The Magic in Changing Your Stars, by Leah Henderson, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Magic in Changing Your Stars, by Leah Henderson (middle grade, Sterling Children's Books, April 2020) was waiting for me when I came home from work this afternoon; it was a real time- slipper of a book--292 pages slipped down nice and easy in less than three hours.

In 2010, a kid named Ailey desperately wants to be cast as the Scarecrow in his school's production of The Whiz.  He's sure his dance moves and his rap skills will get him the part.  But it all goes horribly wrong, and like a nightmare, he stands on stage and can't remember the words.

But then something worse happens--his grandfather is suddenly hospitalized.  Ailey has a few minutes alone with him, and his grandfather shares his own past disappointment.  He had a chance to get the break of a lifetime dancing for the great Bill "Mr. Bogangles" Robinson back in Harlem in the 1939, but didn't take it because of his own stage fright.  Instead of being a great dancer, he became the owner of a hardware store.  Gramps sends Ailey to find the tap shows Robinson gave him, inside what he calls his box of regrets.  Ailey finds them, tries them on....and finds himself back in time on the street corner where Gramps, then a kid nicknamed Taps. 

Fortunately, Taps is willing to make friends with the weird kid who's shown up wearing tap shoes (and Black Panther pjs, underneath some oversized clothes of the thirties donated by a nice woman with a charity stall).  And Ailey gets to witness his grandfather and Bojangles dancing together for the first time.  His mission is clear--he must help Gramps get up on the stage. But how?

Once he succeeds (this is mg, so the success is not a spoiler) he travels back to his own time.  There he finds that changing his grandfather's fate has changed his own life lots.....and he's able to get a second chance at his own dream of the Scarecrow.

It was a great trip to Harem in the 1930s, full of music and dance.  Any dance kid will love the book for this alone, but there was much more!  The friendship between the two boys, and how they pushed each other past their mutual performance anxiety was not just heartwarming but potentially useful to kids in similar circumstances.  Bits of the future brought back into the past (a Black Panther watch/hologram device) add humor (and help in a tricky situation!).  Both the family in 2010 and in 1939 were warm and supportive, the family in 1939 helping alleviate the anxiety of both  boy and reader (and leaving this reader, at least, wondering what it would be like to spend the evening with my own great grandparents....).  I am left a little worried about how Ailey is going to cope with the changes in his present caused by him having changed the past, but at least all the people are still the same, so he'll probably cope!

Short answer--a really fun time travel, in which the tension of  temporal dislocation is paired beautifully with internal conflict!  

bonus appreciation--Henderson named her characters after famous Black people, and I was tickled to see Sissieretta Jones make an appearance--I work two doors down from her birthplace, and pass her memorial plaque often.


  1. Going back to specific historical time periods is my favorite part of time travel! I was a big Gene Kelly fan back in the day, so I loved reading about the tap dancing.

  2. I really enjoyed this one, too, Charlotte. It is on my nominee list for Elementary/Middle Grade Spec Fic this year.

  3. Awwwww, this sounds so dear and sweet! Love it!

  4. This sounds really delightful! I will have to track it down.


Free Blog Counter

Button styles