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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stars, written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2011. $18.99 ages ages 3 and up

"But you can draw a star on shiny paper and cut around it. Then you can put it in your pocket. Having a star in your pocket is like having your best rock in your pocket, but different. Because a star is different from a rock."

This quietly reflective book shows its readers stars in their various roles.  If you've ever been out in the country on a clear cloudless night, you will  have been enamored of the beauty in the starry night sky and perhaps spent time discovering known constellations. You may have seen star shapes on a walk through the garden, or at the top of a wand. As a child you might have received a shiny colored star for something you did well, at home or at school. Stars come in many sizes and many guises.

"White stars in June grass become strawberries in July.
Yellow stars on pumpkin vines become October pumpkins.
Snowflakes are stars."

The peaceful meandering of the text is matched by the gentle reassurance that is evoked in the words of this gifted writer. Stars have the ability to lift our spirits and make us happy but, not always:

"Some days you feel shiny as a star.
If you've done something important,
people may call you a star.

But some days
you don't feel
shiny."

I love the look of the book....tall, with a basket gathering the stars from the night sky on the front cover. No words there but the title and the image of the tiny gatherer. The endpapers differ; beginning with a morning look at the sky through puffy clouds and ending with the deep darkness that is a perfect backdrop for their twinkling beauty. In between, Marla Frazee uses spot pictures and panels with plenty of white space on some pages and fills others with pastel beauty and wide horizons, all allowing her children to make exciting discoveries about the pleasures of the 'stars' themselves. I have a few favorite images, but the one of the sled speeding downhill through a veritable blizzard of snowflakes brings back delighted memories. Her children are charming and quite the characters, as we follow them through the text.

There is quiet comfort in knowing that the stars are always there, whether we can see them or not. If you have a star atop your Christmas tree, it might provide a chance to talk about stars in all of their forms. Then you could try drawing stars, cutting out stars, finding the star in an apple or a starfruit, using wands that have a star attached to bring drama and delight to holiday play, and then settling in with hot chocolate and warm pajamas to read this beautiful book. Sounds good, doesn't it?

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