The Stuff of Stars
The Stuff of Stars
by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2018
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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.

RESOURCES (scroll down the page after Reviews)


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: “In a trillionth of a second … our universe was born.” All the colors of the rainbow appear in Holmes’s (Out of Wonder, 2017) glorious creations, which use hand-marbled paper and collage, at times resembling batik and sometimes oil on water with swirls of unmixed colors. Placed over some illustrations are collage figures of humans, fossils, and animals. In one particularly lovely moment, the beginning of life in the womb subtly echoes of the beginning of the universe; “Then one day … in the dark, in the dark, in the deep deep dark, another speck floated, invisible as dreams, special as Love.” Bauer’s (Winter Dance, 2017) 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. 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. (School Library Journal, Steven Engelfried, starred review)

“In the dark, in the dark, in the deep, deep dark…” with this opening phrase, Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer and Caledecott Honor winning illustrator Ekua Holmes create a breathtaking story of the Big Bang, our connection to the stars, and celebrate the miracle of birth. 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)


"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"
"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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