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The Stuff of Stars

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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.

34 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2018

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About the author

Marion Dane Bauer

146 books162 followers
Marion Dane Bauer is the author of more than one hundred books for young people, ranging from novelty and picture books through early readers, both fiction and nonfiction, books on writing, and middle-grade and young-adult novels. She has won numerous awards, including several Minnesota Book Awards, a Jane Addams Peace Association Award for RAIN OF FIRE, an American Library Association Newbery Honor Award for ON MY HONOR, a number of state children's choice awards and the Kerlan Award from the University of Minnesota for the body of her work.

She is also the editor of and a contributor to the ground-breaking collection of gay and lesbian short stories, Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence.

Marion was one of the founding faculty and the first Faculty Chair for the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her writing guide, the American Library Association Notable WHAT'S YOUR STORY? A YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO WRITING FICTION, is used by writers of all ages. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen different languages.

She has six grandchildren and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her partner and a cavalier King Charles spaniel, Dawn.


Q. What brought you to a career as a writer?

A. I seem to have been born with my head full of stories. For almost as far back as I can remember, I used most of my unoccupied moments--even in school when I was supposed to be doing other "more important" things--to make up stories in my head. I sometimes got a notation on my report card that said, "Marion dreams." It was not a compliment. But while the stories I wove occupied my mind in a very satisfying way, they were so complex that I never thought of trying to write them down. I wouldn't have known where to begin. So though I did all kinds of writing through my teen and early adult years--letters, journals, essays, poetry--I didn't begin to gather the craft I needed to write stories until I was in my early thirties. That was also when my last excuse for not taking the time to sit down to do the writing I'd so long wanted to do started first grade.

Q. And why write for young people?

A. Because I get my creative energy in examining young lives, young issues. Most people, when they enter adulthood, leave childhood behind, by which I mean that they forget most of what they know about themselves as children. Of course, the ghosts of childhood still inhabit them, but they deal with them in other forms--problems with parental authority turn into problems with bosses, for instance--and don't keep reaching back to the original source to try to fix it, to make everything come out differently than it did the first time. Most children's writers, I suspect, are fixers. We return, again and again, usually under the cover of made-up characters, to work things through. I don't know that our childhoods are necessarily more painful than most. Every childhood has pain it, because life has pain in it at every stage. The difference is that we are compelled to keep returning to the source.

Q. You write for a wide range of ages. Do you write from a different place in writing for preschoolers than for young adolescents?

A. In a picture book or board book, I'm always writing from the womb of the family, a place that--while it might be intruded upon by fears, for instance--is still, ultimately, safe and nurturing. That's what my own early childhood was like, so it's easy for me to return to those feelings and to recreate them.
When I write for older readers, I'm writing from a very different experience. My early adolescence, especially, was a time of deep alienation, mostly from my peers but in some ways from my family as well. And so I write my older stories out of that pain, that longing for connection. A story has to have a problem at its core. No struggle

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5 stars
682 (43%)
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498 (31%)
3 stars
280 (17%)
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78 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 489 reviews
Profile Image for Sandra.
1,175 reviews6 followers
October 15, 2018
I'm really sad that the authors of what could have been a gorgeous non denominational book about the wonder of life and the interconnectedness of the universe decided it had to include 'weighty as God' putting itself squarely into capital G and singular territory and ruling out any non-theist or non-monotheistic individuals.

It's still beautiful, it just has a degree of exclusiveness it really didn't need.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,676 reviews2,324 followers
March 22, 2019
This was a disappointment.

Though Ekua Holmes's brilliant artwork is lovely, I was annoyed by the book. It was apparently too much to ask to have a completely secular book about the Big Bang - God has to be named to appease the creationists who are going to despise the book anyway. And, then there's the fact that the idea for the book is obviously snatched from this Carl Sagan quote:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”

. . . yet he is never mentioned, or even quoted.

I would have rated this less, but, oh, those illustrations!

Profile Image for Rebecca.
4,559 reviews177 followers
September 5, 2018
I have a shelf on Goodreads called "abstract idea," which is for picture books that I admire for how they visually represent something abstract. Here, illustrator Ekua Holmes may get the top prize, as she faces the challenge of illustrating the birth of the universe, the earth, and a child, described in lovely, spare verse by Marion Dane Bauer. Her images (hand-marbled paper and collage assembled digitally) dazzle the eyes with swirls of color and pattern. I expect Caldecott buzz for this one, too.

