At first, Stars Above Us appears to be a beautifully crafted addition to the cadre of books that help children with their fear of the dark. When Amanda confesses her fear of the dark because it is full of scary things, Dad takes her outside. Together they see the fireflies, which are not scary, but fun, the stars that are beautiful, and the crickets that sound nice. While Amanda agrees that the dark outside is not scary but lovely, she is not totally convinced about the dark in her room.
The next day Daddy brings home craft supplies and turns Amanda’s bedroom into a starry paradise that mimics the outside. Daddy explains about the North Star, which can be seen from anywhere in the world. He asks Amanda to think of him when she sees it while he is away. Before he leaves he brings another companion to comfort Amanda during his absence. They name the dog Bear, another name for the Big Dipper. As Amanda awaits her Daddy’s return, we see how she and Bear grow. We also see that Daddy is in the military and defending his country in a faraway place. A phone call from Daddy encourages Amanda to use the North Star as a wishing star for his safe return. Amanda and her mother plan their own surprise for Daddy. When he does come home safely, Amanda and her mom have added stars, a moon, planets, and fireflies to her ceiling, making it a true representation of the night sky.
The combination of lyrical language and elegant illustration makes this an excellent choice for children who need reassurance about the dark. However Stars Above Us is more. While war is not mentioned, the illustration of Daddy in fatigues provides a clear message for adults and older children. This book is appropriate for any child who has an absent father, and particularly for those children whose parents are involved in current world conflicts. The message is timeless yet very contemporary. The best picture books, like the best marriages, blend the language and art, creating a whole that is superior to the two parts. Geoffrey Norman and E. B. Lewis have accomplished this in Stars Above Us. The book is timeless and current, lyrical and beautiful, and should become a classic.
Check the WRL catalog for Stars Above Us.