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Stella, Star of the Sea

by Marie-Louise Gay

Who can forget their first sight of the ocean? Marie-Louise Gay’s delightful new picture book captures the essence of a young child’s first encounter with the seashore, as Stella, who has been there once before, encourages her little brother, Sam, to join her in the water. Stella’s confidence is humorously contrasted with Sam’s circumspect hesitation and determined inquiries. Stella is a good sister, reassuring Sam and trying to answer his questions. Some of her best answers come straight from her own imagination, playing with stories about the starfish and moon shells. In his own good time, Sam eventually joins Stella in the water and the book ends with an image of the two floating blissfully on their backs, Stella’s bright red hair streaming out behind her.

Marie-Louise Gay is one of the leading creators of picture books in Canada today, and Stella, Star of the Sea ranks with her best work. She draws the reader into the moment of the children’s experience, showing us the world as Stella and Sam are discovering it. Most of the text is direct dialogue – Sam’s queries and Stella’s responses and persuasion. The pictures reflect the text by showing what the children are imagining as well as actually experiencing. With a delicate, humorous touch in both dialogue and watercolour, Gay characterizes the two different personalities and their reactions. The wide horizons of the double-page illustrations and the subtle watercolours brilliantly evoke the magic of a sunny day at the seashore.