The Stuff of Stars – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: The Stuff of Stars

Author: Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrator: Ekua Holmes

Publisher: Candlewick, 2018

Ages: 5-11

Themes: universe, big bang, evolution, wonder, humanity, biology, science





In the dark,
in the dark,
in the deep, deep, dark,
a speck floated,
invisible as a thought,
weighty as God.
There was yet no time,
there was yet no space.
No up,
no down,
no edge,
no center.


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.

Why I like this book:

In a visually and textually stunning display the universe unfolds before us from a tiny speck right down to the celebration of  the birth of every child.

The speck becomes stardust, and the stardust becomes planets, plants, animals, and eventually, you, the reader. Bauer’s text has a rhythmic cadence to it that lends itself to reading out loud, and Holmes’ illustrations give a dreamlike and yet epic atmosphere to the book. The marbled pictures and collages are combined digitally and are gorgeous. I just love the abstraction and think kids will too. I appreciate that rather than a very man-centric text, The Stuff of Stars teaches a child that they are one of many wondrous pieces of our infinite universe.

This is the first picture book I have personally read about the Big Bang and I feel it does the vast concept justice for young children, retaining all the awe even as the details are described. This is a terrific asset to a school library for science, art and more philosophical units of study. This book makes the abstract concept of how the universe came into being into something relatable, momentous, sensorial and awe-inspiring, and leaves room for personal interpretation. Bravo to author and illustrator.


Marion Dane-Bauer has a ton of resources to accompany the book on her website.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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20 Responses to The Stuff of Stars – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Wendy says:

    Love Marion Dane Bauer, so will have to look this up.

  2. Barb says:

    Oh wow! This sounds like an amazing book.
    I love the poetry!

  3. The cover is stunning. It is on my TBR list. Now I can’t wait the snippets of text you highlighted are amazing. Looking forward to seeing how she poetically introduces such a large concept. Thanks for a great review.

  4. Immediately after reading the opening lines you shared, I jumped over to my library website to place this book on hold. Both the language and illustrations are poetic.

  5. Maria’s got it right – a stunner!

  6. Joanna says:

    Yes, and I do think it may be a Caldecott contender.

  7. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I just saw the cover of this one yesterday and made a mental note to take a look. Thanks for this review. I love the lyricism. I’ve only read humorous books on this topic, so this will be a nice change. Just put it on hold. Thanks!

  8. Andrea Mack says:

    Oh, just looking at the cover made me want to dive right in! It sounds like this would be a nice book to read while kids are lying on the carpet, not looking at the illustrations, and then take another pass through to see how their thoughts change. Lovely!!

  9. Patricia Nozell says:

    This looks gorgeous! You say poetic – enough that you’d call it poetry? If so, please consider nominating it in the Cybils poetry category. Here’s the nominations link:

  10. What a stunning and poetic book. This is one I will look for. Is it too old for a 4+ year old that is interested in planets and stars? Hope you do nominate it because I believe it fulfills the criteria.

    • Joanna says:

      I did try Pat, but it has been nominated and accepted in the fiction category. I think because of some the abstraction it would be harder for a 4 year-old to really appreciate it, though they will get the progression and beauty of the art.

  11. The artwork is amazing! Who knew the big bang was like that? And how did I miss this one?

  12. Oh wow! What an amazing concept. The cover really catches your eye. Thanks for sharing Joanna.

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