I received this book from Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for an honest review.
Reenie wants to dance just like her mother who worked hard to make a spot for herself on the stage and her grandmother who worked behind-the-scenes making costumes. It’s her legacy, and like the other young dancers in her ensemble Reenie feels that she is the one who will be performing the coveted solo as the role of the Firebird in the year-end recital. But Reenie begins to notice that the incredibly strict maestra holds some of the dancers to a different standard than others, particularly Maia, the other Black girl in class, because of her “urban” look. Reenie knows it’s wrong, and she’s finding the words to fight for what she believes in but doesn’t find support from her mother or the rest of the classmates. What can Reenie do to challenge and change the injustice she sees when no one wants to stand beside her?
This is the first middle grade play I’ve read and how wonderful it was! St. Bernard does an excellent job making her characters sound their age, Reenie, Maia, Jo, and the whole ensemble sounded and acted like kids. The adults, similarly, were adults, they were parents and teachers whose voices didn’t take over the kids but amplified the story that the kids were involved in. St. Bernard also did an excellent job making Reaching for Starlight feel like it was meant for kids to watch, enjoy, and understand. While important topics like racial profiling and prejudice are a main theme of the play, it won’t go over young audiences. Young audiences will easily be able to tell that something wrong and unfair is happening and will be able to understand why Reenie cares so much and wants to bring about change.
It’s a great work that will inspire young audiences to find their voices in the face of injustice, and how scary and hard that can be. Like how sometimes when recognizing injustice, people have to start alone. Sometimes the support of their peers won’t be present, sometimes their parents may not agree or help. But despite those hard truths Reaching for Starlight isn’t a stark or depressing piece, it’s one full of hope. That being passionate for a cause can bring about change and just how important it is to find ones voice.
Reaching for Starlight is a wonderful play I’d love to see staged and one I know many young actors would love to perform in and young audiences need to see. I can’t wait to read more of St. Bernard’s work!
Publication: April 25 2023
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 96 pages (Paperback)
Source: Playwrights Canada Press
Genre: Fiction, Theatre, Play, Middle Grade
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤.5
Reenie wants to dance, following in her mother’s footsteps. Just like the rest of her ensemble, she believes she has what it takes to earn the coveted solo at the year-end recital. But when she notices that their strict maestra is not holding everyone to the same “traditional” standard—particularly Maia, the other Black girl in the class—Reenie is determined to stop her friend from being counted out of the competition. Frustrated with not being understood by her mother and filled with a new-found passion to fight a broken system, Reenie hatches a plan with her classmates but doesn’t realize where her quick journey towards justice missed the mark with her friend. Reaching for Starlight is a compassionate story about the way we are told to move through a world not made for us, whether together or alone.