cover image Star Shapes

Star Shapes

Chronicle Books, Peter Malone. Chronicle Books, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0726-5

Earthly animals gaze up at their constellation equivalents, each star bright with silver foil, in this handsomely illustrated paper-over-board book. Malone's (The Forest Child) still, shadowy gouache illustrations evoke the subtle patina of old copper or leather. While unified in color and style, the night scenes in each spread vary almost as much as they might by daylight: a desert lion is bathed in a cold celestial light; a curly-coated watch dog (observing Sirius, the Dog Star, as the horizon pales) is rendered with the simplicity of folk art; a hare glows white against a surrealistic landscape of luminous purples and blue-greens. The rhyming text holds no surprises; innocuous words link the scenes simply, as in those for the constellations of the Great Bear and the Wolf (or Ursa Major and Lupus): ""In the twilight, brown bear growls./ In the forest, gray wolf howls."" But the lyricism of the illustrations more than compensates. An appendix explains the history of star-gazing and tells a little about each constellation featured, including how to spot it. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)