Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stars Beneath Your Bed

Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust written by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Ann Jonas. Published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2005.

I have a tiny confession: picture books scare me. I know what you're thinking: there's just 32 pages, less than 800 words. What could be scary about that? Well, you try telling a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end in less than 800 words. You'll see just how hard it is!

But April Pulley Sayre makes it look easy. She even helps unravel the secrets of the universe and she does it with just a few words on each spread. That's because she has found the right word for each sentence. Not a word that will work, or something close, but THE word. And doing that is magical.

My current work in progress, a young adult mystery set in the dust bowl had a lot to do with me selecting this book from Sayre's impressive list of non-fiction picture books.
I was a bit surprised to find the intriguing title doesn't appear exactly in the book, only as an inference that “the dust beneath your bed might be from Mars.”
This spread also has the most unusual text layout with the words: “floating, swirling, sprinkling, bits of you and me and soil and stars” moving from right to left down the page. This placement gives the words a life all their own, almost making them seem to dance. The beginning of most lines of text in the book start to the right or left of the previous line, mirroring the gradual descent of the dust acted on by the forces of gravity. But on the space spread, gravity isn't quite as strong. The dust lingers, suspended, floating before reaching the bottom of the page.

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