We are all made of stars
Stardust by Jeanne Willis and Briony May Smith, Nosy Crow
What's it about?
A little girl feels constantly in her older sister's shadow. Her grandfather tells her about the big bang. Grandad explains how we are all made of stardust and that each one of us is a star who shines in their own distinct way.
What can we learn?
This gently introduces the concept of the big bang. It highlights how unique and special EVERY child is, and how we are all connected too. Stardust also demonstrates why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others.
What makes this stand out? Stardust explores universal experiences that will resonate with young people who might be feeling inadequate and wondering about their place in the world. Although the story tackles complex theories and emotions, it does so in an incredibly simple and child-friendly way. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.
About those illustrations...
I love Briony May Smith and Margaret's Unicorn, which she wrote as well as illustrated, is one of our favourite books. There is something so comforting about her work and it reminds me a little of Shirley Hughes. The lively images portray everyday life so well, exude so much warmth and affection, and have a beautiful, cosy glow.
There are lots of stunning spreads featuring starry skies, underwater scenes, and nature and wildlife. I love all the details like the girl's grandfather drying her tears and his delight at receiving the scarf she makes. A photo of the grandfather at her graduation is pinned to the wall of her spaceship. There's diversity too, with different ethnic backgrounds and children in wheelchairs represented in some of the illustrations.
Why we love it...
Apart from being a wonderful story, it's fantastic how the author incorporates the big bang into the narrative, making Stardust educational as well as entertaining. It's great how this addresses the negative feelings that siblings can sometimes have, and offers children a different perspective on themselves and their surroundings. I love how this champions women in STEM, showing a female astronaut at the end. The concluding lines are brilliant: "Shine in your own way, because, remember... you are made of stardust too."
Why you need it...
Stardust is a moving and memorable story with fabulous illustrations. If your family is not religious and/or you'd like to provide some balance to the creationist narrative taught in many schools, this is ideal. It's perfect for fostering confidence in young people, boosting their self-esteem, and encouraging them to be themselves and to be proud of who they are.
This story is a great way of exploring, and helping to prevent, sibling rivalry. As the relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is central to the plot, Stardust would make a lovely gift from a grandparent.
About the author:
Jeanne Willis has been writing books since she was five. She is a children's literature legend who has won multiple awards and published over 300 titles for young people. Her most recent release with Nosy Crow, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, is a feminist masterpiece (we love it - read a review). Python Goes to Playschool was one of the first books I bought while expecting my eldest. I remembered finding it hilarious when I was a bookseller and now my kids do too. We're also huge fans of Jeanne's cautionary fairy tale collection which teaches little readers about the importance of online safety.
About the illustrator: Briony May Smith studied Illustration at Falmouth University and was highly commended for the Macmillan Children’s book prize in 2013 and 2014. Her work is inspired by fairy tales, folklore and life in the country. I've mentioned we love Margaret's Unicorn, which Briony wrote and illustrated. We're dying to get hold of the Heidi retelling illustrated by Briony which is another collaboration with Jeanne Willis.