Archive for October, 2014

You Are Stardust Inspires Cosmic Awe in Kids

51HUZBb+liL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_You Are Stardust begins by introducing the idea that every tiny atom in our bodies came from a star that exploded long before we were born. From its opening pages, the book suggests that we are intimately connected to the natural world; it compares the way we learn to speak to the way baby birds learn to sing, and the growth of human bodies to the growth of forests.

Award-winning author Elin Kelsey — along with a number of concerned parents and educators around the world — believes children are losing touch with nature. This innovative picture book aims to reintroduce children to their innate relationship with the world around them by sharing many of the surprising ways that we are all connected to the natural world.

Grounded in current science, this extraordinary picture book provides opportunities for children to use their imaginations and wonder about some big ideas. Soyeon Kim’s incredible diorama art enhances the poetic text, and her creative process is explored in full on the reverse side of the book’s jacket, which features comments from the artist. Young readers will want to pore over each page of this book, exploring the detailed artwork and pondering the message of the text, excited to find out just how connected to the Earth they really are.

Listed as one of the 13 best picture books of 2013, environmental writer Elin Kelsey and Toronto-based Korean artist Soyeon Kim seek to inspire cosmic awe in kids in You Are Stardust :

“Everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was … lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” Carl Sagan famously marveled in his poetic Pale Blue Dot monologue, titled after the iconic 1990 photograph of Earth. The stardust metaphor for our interconnection with the cosmos soon permeated popular culture and became a vehicle for the allure of space exploration. There’s something at once incredibly empowering and incredibly humbling in knowing that the flame in your fireplace came from the sun.

According to School Library Journal, bright dioramas created with pen-and-ink, pencil crayon, watercolor, dried flowers, and cut paper fancifully illustrate this exploration of human beings and the world around them.

Beginning with stardust, the economical text takes readers from their atoms all the way to their relationship with the natural environment. Each page attempts to shock or surprise: “The water swirling in your glass/once filled the puddles/where dinosaurs drank.” “You may sprout even taller/in the spring and summer, just/like the plants in your garden.” Readers learn interesting facts about themselves and are urged to make parallels to the planet at large. Meanwhile paper cutouts of children travel from page to page in the mixed-media dioramas, illustrating the text’s assertions in a fantastical way. The art and text don’t quite come together seamlessly in the book’s design, but each one provides much to consider and absorb. While striving to make these big connections in nature, the text presents thoughtful ideas but sometimes anthropomorphizes the animals.

The inventive three-dimensional dioramas of artist Soyeon Kim, this remarkable picture book reveals ties that are often sensed yet seldom explained. An author’s note includes a link that explores the science behind the broad statements in the book. And in a world dominated by technology, never have these incredible connections between children and nature been worth exploring.

See the world from a kid’s-eye view with MATILDA, a modern fairytale (with study guides)

indexMatilda is a children’s novel by British author Roald Dahl. It was published in 1988 by Jonathan Cape in London, with 232 pages and illustrations by the notable illustrator Quentin Blake. The story is about Matilda Wormwood, an extraordinary child with ordinary and rather unpleasant parents. It was adapted into an audio reading by Joely Richardson, a film in 1996, a two-part adaptation for BBC Radio 4 (later re-broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra) starring Nicola McAuliffe as Matilda and narrated by Lenny Henry. In 2010 it was adapted into a musical.

Here is a Study Guide for the novel.


Protagonist Matilda is a young girl of unusual precocity, but often ill-treated by her father or neglected by her mother. In retaliation, she pulls pranks such as gluing her father’s hat to his head, hiding a friend’s parrot in the chimney to simulate a burglar or ghost, and secretly bleaching her father’s hair.

In the movie version:

See the world from a kid’s-eye view with MATILDA, a modern fairytale that mixes hilarious humor with the magical message of love. Mrs. Doubtfire’s Mara Wilson stars as Matilda, a super-smart little girl who’s woefully misunderstood by her parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), her brother, and anevil school principal. But with the help of a brave best friend and a wonderful teacher, Matilda discovers she doesn’t have to get mad to get even. 2013 BD Release: From best-selling author Roald Dahl and the unique vision of Danny DeVito comes Matilda, remastered in high definition! This modern-day fairy tale mixes hilarious humor with a magical message of love. Mrs. Doubtfire’s Mara Wilson stars as Matilda, a super-smart little girl who’s woefully misunderstood by her parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), her brother and an evil school principal. But with the help of a brave best friend and a wonderful teacher, Matilda discovers she doesn’t have to get mad to get even.

See this Matilda Summary & Study Guide from

At school, Matilda befriends her teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey, who astonished by Matilda’s intellectual abilities, tries to move her into a higher class, but is refused by headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull. Miss Honey also tries to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood about Matilda’s supreme intelligence, but makes no impression. Matilda quickly develops a particularly strong bond with Miss Honey. When Matilda’s friend Lavender plays a practical joke on Miss Trunchbull by placing a newt in her jug of water, Matilda uses an unexpected power of telekinesis to tip the glass of water containing the newt onto Miss Trunchbull. Having learnt of this feat, Miss Honey invites Matilda to tea at her tiny cottage in the forest, where Miss Honey reveals that she was raised in part by a hostile aunt, identified as Miss Trunchbull, who appears (among other misdeeds) to withhold her niece’s inheritance. In preparation to avenge the latter, Matilda develops her telekinetic gift through practice at home. Later, during a lesson that Miss Trunchbull is teaching, Matilda telekinetically raises a piece of chalk against the blackboard and, in the resulting writings, poses as the spirit of Miss Honey’s late father, demanding that Miss Trunchbull concede Miss Honey’s house and wages and leave the region forever. This is soon accomplished, and Matilda herself advances to the highest level of schooling, where she is no longer capable of telekinesis; this explained by Miss Honey as the result of using her mind in a more-challenging curriculum.

Matilda continues to visit Miss Honey at her house regularly, but one day she finds her parents hastily packing to escape from the police who have incriminated her father for selling stolen automobiles. Matilda asks permission to live with Miss Honey, to which her parents agree, and remains there; Miss Honey, in addition to her teaching duties, also becomes the school’s new principal.


  1. If you had powers like Matilda’s, what would you do with them? Suppose you could move just one thing with your mind. What would it be?
  2. How would you react if the Trunchbull wandered into one of your classrooms?
  3. Who is the meanest character in the book? How are they mean? The nicest? What makes them nice?
  4. Look back at a few of the different pranks played in the book. Are they realistic? Could any of them really work? And which one’s your favorite?
  5. Do you think there’s too much violence in Matilda, compared to other kids’ books? Is the amount of violence appropriate for most readers’ age level?
  6. Are the books Mrs. Phelps gives to Matilda appropriate for a five-year-old to read? What would you add to this list? What would you remove?
  7. Do you think events like those in the book could ever happen? Why or why not?
  8. Could anyone besides Bruce Bogtrotter eat an entire chocolate cake?
  9. Would you call the end of the book a happy one? Why or why not?
  10. Do you think Miss Honey’s explanation about why Matilda starts losing her special abilities at the end of the book makes sense?
  11. At what point in the book did you figure out the connection between Miss Honey and the Trunchbull?
  12. Do you agree with reviewers that the ending is “contrived” (see “What’s Up With the Ending”)? Why or why not?
  13. Do you think any of Matilda’s pranks are mean spirited? Or are they totally deserved?



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