Tuesday 10 September 2019

The Tiny Star

The Tiny Star by Mem Fox, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Puffin) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780670078127

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Two of Australia’s best-known and best-selling children’s picture book creators have collaborated on this book, which is a celebration of family and community following the loss of a loved one.

The fly and title pages depict a night sky and two houses side by side, both with windows lit up. This leads to the opening lines, ‘Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth. There’s a neighbour scene, though no depiction of where the star has fallen. 

On the next page, an interior scene, the reader discovers that the star is a baby, discovered by a couple who take it home ‘wrapped (it) warmly in a quilt covered in stars.’ The baby, which gets ‘rounder and rounder’ is loved by all in the neighbourhood until one day it is all ground up ‘loved and adored’.

The story relates how the child becomes an adult and then so old and ‘so tiny it disappeared altogether.’ The community grieves the loss but ‘the tiny star hadn’t vanished at all!’ It has returned to its home in the heavens and ‘there it remained, to rest.’ ‘Everyone knew that they star they had loved so much would be there always, loving them from afar and watching over them… forever.’

This touching story is timeless, and the book ideal for reading to a child who has lost a loved one as a way of simply explaining the cycle of life and death in a non-religious but touching way.

Blackwood’s illustrations are, as usual, ideal for the story. Here is an artist who can faithfully depict real-life children and put them into scenes which are warm and loving. There are pages with lots of white space, while others are full-page coloured spreads.

No doubt this book with its pared-back text, uplifting message and eye-catching illustrations, will win awards. It will also win the hearts of readers aged 5 years and up.

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