suspicious of her mother’s new marriage and her stepfather. She finds her stepbrother awkward and annoying. As she gets to know them, though, she begins to see not only her mother’s love for her new husband, but his love for her and his devotion to all the children.

The story follows two different time periods. In one earlier time period, Norvia is a child living on Beaver Island. She listens to stories of her Ojibwe heritage from her grandfather. In the later time period, Norvia is ready to begin ninth grade and forced to hide the history she’s deeply proud of and connected to.

Norvia seeks her place in a new school, but she battles fierce prejudice. She looks to the heroines from her books for guidance on how to be well-liked and successful. What she discovers, however, is that her heritage offers even greater tools empowering her to connect with others and prepare her for her future.

In the Author’s Note at the back of the book, Anna Rose Johnson shares some of the details of her own family history that overlap with Norvia’s story. She also shares her desire to craft a story echoing some of the unforgettable tales that Norvia loves so much. I think she absolutely succeeded in doing that. Several times as I read, I thought of books Norvia loved and how much the story reminded me of them.

All in all, I’m a fan. I really enjoyed the family relationships and the classic tone of the story as well as its historical details. I think readers who enjoy historical fiction should definitely check this one out.

The Star That Always Stays on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Norvia, her mother, and her siblings are Ojibwe.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Norvia finds comfort in Bible verses her stepfather and stepbrother give her. She shares them with her dad and brother and prays when she feels lost.

Violent Content
Some instances of bullying and meanness. There’s some prejudice against Norvia’s family because her mother is divorced.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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