The Stuff of Stars

illus. by Ekua Holmes. 40p. Candlewick. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678838.
OrangeReviewStarK-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.

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