Bright Sky, Starry City is written by Uma Krishnaswami with pictures by Aimee Sicuro and was published by Groundwood Books earlier this year – 2015.
This is Krishnaswami’s latest book in her fairly substantial body of work that includes picture books, adult novels, early readers, and nonfiction. Krishnaswami is notable for her important role in the expansion of multiculturalism in literature today.
It’s afternoon and Phoebe and her dad are setting up their telescope to stargaze that evening but Phoebe is worried. Phoebe knows Saturn and Mars will be in the sky but the strong city lights might dim their view of the planets.
In anticipation of their starry night Phoebe draws the planets in colourful chalk all over the sidewalk.
As afternoon starts to roll into evening:
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.
If they were in the country they would really be able to see the stars.
She closed her eyes and wished for all the bright lights to disappear. All those blinking, flashing, glowing lights that sent pale fingers up into the sky. She longed for the city lights to go OUT! Just for awhile. Just to give the night sky a chance.
As Phoebe gazes upward rain starts to fall.
Flashes of lightning and booms of thunder take up the sky. Finally, the thunderstorm disrupts the city’s electricity and the whole city’s lights go OUT! And with the darkness hundreds and thousands of stars finally have their chance and come into view – not just for Phoebe and her Dad but for a whole city of people out in the street, looking up.
This advanced picture book is a unique reflection of what many of us city dwellers wish for once in awhile: real darkness. The lyrical and fluid text conveys the calmness and stillness of the deep, vast sky.
Regrettably, I have access to very few images from this beautiful book but Sicuro’s illustrations blanket the pages with a deep, rich sky coloured with stars. The layout of the illustrations is almost as stunning as the pictures themselves. The sky and the stars roll into the pages in waves, finally revealing the inhabits of the galaxy: the milky way, the planets, and the millions of stars. When Phoebe wishes for darkness her face dominates the double page spread but the starry sky is still visible in the illustrations – literally seen in her mind’s eye.
The sky is always the focal point of this picture book in the text and in the illustrations, whether the reader is looking directly at the painted sky, at Phoebe’s chalk drawings on the sidewalk, through Phoebe and her dad’s telescope, or at the faces of people on the street – looking up.
The final pages give some useful information about the solar system and the planets – a perfect addition to the educational curriculum.