THE STUFF OF STARS: A Truly Stellar Collaboration

Lynn: Can a picture book take on the enormously complex concept of the big bang theory—the origin of all things—and do it well? I would have said no, but I know by now not to underestimate the talents and artistic mastery of those working in the picture-book world! In The Stuff of Stars (2018), author Marion Dane Bauer and illustrator Ekua Holmes tackle the challenge and the result is a picture book for all ages and all time.

Bauer’s gorgeous, poetic text begins:

“In the dark, in the dark, in the deep deep dark, a speck floated . . .”

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer

From there, it moves with simple but evocative words through the beginnings of the universe, stars, planets, our Earth, and life, narrowing eventually to a single life—the child who reads the book. Interspersing the vast and mysterious events with images that are familiar, Bauer’s poetry weaves a vision of these abstract ideas that even a young reader can follow and reflect upon. It is breathtaking magic and Ekua Holmes is the perfect collaborator for Bauer.

Cindy: Ekua Holmes entered the children’s-literature scene with a big bang herself in 2015, when she won a Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (written by Carole Boston Weatherford). She also won the John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award for that work and what talent she has! We raved about her collaboration with Kwame Alexander in Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets last year, but what she’s created here is even more stunning. Colors swirl on the marbled-paper-collage pages as if born of the primordial soup from which life emerged. Some pages include camouflaged images that children will delight in finding as shapes emerge from the chaos of color.

I’ve long been a fan of author Marion Dane Bauer as well, but she, too, has outdone herself with the poetic text that weaves together our most important story: the creation of life. Readers will be in awe as they turn the pages of this stellar collaboration.


About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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