The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King (9781338236361)
Liberty loves the stars. She creates star maps that allow her to capture what she sees in the stars by drawing her own constellations on the night sky. But when her parents get a divorce, it is like her entire world fell apart. Her father assures her that she will see him often, but they don’t see him for 86 days after the divorce! In the meantime, Lib has witnessed a meteorite fall to earth and recovered the heavy stone. As time goes on, Liberty begins to seethe with rage. It’s an anger that emerges in school sometimes, sometimes at her parents, but mostly sits inside her, red and hot. It’s that anger that made her throw the toaster through the kitchen window, hides a diamond ring from a bully at school, and allows her to tell her father what she really thinks. Liberty worries that she might have depression like her father, and she gradually learns the power of talking about her feelings openly.
Amy Sarig King is the name that the YA author A.S. King writes under for middle-grade books. She does both extremely well. Here King shows the first months of a divorce from the children’s point of view. She steadily reveals what happened in the parent’s marriage, but the real focus is on grief as the two sisters must navigate their way through the pain of losing their family. The emotions run high, from tears to yelling to throwing things. They all feel immensely authentic and real on the page.
Liberty is a great heroine. Far from perfect, particularly at school, she is navigating life by confiding in a meteorite and trying to help everyone else. She is filled with rage much of the time, but also filled with a deep compassion for others, sometimes to her own detriment. King looks frankly at mental health issues here both in parents and in Liberty herself. The use of counselors is spoken of openly and without issue as the family gets the help they need.
A powerful look at divorce, grief and coming to terms with life. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Arthur A. Levine Books.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (9780316404488)
Little Star and her mother bake a big mooncake together. When her mother palces the cake in the sky to cool, she reminds Little Star not to touch it until she is told to. Little Star agrees. Little Star gets ready for bed and falls right to sleep, but she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about the mooncake. She only takes a tiny nibble and then runs back to bed. Night after night, Little Star eats a little bit more of the mooncake until finally all that was left was a tiny pile of twinkling crumbs. There was only one thing to do… bake another one!
This is a beautiful tribute to the phases of the moon that tells the story in an original and modern way. There are tiny touches of a folklore format here, but nothing that formal. Instead the story embraces the reader, so one can almost taste the cake on your tongue. The text is simple and has a wonderful playfulness to it so that readers are in on Little Star’s midnight snacks along with her.
The illustrations are exceptional, mixing whimsy with realistic figures. Even with the first bite of the Big Mooncake, a trail of starlike crumbs are left behind. Little Star and her mother wear black pajamas covered in large yellow stars that blend into the dark backgrounds of the pages. Even the endpages are wonderful with tributes to the blue of the sky in the day, a clock that monitors the phases of the moon and milk that swirls into a galaxy when spilled.
A remarkable picture book from a gifted author and illustrator. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780763678838)
Released September 4, 2018.
This breathtaking picture book looks deeply at the Big Bang and how it created all of us. The book begins with darkness where there is no time or space. Until BANG! matter is created and the stars flare to life. The stars burn and eventually explode themselves creating planets. Still, there is no life yet. In our solar system, there is one fragile blue planet where life eventually begins, where dinosaurs and humans live and die. And then finally, you arrive from your own speck and flare into life too.
Newbery Honor winning Bauer has written a poem that takes the science of the Big Bang and adds a feeling of mythology to it without damaging the scientific aspect. Her poem soars through the primordial darkness, journeys directly into the Big Bang, floats beside emerging planets, visits Earth, and welcomes children to life. It’s a big ask for a poem but Bauer’s words create a vehicle to really experience the wonder of the universe. Her poem also celebrates the fact that all of us are made of the same matter as stars.
The illustrations of this picture book defy explanation. They are unique and wondrous, filling the page with swirls of darkness, defining emptiness, creating reality. They are done with collage, marbled paper and combined digitally, but those words don’t capture what they do on the page. Holmes has managed to create a universe before your eyes, one that shines, explodes and manifests right there.
