How The Stars Came To Be by Poonam Mistry

Values: Love, Kindness and Patience.

Poonam Mistry is such a talented author and illustrator. With my Key Worker bubble of Year 3 and 4 children in the summer term of 2020, we studied You’re Snug With Me (illustrated by Mistry) and the children were blown away by the visuals. Therefore, when I saw How The Stars Came To Be on The Kate Greenaway shortlist for 2021, I knew I needed to get a copy. Mistry loves folklore tales and stories of Hindu gods and goddesses, and you can see these inspirations in her artwork.

In this story, a fisherman’s daughter loves to dance in the sunlight, and bathe in the glow of the moon, but when the moon disappears for a few nights each month, she worries about her father out fishing in the dark. The Sun, seeing the girl’s worries, decides to throw a golden ray down to Earth where it shatters into a thousand, glowing pieces. The girl then spends weeks placing these pieces into the sky to form pictures (constellations) to guide her father; however, the task is long and time-consuming. One evening, a monkey comes along and steals the girl’s bag of gleaming stars. In the struggle to get it back, the girl and the monkey use the bag as a tug-of-war and the remaining stars end up being flung across the night sky. Although initially upset, the girl is happy when she realises her father can see his way across the sea every night as the sky is lit up by the sparkling stars.

The Values in this book include love, kindness and patience. Firstly, the love the girl shows for her father is evident throughout the book. The motive for her filling the sky with light is to keep her father safe and ensure he gets home across the sea each night. The Sun is compassionate and empathetic, and helps by providing the gleaming stars for the girl to fulfill her wish. Even though the monkey had created a smudge of stars across the girl’s constellations, the whole community realise how this mistake has turned into beautiful artwork too and one that helps the fisherman come home each night.

Secondly, the value of kindness is closely linked. The girl does what she can to support her father, even though the task takes much longer than anticipated. The text reads, “She worked tirelessly each evening, week after week, paying special attention to the placement of each and every star.” Even the youngest of children can relate to the value of kindness and think of times they have done things for others. This would be a great starting point for a wider discussion of kindness. Maybe the children could even make their own set of stars for the classroom, and place them carefully on the wall or floor. At the end of the book, Poonam Mistry has dedicated the story to her twin sister Priya, “and all the other junior doctors and NHS workers. You are all stars.” In the memorable year of 2020, this dedication means so much.

The value of patience is shown by the way the girl spends all of her evenings carefully placing the thousands of stars – creating animals’ portraits whom have travelled so far to have their faces illustrated on the canvas of the night sky. Although the girl realises her job was much greater than anticipated, she doesn’t give up. She knows her patience will be rewarded by the safety and happiness of her father. What a lovely message to share with children. Maybe this could lead to an activity that needs patience in the classroom to achieve a greater goal!

This book is available from many independent booksellers. It is so beautiful and versatile to use across primary school and KS3 for art and design as well as reading and mythology. It is always nice to learn more about the authors/illustrators you study with children and explain to them how this can give us a more insightful understanding of a book. I liked this interview with Poonam Mistry here.

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