________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 28 . . . . March 27, 2015


Bright Sky, Starry City.

Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover & pdf, $17.95 (hc.), $14.95 (pdf).
ISBN 978-1-55498-405-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-406-0 (pdf).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**** /4



Street lights blinked on.

Neon signs flashed and flickered.

Up in the sky, something faint tried to glimmer through.

"What's that star?" Phoebe asked.

"Vega?" said Dad. "Deneb?"

It was hard to tell.

"Where are Mars and Saturn?" said Phoebe.

"Over in the west," said Dad.

"If we were out in the country we could see them. The city lights wouldn't spoil the night sky." But they were not in the country.

"It's not fair," Phoebe said.

Phoebe anxiously waits for nightfall to use the telescopes from her dad's store to view Mars and Saturn. The only problem might be city light pollution that will bleach out the stars. She makes a wish for the city lights to be extinguished "just for a while". At first, it seems that a thunderstorm will wash out the plans anyway... until the power goes out. Enraptured, Phoebe marvels at constellations, Saturn's rings (knowing she's named for one of its moons), and glimpses of the Milky Way. What a treat in the starry city sky!

internal art      Bright Sky, Starry City is an enchanting way to introduce youngsters to stargazing as well as to the issue of light pollution that makes it such a challenge in urban areas. Using bits of information about the solar system seen through a child's eyes, the author tantalizes the reader to want more detail. And that detail appears in several pages at the end of the book to further explain the solar system, planetary conjunctions (such as the one that brought Mars and Saturn into view together for Phoebe), moons, planetary rings, telescopes and light pollution. With the text rendered in a straightforward, simple-to-understand style, readers learn some basics as well as a few neat, lesser-known facts: that Ganymede (a moon of Jupiter) is bigger than Mercury and on its own would be called a planet; that effects of light pollution can even be seen from satellites. One missing element is that no mention is made of Dark-Sky Preserves (there are 17 of these areas kept free of artificial light in Canada) and Urban Sky Parks (two in Canada where artificial light is strictly controlled). A missed opportunity to intrigue and motivate readers even more?

      The language is most appealing with its strong active writing style (great verb choices such as flashed, flickered, glimmer, whistled, blurred, blotted) to show the images. There's a clever hint of trouble ahead as Phoebe notices people hurrying past "hugging themselves against the wind." How easy it is to see Phoebe's "sidewalk solar system dissolving into chalky streams" in the downpour, and to hear the rain letting up as it changes to "pitter-patter-drip". Her young voice rings true as she moves through anticipation, apprehension, longing, disappointment and determination all the way to delight and wonder.

      Illustrations have just the right feel for the nature of this story, complementing the tone in soft colours using a variety of media—watercolour, acrylic, pencil, pastel—and showing lots of energy and motion. Early in the story, Dad's store roof is shown as a deck with huge potted plants, a subtle environmentally friendly detail. Sensibly, as I hoped they would, Phoebe and Dad end up there on the last page.

      Although classified as fiction (813.54), it might be best placed on the science shelves. As a picture book offered mainly to youngest readers, there's a risk others may miss this charming story, as well as the value of those final pages.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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