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THE FIRE OF STARS by Kirsten W. Larson Kirkus Star

THE FIRE OF STARS

The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of

by Kirsten W. Larson ; illustrated by Katherine Roy

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-4521-7287-3
Publisher: Chronicle Books

In parallel plotlines, two stars are born—one to flare in space and another sort on Earth to shed light on how.

In celestial deeps, illustrator Roy portrays dust and dirt gradually coalescing into a cloud that whirls ever more violently and at last ignites. Meanwhile, in side-by-side foreground scenes, a British child who thrills at the “lightning bolt of discovery” attendant on close observations of the natural world around her persistently chases that love through schools that discourage girls and women from such pursuits…all the way to the Harvard College Observatory. There she finds not only kindred female spirits, but also astronomical evidence leading to a blinding flash of insight about what stars are made of and in what proportions. Along with adding more detail about both the stellar career of Cecilia Payne, 25 years old when she made her revolutionary discovery in 1925, and about star formation in an afterword, Larson makes explicit her message to readers who burn to find out and to understand. “Cecilia proved not only what makes a star but also what makes a star scientist: curiosity, passion, hard work, and belief in oneself.” The swirling, whirling vortex cuts a dramatic figure in Roy’s glimmering starscapes; in the overset panels, Payne and her fellow students and associates, all White presenting, are drawn with sketchy grace in period dress and settings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A luminous thematic pairing.

(timeline) (Picture-book biography. 7-9)