Bright Sky, Starry Sky by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Aimée Sicuro
Yes, indeed – too much of a good thing is detrimentally possible. Take electricity, for example: as much as we need and use that energy, “city lights always [turn] the night sky gray and dull.” For young Phoebe, that’s especially disappointing, because tonight, Saturn and Mars are supposed to appear in the night sky. In anticipation, she’s been drawing the solar system all over the sidewalk just outside her father’s shop.
As people hustle and bustle all around her going about their busy lives without even a glimpse down at her beyond-this-world chalk art, Phoebe closes her eyes and makes a powerful wish: “She longed for the city lights to go OUT! / Just for a while. Just to give the night sky a chance.” Someone powerful certainly hears, because soon enough, raindrops fall, lightning cracks, thunder crashes, and “the city suddenly darkened.” When father and daughter venture out, not only has the sky lit up with little-seen wonders, but the people, too, have emerged in appreciation, “talking pointing, laughing, looking / all at once, all together/ under the stars.”
Author Uma Krishnaswami celebrates the simple moments of our lives, ironically reminding us that sometimes only an act of God (aka Mother Nature!) will actually slow us down … and still we often hurry back too soon to our personal chaos. As if to force us to decelerate, at least while reading this book, first-time book illustrator Aimée Sicuro inserts small clues over which to pause and ponder. The father’s shop, for example, is called “Night Sky,” and only looking into the windows will tell you why. Phoebe turns out to be quite the reader, including the works of a pioneering children’s scientific writer and illustrator who passed away last year at age 95, who never let gender get in the way of learning and exploring (no spoilers here). And Phoebe’s chalk art might not have a human audience, but a black-and-white spotted pup is woofing his encouragement. You might even discover a new constellation or two or more.
What you’ve got here is one hard-working, multi-tasking new book. In addition to a sweet, resonating, multi-culti father-who-encourages-STEM-for-his-daughter story, you’ll also enjoy a rather extensive astronomy lesson (what’s the full meaning of Phoebe’s name?), as well as a detailed reminder on the importance of going green (200 miles is not enough distance for stargazers, so when not in use, make sure to turn off those lights already!). Read, learn, save, gaze: such illuminations await.