Estrella is a girl living in Spain during the Spanish inquisition and dealing with the secret of her Jewish heritage, an unacceptable crush, and her best friend’s betrayal.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
How do we judge what is right and wrong? Are there some actions that are better or worse that others? These are just a few of the questions raised in this parable about the Jewish judgment day, Yom Kippur, by Joshua Salik.
Introduce this text after students have completed Chapter 1, when Catalina is indifferent to the sight of the soldiers burning the books and amused at the old Jewish man’s suffering. Use this text in order to explore the theme of indifference through a cross-text analysis. Why it is so upsetting to Estrella? Discuss the difference between Estrella and Catalina’s reactions to the burnings and what it means to be indifferent to suffering. How would the bailiff in Salik’s story condemn Catalina?
In “The Scottsboro Boys,” Jessica McBirney discusses the historic event in which nine black boys were wrongfully accused and convicted of assault.
Introduce this text after students have completed Chapter 8, when Estrella’s mother is on trial and Estrella says “you cannot disprove the ridiculous.” Use this text as a real-world example of the court failing to enact justice and charging someone for a false crime. Analyze the two trials in relation to the above quote. Why was Estrella’s mother unable to defend herself? What made the trial unfair? How does the trial of the Scottsboro boys display similar injustice/bias?
Genesis 37 is an Old-Testament passage that contains the story of Joseph and his dreams. Joseph is an important figure in the Hebrew tradition. In this passage he is the favorite of his father Jacob, and dreams that he was chosen by God to rule over many people, including his brothers. His brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up in Egypt.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 9, when Estrella confronts Catalina about her betrayal. Use this text to explore the theme of jealousy and betrayal through cross-textual analysis. Compare Catalina’s betrayal and explanation to that of Joseph’s brothers. What might have motivated their actions?
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 9, when Estrella’s family is executed. Use this text to discuss the resilience Abra displays and the brave face she puts on while facing her and her son’s death. Ask students to consider why might it have been important to her to die with dignity when facing such an inhumane death. Why did she give the pill to her son? How do you believe the speaker in McKay’s poem would have acted in the same situation?
This account comes from a 16-year-old Syrian girl named Amira and details the past three years of her life in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Lebanon.
Introduce this text after students have finished the book, when Estrella has fled Spain with her grandmother. Use this text as a real-world example of people fleeing persecution. Discuss what Estrella’s life might be like after the end of the novel. Compare this to Amira’s experience. What are the similarities between their experiences and how they shaped their values? Is Estrella a refugee? Why did Amira flee Syria? What advice might Amira give Estrella?
Vietnamese American refugees who fled communist rule in their home country in the late 20th century reunite at a former processing center.
Introduce this text after students have finished the book to explore the theme of remembering through a cross-text analysis. Why did Vietnam refugees return to the refugee camp after 40 years? Why is memory so important to them and to Estrella? How did Estrella’s upbringing and experience of persecution create this value? What do memories have to do with your heritage and identity?