A favorite author/illustrator released an eagerly-awaited, new picture book earlier this month. With its focus on the borderlands, an area much in the news recently, I think this is a Perfect Picture Book. I hope you agree!
Title: Bright Star
Written & Illustrated By: Yuyi Morales
Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House/2021
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: borderlands, wildlife, family, barriers, connections, empowerment
Child, you are awake!
Breathe in, then breathe out, hermosa creatura.
You are ALIVE!
You are a bright star inside our hearts.
Brief Synopsis: A fawn born in the borderlands desert takes its first exploratory steps, and, faced with a barrier, learns to make its voice heard.
Links to Resources:
- When we think of borders and/or barriers between countries or regions, we generally think about the people who are prevented from crossing. Why do you think Morales focuses on a fawn that confronts a border wall?
- Learn about the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert;
- View a video in which Morales discusses the making of Bright Star;
- Check out the Educators Guide for discussion questions and more, and the Event Kit for activity ideas.
Why I Like this Book:
With gorgeous mixed-media artwork and limited text using both English and Spanish, Morales transports readers to the Sonoran desert borderlands. There, readers witness the birth of a curious white-tailed fawn. We experience the sense of wonder it feels exploring this seemingly austere, desert landscape that is filled with cacti, other desert plants, and many native animals, birds, and insects.
When the fawn encounters a huge wall that precludes further progress on its journey to find water, it lets the world know how it feels by shouting out, “NO!” Thankfully, the earth protects the young fawn and the other creatures with a soothing rain shower, enabling it to “imagine a new story” of “the most beautiful world.” This world is filled with young children of a variety of soft brown hues, wearing colorful clothing that references the desert creatures.
An omniscient voice, like a caring mother, prods the fawn to explore, to overcome fear, and to listen to the surrounding silence. I love the gentle tone of the text and the reassurance this narrator imparts to the story.
In an afterword, Morales explains why she made the book. First in the list, “I made this book because you and I are connected”. These connections are very apparent throughout the text and most especially in the illustrations. The details, including the use of woven and embroidered cloth and a photograph of the arm of a young child at the border “used for the color and texture of the children’s skin” in the book, show the care, and love, Morales is sharing with the children at the borderlands and with us, the readers.
With its detailed illustrations, low word count, and message of community and caring for each other, Bright Star is a wonderful picture book to share with younger children. Because it raises so many questions about how we treat others, including the natural world, at the borderlands, I think this is also a wonderful choice for classroom and home discussion with older children.
A Note about Craft:
In another of the statements about why she created Bright Star, Morales stated that she “made this book knowing that children everywhere, but especially migrant children at the borderlands, have experienced things that they should never have to endure.” But rather than concentrating solely on these atrocities, which would be a difficult topic for young children to read about, Morales introduces readers to the beauty of the borderlands, the diverse flora and fauna, and the beautiful faces of young children. And while the wall that divides the borderlands plays a prominent role in the story, the young fawn uses its voice to shout “NO!” and then listens to the wisdom of the soothing silence. In the end, Morales leaves readers hopeful that communities will use their voices to reunite the peoples and natural world of the borderland.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!