Paper marbling is an activity that may not have a solid book tie-in, until now. Programmers, take note!
Profile Image for Nancy Kotkin.
1,363 reviews34 followers
January 1, 2019
Stunning collage-style illustrations accompany a beautifully worded poem about how the earth and life exploded into being. This captivating picture book is one of my 2019 Caldecott favorites.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,088 reviews181 followers
January 10, 2019
A simple but poetic text exploring the birth of the universe, the formation of the planets and the solar system, the eventual evolution of life, and the birth of an individual child - the reader and/or listener, perhaps? - is paired with astonishingly beautiful artwork in The Stuff of Stars. Each two page spread features a few sentences from author Marion Dane Bauer, who won a Newbery Honor for her children's novel, On My Honor , as well as the hand-marbled paper and collage art of illustrator Ekua Holmes, who won a Caldecott Honor for her work on Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer . The result is that rarest of specimens: a picture-book which manages to explore an abstract concept successfully, and have both poetic and scientific significance...

I found The Stuff of Stars both beautiful and poignant, and marveled at both the text and artwork. Bauer's wordcrafting here is top notch, and there were moments when I had to stop, and savor the poetry of her text. When she described that first speck of something, "invisible as thought, weighty as God," I paused to consider. Her description of stars catching fire, but having "no planets to attend" them, gave me a little thrill. Her conclusion, in which a child is born, made of stardust, put me so strongly in mind of the first day of my college astronomy class, in which our professor made that same statement - that we humans were indeed made of stardust, just like everything in our world - that I smiled with delight. Holmes' artwork is every bit as beautiful as the text - and what a difficult text it must have been to illustrate, with so many complicated and abstract ideas bound up in it! Somehow she managed to triumph though, creating collage artwork that perfectly captures the mystery and the majesty of the cosmos and of creation. I missed this one when it came out a few months ago, being in hospital and away from work, but am glad to have finally discovered it. It is definitely on my Caldecott possibilities list! Recommended to anyone who appreciates gorgeous picture-book art, or who is looking for children's books about the Big Bang, and the evolution of the cosmos.
Profile Image for Katie Fitzgerald.
Author 3 books195 followers
October 31, 2020
This poetic and visually explosive picture book describes the big bang in lyrical text that captures the beauty and drama of the beginning of the universe. My almost-five-year-old was fascinated by the illustrations and though the book does not mention religion at all, she immediately attributed the images she saw to God, which made me feel good about her understanding of the relationship between faith and science. This book makes the abstract concept of how the universe came into being into something relatable, dynamic, and awe-inspiring.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,136 reviews171 followers
June 18, 2022
Family read-aloud party for the holiday weekend: Juneteenth, Father's Day, a birthday, and the solstice. (1 of 5)

I was bored by this attempt to make recycled atoms poetic -- even with its hidden animal pictures. I'd rather just listen to Moby's "We Are All Made of Stars" again.

(This review recycled from my review of Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana.)
Profile Image for Alyssa Nelson.
511 reviews143 followers
October 22, 2018
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.*

This book is absolutely stunning. Each page is an explosion of color and wonderful to look at. This is a picture book for children of all ages–very young children will love all the colors in the pictures. Young children will enjoy the story of the universe and the message that we are all made of the same stuff as stars.

The Stuff of Stars is a beautiful book that’s a great introduction to how the universe was made and how the earth, animals, and humans came into being. Really, it shows children that they are connected to life and the universe, so it’s a great start on teaching them about all the different types of species that live or have lived on our planet. This would fit nicely into a teacher’s unit on science as an introduction, or even in an art unit to show how abstract art can still tell a story. The words themselves are lyrical without being overly poetic or having a particular rhyme scheme, but there’s a definite rhythm to the story itself.

Highly recommend! I’m looking forward to gifting a few young relatives with this book this Christmas, myself.

Also posted on Purple People Readers.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,252 reviews9 followers
February 7, 2019
Lovely book with evocative abstract illustrations depicting life from the Big Bang to the birth of the reader.
Profile Image for Brooke Trueblood.
45 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2021
I can't express how much I love this book. The storytelling is poetic, compressing the science and history of the solar system into something manageable and understandable and awe-inspiring. The art complemented the text, abstract and textural, expressing feeling to each page. I highly recommend this book for read aloud or solo reading.
Profile Image for Cheryl .
9,053 reviews392 followers
July 4, 2019
I'm sure that a lot of people rave about the illustrations but they just seemed 'off' to me. Stunning, original, but just not quite right. I especially couldn't make out the primary cover image of two people for the longest time.