An exceptional picture book that celebrates science and beauty. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
LookUp! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon
Henrietta had loved the stars ever since she was a little girl and spent hours gazing at them. When she studied astronomy, she was one of the only women in her class. After graduating, she worked at an observatory though she almost never got to look through the telescope. Instead the women were there to do the calculations, to work and not think. But Henrietta continued to study and to think, she was especially interested in a group of stars that seemed to dim and glow. She discovered some new blinking stars that no one had ever found before. As she studied, she found a pattern in the dimming and brightening of these stars: the blink time allowed her to measure the true brightness of any blinking star in the sky. Her discovery led to a deeper understanding of the vastness of the universe and her life demonstrated that women are thinkers and scientists.
Burleigh’s writing is almost poetic here. He speaks of the connection Henrietta felt to the stars: “Sometimes she felt the stars were trying to speak, to tell her what they knew.” He writes with deep amazement at the vastness of the universe and also speaks of Leavitt’s discoveries in thrilled tones, giving her credit for the hard work and patience it took to find the patterns in the stars. The book ends with several pages that outline her discoveries, names of other female astronomers, and also have a glossary and bibliography.
Colon’s illustrations are simply gorgeous. Done in watercolors and pencil, the illustrations are luminous, glowing with the light of the stars and with the light of the heroine herself. Textured with swirling lines, the illustrations have a great depth to them as well.
This picture book biography invites children to follow their own passions and get involved in science as well. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee
This gorgeous picture book speaks to the importance of stars in our lives. From the points of light that brighten the night sky to the ways that they can cheer us during the day. The book recommends carrying a star in your pocket (one cut from paper) or you could use it to make a magic wand that just might make a wish come true. If you lose your star, you can make another or find one around you in moss, flowers and gardens. You can even be called a star, though there will always be days when you don’t feel like you are shining. In the end, stars are there whether we can see them or not, waiting to be noticed.
Ray’s poem of a book is enchanting. What could have become trite and dull instead is a book filled with its own shining glitter. Her words dance on the page, evoking the beauty of star-lit night, the connection we have with others, and most importantly how vital it is that we believe in ourselves. All in a poem about stars!
Frazee’s art is always divine. She creates characters who are instantly relatable and understandable. They are all a little quirky and complete individuals. Here in this book, they are all stars.
Highly recommended, this is a dazzling, radiant picture book that is simple, light-filled and deep. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox, illustrated by Nancy Davis
Celebrate the age of your atoms with this dynamic nonfiction picture book. Starting with the lines:
You are older than the dinosaurs.
Older than the earth.
Older than the sun and all the planets.
You are older than the stars.
You are as old as the universe itself.
Through a traditional folktale format of cumulative rhyming lines, this book can be read in several ways. The rhymes serve as a structure for the book, but the real pleasure is in the scientific facts that are presented with flair and an eagerness that make them fun to read. Young readers will learn about the Big Bang, how stars were created, and how our planet and humans came about. The book ends with a colorful timeline and a glossary of terms.
Fox’s rhyming is catchy and sound. Her scientific information is interesting and a pleasure to read. Featuring strong colors, deep contrasts and vivid design, Davis’ illustrations are dynamic. They have a timeless feel that is very appropriate for the subject, yet they are definitely modern in feel as well.
A great nonfiction picture book on a subject that will intrigue young readers, this picture book will not sit still on shelves for long. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Sky Magic compilation by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrations by Mariusz Stawarski
The poems in this lovely compilations move from dawn to night, focusing on the sun, moon and stars. You will find favorite poems mixed in with new delights. The book is a lovely lullaby of poetry, filled with great images, wonderful verse, and inspiring language. The poems are for children, but will speak to all readers.
The poems work well for children, but are not childish. They are all elevated examples of children’s poetry, accessible and worth stretching for to reach. Rather like the stars themselves. Hopkins has paid attention to not only the length of poems, but the rhythm and flow between the poems too. There are no jarring changes between poems, but instead it feels as if they grow from being next to one another.
Here is one of my favorites from the book. The choice of which one to share was very difficult!
Moon Lullaby by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Lull cats to sleep,
let children dream,
shine silver blue
on gentle stream.
Glaze the house
where sleepers sigh…
as years go by.
A truly lovely anthology of poems, this book deserves a place in every library. It will also be a great book to read aloud when studying the sun, moon or stars. A lovely poetic interlude in science, sounds lovely. Appropriate for ages 4-8 and older.
Check out all of the Poetry Friday posts at Crossover.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed at Wild Rose Reader and Poetry for Children.