You are Stardust

posted in: Elin Kelsey, Soyeon Kim | 1

stardustcoverYou are Stardust written by Elin Kelsey (@elinkelsey), with artwork by Soyeon Kim combines philosophy, poetry and science into a mercurial, magical invitation to let wonder in and feel connected to the world around us.

Through expressive, elegant and somehow sublimely simple observations, Kelsey (an environmental consultant and activist) and Kim draw startling and evocative links between ourselves and the natural world, distilling incredible ideas into droplets of awe and excitement. From the glorious affirmation that opens the book, making each and every reader feel special, to the final full stop, we are taken on a journey showing us that we are not separate from nature, but rather very much part of it, and that this connection is not only empowering and exhilarating but it can also bring great joy.

Whilst Kelsey’s text is revelatory and full of magic, Kim’s detailed, highly textured dioramas bring an additional dreamlike quality to the science being offered up to spark our own imaginations. At one and the same time grounded and yet other-worldly – achieved through the combination of macro photography giving a sense of realism, and great playfulness with surprising materials and settings of human-animal-nature interactions – the illustrations are full of movement and fun. Children hang upside down from branches, feel the wind in their hair and even fulfil fantasies flying on clouds high in the sky.

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This glorious synthesis of art and science invites discussion about our place in the world, where we come from, how we change, and what makes us feel alive.

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Soothing and reassuring and yet full of energy and excitement, You are Stardust spectacularly shows how science is full of some of the best stories. A terrific book for nurturing curiosity and fostering a feeling of enchantment.

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You are Stardust was one of those books which came to life before our very eyes within minutes of finishing it for the first time. M spontaneously found an article in the newspaper which had pictures of butterflies in it, cut them out and attached them to thread.

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She made a frame out of a cardboard box and then, using a needle, threaded her butterflies to fly from one side to the other.

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Next it was straight out into the garden to use the frame to look with fresh eyes at the beauty around us.

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Whilst M made her diorama we listened to:

  • You Were Meant To Be by Renee Stahl & Glen Phillips

    You Were Meant To Be from renee stahl on Vimeo.

  • Stardust sung by Nat King Cole
  • We Are Stardust by Charity and the JAMband


  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading You are Stardust include:

  • Exploring the resources available from the US publisher’s website, including lesson plans, author and artist Q&As, plus a suggested further reading lists (for grown-ups and children).
  • Creating a self-portrait out of items found on a nature-walk. Go for a walk in the park, or down your street and collect leaves, twigs, stones, anything natural that is small and ok for you to bring home. Arrange your objects into a picture of yourself – either just your face, or your whole body. Just as You are Stardust does, this art project also makes connections between nature and ourselves.
  • Having fun with the periodic table. Although Kelsey and Kim don’t make it explicit, when they talk and illustrate ‘stardust’, they are talking about the periodic table elements, and I rather fancy creating these starry building blocks out of cake, don’t you?


  • We found You are Stardust so imaginative and wonder-inducing that we’ve treated ourselves to its follow-up, even though this isn’t out in the UK (hopefully it will find a UK publisher!): Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking explores what animals can teach us about creative thinking and problem solving (here’s the review from Kirkus).

    If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • A review of When Dad Showed Me the Universe written by Ulf Stark, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, another moving book about interconnectedness and our place in the world
  • Star biscuits to go with The Sea Mice and the Stars by Kenneth Steven, illustrated Louise Ho
  • The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, with illustrations by Dave McKean
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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by its UK publisher, Wayland. The book first appeared in the US in 2011.

    One Response

    1. Dear Zoe and M,
      I can not tell you how touched I was by your lovely review of my book, You Are Stardust, and by your creative responses to it. I wish I could have been in your garden with those lovely tulips and your gorgeous diorama. Thank you as well for the beautiful sound track you brought to the book and to your art making. I listened to both clips while reading your review and am playing them now as I set to work on a presentation about hope and the environment I am preparing to give at the World Conservation Congress this September. You kindness and generosity will be woven into the feeling of that presentation.

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