A book four years in the making, with the grand aim of squeezing the entire cosmos into 10 pop up pages, The Story of Stars by Neal Layton (@LaytonNeal) doesn’t disappoint: It is exciting, funny and eyepopping.
Opening by placing the reader at the heart of the book (“Each night as the sun goes down, the sky grows dark and the stars come out, you might look up at the stars and wonder, ‘What are they? Where are they?’“) Layton uses a historical narrative to explore how our knowledge and understanding of the night sky has developed.
As arguably the most important star for human beings, a couple of spreads are then dedicated to the sun (what it is like and what impact it has on us) before moving on to thinking about what else you can see in the night sky and how it is being explored. A very satisfying ending suggests that young readers themselves may be the ones to further add to our knowledge about the universe when they grow up, once again locating the young reader centrally in the story of the stars, making it relevant and exciting to them.
Layton has illustrated many non fiction books for children. I think some of what makes them so successful is his unstuffy, slightly scribbly, loose style. Not only do kids find this accessible, his characters and cameos are often funny with their big noses and wonky faces. Hand written annotations on his illustrations look almost like a child could have added them, (subconsciously) bringing the reader yet closer to the subject matter of book. Click here to see some interior spreads from the book.
Whilst pop up books are generally not loved by libraries and schools, children simply adore opening flaps, turning wheels, seeing cut-outs leap off the pages, and the paper engineering (by Richard Ferguson) in The Story of Stars is great fun. Surprises for the reader start on the very first page, with the most engaging colophon I’ve ever seen in a book (for once children will naturally find themselves reading the brief description of publication notes) ! Particularly effective is the simple but stunning opening of the skies to show the location, names and stories behind a selection of constellations, thought children will also love the elements which are a little more well hidden; there’s nothing like playing “spot the secret flap”, especially if adult readers haven’t noticed it!
A highly engaging and humorous introduction perhaps particularly appropriate for for 4-8 year olds, I can whole heartedly recommend The Story of Stars.
The Story of Stars by Neal Layton, published by Hodder (published Oct 2013 in the UK, forthcoming Feburary 2014 in the USA)
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Copyright ©2014 Zoe Toft. All Rights Reserved.