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The Picture Book Buzz

The Fire of Stars - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

First, CONGRATULATIONS to:

the giveaway winner of Not A book About Bunnies:

Michael Henriksen

and the winner of a critique by Amanda Henke:

Lisa Riddiough


Now back to the #PPBF choice for this week. I'd like to share with you a spectacularly inventive biography of the formation of a star and brilliant woman whose discovery unlocked the secret of the stars.

The Fire of Stars: The Life And Brilliance of The Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of


Author: Kirsten W. Larson


Illustrator: Katherine Roy


Publisher: Chronicle Books (2023)


Ages: 5-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Birth of a star, biography, astrophysics, and curiosity.


Synopsis:

A poetic picture book celebrating the life and scientific discoveries of the groundbreaking astronomer Cecilia Payne!


Astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne was the first person to discover what burns at the heart of stars. But she didn't start out as the groundbreaking scientist she would eventually become. She started out as a girl full of curiosity, hoping one day to unlock the mysteries of the universe.


With lyrical, evocative text by Kirsten W. Larson and extraordinary illustrations by award-winning illustrator Katherine Roy, this moving biography powerfully parallels the kindling of Cecilia Payne's own curiosity and her scientific career with the process of a star's birth, from mere possibility in an expanse of space to an eventual, breathtaking explosion of light.


Opening Lines:

Wrapped in a blanket of sparkling space,

an unformed star waits for its bright future to begin.


Cecilia kicks and cries.

Until her mother

sets her down

so Cecilia can feel with her own tiny toes

the cold and crackling snow,

which isn't soft and warm like she expected.


What I LOVED about this book:

From these lyrical opening lines and this magnificent spread, the reader knows they are in for not just a visual and aural treat, but an inventive and fun dual biography. The birth and development of a star and the development of an inquisitive girl destined to grow up to be a superstar astrophysicist.

Text © Kirsten Larson, 2023. Image © Katherine Roy, 2023.


The beginnings of the star swirl "in a cloud of dust and dirt," while Cecilia wiggles in the grass and dirt playing with slugs. When she discovers how orchids lure bees to get pollinated, "Cecilia buzzes, too - her body humming with that lightning bolt of discovery." Kirsten Larson skillfully weaves this feeling and tons of space metaphors through Cecilia's life.


Soon things change for Cecilia (a move to the city) and the star (shifting and changing materials). They both shrink and feel smashed. I love the way Kirsten Larson correlated the condensing of the stellar materials and the withdrawal of Cecilia into herself and eventually a dusty lab at the isolating "black hole" of her school. A point emphasized by the fact she is the only one in color. Interestingly, Cecilia is depicted throughout the book in mostly yellow outfits, visually tying into the yellow forming star in the dark sky, until she makes her discovery and sits bathed in the golden light of our star.

Text © Kirsten Larson, 2023. Image © Katherine Roy, 2023.


I adore the themes, stunning colors, fascinating patterns, and loose lines in Katherine Roy's illustrations. They are truly magical. The way the universe seems to surround Cecilia, until she is ready to reach out and discover its secret. And it is just me or does there appear to be a hand - fingers - squeezing/smashing the star?


As the growing star gains companions, Cecilia connects with a new science teacher who inspires her to study plants and astronomy. After following the pulsing changes (dimming and expanding) of the star's formation and Cecilia's entry to Cambridge and her next "lightning bolt" moment, resulting in her switch to the study of physics - unfortunately as "the only woman in a galaxy of men," Kirsten and Katherine magnificently join the two bright shining stars in two equal side by side spreads.

Text © Kirsten Larson, 2023. Image © Katherine Roy, 2023.


The book continues to follow and connect both visually and metaphorically the bright new star and Cecilia, until she has a "lightning bolt of understanding" and discovers ... well, I bet you can guess. But I am sure it will be more powerful for you to discover it yourselves. So, I hope you blast off to the store or your library and read this stunning biography of a spectacular science superstar. The back matter offers a black and white photograph of Cecilia and additional details about her life, a fun illustrated timeline with further information about a star's formation, and a traditional timeline of Cecilia's life and important events.


Posing a final question of the readers and noting in the back matter that “Cecilia proved not only what makes a star but also what makes a star scientist: curiosity, passion, hard work, and belief in oneself,” this is a wonderful book for encouraging everyone, especially budding scientists, stargazers, and lovers of outer space, to discover what's next.


Resources:

- follow along with Katherine Roy as she demonstrates how to make your own starscape (scroll down a little).


- try some of these fun constellation activities to learn more about stars.


- what do you think the next discovery here on earth or out in space will be?


- check out Chronicles teacher's tips for the book and a video of how the book was made.


The Fire of Stars Giveaway


Awesome news! Kirsten is offering one lucky reader a copy of The Fire of Stars: The Life And Brilliance of The Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of.

- Simply comment below (or on Monday's interview of Kirsten Larson) to be entered in the random drawing on February 12th. [I'll give you two entries if you comment on both! 😊]

- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

*Sorry US Residents only.*


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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