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The Stars

by Jacques Goldstyn and Helen Mixter (trans.)

Even though he has no interest in slides or sandboxes, young Yakov always has to take his three younger sisters to the local playground in Mile End. But while they bicker and play, he keeps to a bench where he reads about his favourite subject: space. Imagine his surprise one day when another kid, Aïcha, arrives at the playground to mind her brothers, her face also tucked between the pages of a book about the stars.

Of course, they become inseparable friends, even though their different backgrounds (Yakov’s family is Jewish, Aïcha’s is Muslim) cause a few neighbourhood tongues to wag. But friendship is stronger than gossip, and The Stars is a beautiful celebration of childhood enthusiasm and human connection that plays out in the bagel shops and libraries of one of Montreal’s most storied districts. Governor General’s Award–winning cartoonist, writer, and illustrator Jacques Goldstyn embraces the facets and quirks of that specific place in this picture book that readers anywhere will relate to.

The book opens with a silent prelude, zooming in from outside our galaxy, to Earth, to Québec, to Yakov’s own street. Goldstyn’s loose, gestural line work, paired with vibrant watercolours, gives The Stars a classic look. But his vast array of techniques draws from picture book and comics traditions equally, and gives this work an extraordinary amount of not just verve, but also depth. From detailed double-page spreads to tight, panelled sequences, and tense monochrome moments to expressionist flights of fancy or despair, Goldstyn’s art works seamlessly with the text to create narrative layers for the reader – Yakov in his community, Yakov in his friendship, Yakov in his mind, Yakov in his feelings.

And The Stars has a lot of feelings. The joys of best friendship can’t last forever, and when Aïcha’s and Yakov’s fathers decide the kids’ friendship has crossed a line and the two are separated, Goldstyn brilliantly captures the moment with Yakov, floating through the void of space he’s read so much about, declaiming Aïcha’s name to the vast nothing that surrounds him.

Happily, the story doesn’t end there. The Stars is a book about shared interests and new friendships. But it is also a book about unreasonable parents, and the hopeful idea that when we grow up, we will get to make our own decisions. Goldstyn’s heartening coda is an only slightly unrealistic fairy-tale ending, which honours not only the enthusiasms, but also the autonomy his child protagonists deserve. In both its message and its mastery of the picture-book medium, The Stars utterly shines.


Reviewer: Andrew Woodrow-Butcher

Publisher: Greystone Kids


Price: $22.95

Page Count: 72 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-77164-919-3

Released: May

Issue Date: June 2023

Categories: Children and YA Fiction, Kids’ Books

Age Range: 7–10