The poem, the text, is fine. I'd like to have read it w/out the distracting pictures; I might have liked it a lot if I'd read it straight. My inner scientist wants to dispute the use of the word 'speck' for that which existed before the beginning.... but it's not entirely wrong for the intended audience.
480 reviews42 followers
August 15, 2019
A beautiful book explaining the interconnectivity of the universe and how we're all the stuff of stars. Very pretty.

I read this book as part of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards 50th anniversary challenge promoted through the LA Public Libraries.
Profile Image for Joshua.
Author 2 books30 followers
June 9, 2019
One of the most beautiful narrations of the Big Bang that I've ever read. The pages will leave you breathless.
Profile Image for Christen.
473 reviews
February 27, 2019
This picture book touched me so much. Gorgeous illustrations and adept use of the page turn for dramatic effect. I had chills, my eyes teared up. I want to buy it for all of my niecephews.
Profile Image for Whitney.
549 reviews5 followers
September 8, 2018
This absolutely gorgeous picture book follows the journey of a tiny speck through the big bang. The speck becomes stardust, and the stardust becomes planets, plants, animals, and eventually, YOU (or the baby/child you are reading this to). Bauer's text has a rhythmic cadence to it that lends itself to reading out loud, and Holmes' illustrations give a dreamlike atmosphere to the book. The marbled pictures are wonderful, although maybe a bit too abstract for younger children - but still provide good opportunities to talk about colors, shapes, and imagery. At first I thought this book was going to be similar to On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, but while Tillman's book suggests that a child is the center of the universe, The Stuff of Stars instead teaches a child that they are one of many miraculous pieces of our infinite universe.

Thank you to Candlewick Press and LibraryThing for the advanced copy of this book!*
*This did not affect my review or rating.
Profile Image for Maura.
627 reviews9 followers
April 4, 2021
Lush, gorgeous book about the Big Bang theory for children, starting with a speck and leading to dinosaurs and humans and then YOU, the reader. My 5 year old loves having it read to him, and it really fit in well with a lot of recent discussions he has initiated about his memories before he had a body and his belief that he will be love in the universe after his body is gone. I was a little surprised at the mention of God (capitalized) as I had assumed it would be a non-theistic book, but it worked well, and I think the book would be fine to read with children in atheistic, agnostic, and many religious families, albeit ones that welcome the idea that science and Biblical teachings can be reconciled if the Bible is not taken literally. (Biblical literalists will obviously object.)
Profile Image for Vicki.
565 reviews
February 8, 2019
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Clearly it is a work of art, from the outrageously talented illustrator who has already won a ton of awards to the gorgeous, poetic word choices. I think it's bound to attract some controversy in school libraries where patrons are dissatisfied with books that teach explicitly about the big bang and evolution, but that's why this book is so great! It's so artsy and de-politicized, despite being a controversial topic.

Ultimately, I worry that books like this are just appealing to adults and less so to young kids. I'm curious how it would play out in a read aloud!
Profile Image for Lisa Reed.
26 reviews
October 24, 2019
"The Stuff of Stars" was confusing and a huge mess. There was no order and only chaos. This is the effort of evolutionists to indoctrinate children. In the photos, while they are colorful and brilliant, there is no sign of creation... The author and illustrator want us to believe that everything just happened out of nothing. They may be able to convince a five year old of that, but I will not be sharing this book with children under my influence. There is order and creation which scientifically aligns with archaeology and history. Big bang is only an improvable theory.
Profile Image for Joan.
1,963 reviews
March 7, 2019
I would rather see this subject done by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. I think it would have been more successful done by that pair. Nonetheless, the artwork is really nice. It likely deserved the King Illustration award. I was less happy with the text. It was too advanced for preschoolers and too abstract for many of the primary grades but likely too simple once you were in about fifth grade and could follow the science of what was happening. It was very pretty to read. I simply am not sure who would be the audience for this book. I think it is a book adults think kids should read but I don't think kids would agree with the adults. And that is one of my big peeves with the ALA awards: too many books grownups think kids should read and not enough books that kids will actually read winning the top awards.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 489 reviews

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