You 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next it was straight out into the garden to use the frame to look with fresh eyes at the beauty around us.
Whilst M made her diorama we listened to:
Other activities which might work well alongside reading You are Stardust include:
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).
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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.