The Stuff of Stars

by Marion Dane Bauer (Author) Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)

The Stuff of Stars
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
The 2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner

In an astonishing unfurling of our universe, Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer and Caldecott Honor winner Ekua Holmes celebrate the birth of every child.

Before the universe was formed, before time and space existed, there was . . . nothing. But then . . . BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they exploded, flinging stardust everywhere. And the ash of those stars turned into planets. Into our Earth. And into us. In a poetic text, Marion Dane Bauer takes readers from the trillionth of a second when our universe was born to the singularities that became each one of us, while vivid illustrations by Ekua Holmes capture the void before the Big Bang and the ensuing life that burst across galaxies. A seamless blend of science and art, this picture book reveals the composition of our world and beyond -- and how we are all the stuff of stars.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In spare, supple verse, Newbery Honor author Bauer (Winter Dance) tells a big story--that of everything there is, how it all came to be, and how the matter that makes up the universe is the same as the matter that makes "All of us/ the stuff of stars." The universe starts with a single speck, "invisible as thought,/ weighty as God," before it explodes, forming stars and planets. But the planet we live on is a long way off yet, the narrator tells a beloved child: "no oceans,/ no mountains,/ no hippopotami." Finally, Earth's magical combination of conditions lets it turn "that starry stuff/ into mitochondria,/ jellyfish,/ spiders," and, eventually, another speck grows into something else special: "YOU burst into the world." How to make these abstract ideas visible? In a brilliant stroke of visual imagination, Caldecott Honor artist Holmes (Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets) uses the swirls and waves of marbled paper to represent the ebb and flow of cosmic matter. Her spreads appear to move and shift on a grand scale, while Bauer suggests that, just possibly, the power of creation and the power of love are not so different. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 4--Poetic language and dazzling illustrations link the big bang to a child's birth in this striking picture book. Starting "in the deep, deep dark" where "a speck floated, invisible as thought, weighty as God," lyrical language describes the big bang ("in a trillionth of a second...our universe was born)," then moves to the creation of stars, planets, and life. Hand-marbled paper and collage images brilliantly capture the movement and mystery of the words. Opening spreads of black and purple swirls dramatically shift to blasts of shapes and colors as the universe evolves. Reminders of what was not yet created are interspersed: ."..no oceans, no mountains, no hippopotami," while some of the specific life forms mentioned can be spotted within the shapes and lines of the collages. The dramatic conclusion features the birth of the listener, when "another speck floated, invisible as dreams, special as Love." That speck is depicted as a white dot against black, visually mirroring the speck that started it all on the first page, but this time it's placed within a long strip, suggesting a birth canal. The narrative ties neatly back to the evolution described earlier: "Your hair once the carbon in a leaf." It also connects the child to other life forms: "You and the velvet moss, the caterpillars, the lions." The triumphant final spread shows parent and child in silhouette, gazing at the vivid swoops of line and color that suggest planets, stars, and galaxies. VERDICT An inspiring match of writing and art. Perfect for one-on-one sharing.--Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Carl Sagan's famous quote, "We are made of star stuff," is brought to life in a captivating picture book that will be cherished by people of all ages. Mesmerizing illustrations are a perfect fit for this story, which tells of the beginning of our universe and of life itself, starting with a small floating speck that suddenly explodes..Bauer's (Winter Dance, 2017) lyrical free-verse love song to Earth, to the listener, and to all creatures is accessible to everyone living on "one lucky planet, a fragile blue ball we call Earth."
—Booklist (starred review)

It's a stunning achievement to present to readers the factual events that created the birth of the universe, the planet Earth, and life on Earth with such an expressive, powerful creativity of words paired with illustrations so evocative of the awe and magic of the cosmos. But then the story goes one brilliant step further and gives the birth of a child the same beginning, the same sense of magic, the same miracle. Wow.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In spare, supple verse, Newbery Honor author Bauer (Winter Dance) tells a big story...In a brilliant stroke of visual imagination, Caldecott Honor artist Holmes (Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets) uses the swirls and waves of marbled paper to represent the ebb and flow of cosmic matter. Her spreads appear to move and shift on a grand scale, while Bauer suggests that, just possibly, the power of creation and the power of love are not so different.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

This book appears to be part of a 2018 trend: Big Bang picture books that reduce down to the importance of the child reading this story. But only one of these books is as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as this one. I could stare, entranced, at the papers used in this book for hours and hours and hours.
—A Fuse #8 Production (blog)
Marion Dane Bauer
Marion Dane Bauer is the author of many books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor book On My Honor and the Coretta Scott King Book Illustrator Award winner The Stuff of Stars. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and can be reached at MarionDaneBauer.com.

John Wallace's formal training was not in illustration, but rather theology, which he received at Cambridge University. However, he always loved drawing, and one of his early jobs was as a newspaper cartoonist. In his children's books illustrations, John is particularly inspired by what he calls "the gooniness" of young school children. John and his family divide their time between Brighton, England, and Long Island, New York.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780763678838
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
September 20, 2018
Series
-
Coretta Scott King Book Award
Winner 2019

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