The Stuff of Stars
The Stuff of Stars
by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2018
Find it at your local bookseller or order online from:
Barnes & Noble

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.

RESOURCES (click to jump to the Resources)


Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books 2019
BookPage Best Children's Books of 2018
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
Kirkus Best Picture Books of 2018 for Contemplative Kids
Pernille Ripp's Favorite Books of 2018
Star Tribune Holiday Books
Washington Post Best Children's Books of 2018


Carl Sagan’s famous quote, “We are made of star stuff,” is brought to life in a captivating picture book that will be cherished by people of all ages. Mesmerizing illustrations are a perfect fit for this story, which tells of the beginning of our universe and of life itself, starting with a small floating speck that suddenly explodes ... Bauer’s lyrical free-verse love song to Earth, to the listener, and to all creatures is accessible to everyone living on “one lucky planet, a fragile blue ball we call Earth.” (Maryann Owen, Booklist, starred review)

It's a stunning achievement to present to readers the factual events that created the birth of the universe, the planet Earth, and life on Earth with such an expressive, powerful creativity of words paired with illustrations so evocative of the awe and magic of the cosmos. But then the story goes one brilliant step further and gives the birth of a child the same beginning, the same sense of magic, the same miracle. Wow. (Kirkus Reviews,starred review)

In spare, supple verse, Newbery Honor author Bauer (Winter Dance) tells a big story...In a brilliant stroke of visual imagination, Caldecott Honor artist Holmes (Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets) uses the swirls and waves of marbled paper to represent the ebb and flow of cosmic matter. Her spreads appear to move and shift on a grand scale, while Bauer suggests that, just possibly, the power of creation and the power of love are not so different. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

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. ... VERDICT An inspiring match of writing and art. Perfect for one-on-one sharing. (School Library Journal, Steven Engelfried, starred review)

"As a scientist, it’s refreshing to read a complex topic shared in a moving, meaningful way. ... The illustrations of swirling colors by Ekua Holmes are the stuff of sheer magic, imagination, and inspired creativity. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like them." (Suzanne Slade, Picture Book Builders)

"This is no ordinary text. It seems only fitting that it ended up inviting such extraordinarily beautiful illustration." (Uma Krishnaswami, "Inviting Pictures: The Magical Text of Marion Dane Bauer's The Stuff of Stars; read the full text)

"Holmes' dark and fiery illustrations capture the mood of the story about the void before the Big Bang and ensuing life that burst across galaxies. In the end, we are all the stuff of stars." (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

"In this wondrous meditation on the origins of life, readers see matter expand and time and space blossom...The Stuff of Stars is out of this world." (Bookpage)

"This book appears to be part of a 2018 trend: Big Bang picture books that reduce down to the importance of the child reading this story. But only one of these books is as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as this one. I could stare, entranced, at the papers used in this book for hours and hours and hours." (A Fuse #8 Production)

“Marion Dane Bauer’s lyrical verse, set to Ekua Holmes' swirling hand-cut, digitally assembled marbled paper artwork gives readers a sense of being part of something much larger than themselves. The verse cradles readers, carrying them through the waiting, first for the Bang! and its expansions that form the planets and stars; through the formation of our planet and the life upon it, and through more waiting, dreaming, growing… and then a final burst upon the world: a child, made of stardust, breathing the same air, made of the same carbon, that formed the earth so long ago. Finding the figures within the ebb and flow of the greater art spreads cements our connection to the earth and one another. The book leaves me feeling small, yet overflowing with gratitude, every time I read it; whether I’m cuddled with my son, or I’m by myself and just want the comfort of its pages. An absolute must-read, and a wonderful addition to picture book collections, fiction or non-fiction. Pair this with Jordan Crane’s graphic novel, We Are All Me, for exciting new takes on the science of life. (Rosemary Kiladitis, Mom Read It)


  "Marion Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes: The Universe, Children, and The Stuff of Stars," Mackin Community, 3 April 2019, replete with interviews, resources, and photos
  The Stuff of Stars Meet-the-Author Interview,”, in which I tell how the idea for this book was sparked and I read an excerpt for you
  "Bookstorm for The Stuff of Stars": the good folks at Bookology magazine have created a compendium of paired books, as well as books, websites, and video that provides context and research options.
  "A Celebration That Lasts," an idea for a lifelong gift
  Create a Reading Ritual (downloadable PDF)
  Interview with the book's illustrator, Ekua Holmes
  The Picture Book Review: "Interview with Marion Dane Bauer on the courage to be a writer, her creative process, and how to get unstuck"
  Quirky Book List, "The Animals in The Stuff of Stars," Bookology magazine, with several recommended books for each animal mentioned in the book
  "The Stuff of Stars," Melanie Heuiser Hill, Bookology, in which my book is read out loud with cello accompaniment
Two Pinterest boards:
Celebrate the Stuff of Stars: Baby Showers, Birthdays, Baptisms
The Stuff of Stars: STEM Resources

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