Stella, Star of the sea

30 pages,
ISBN: 0888993374

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Children`s Books
by Erinn Banting

Some children have absolutely no difficulty jumping into any and all situations feet first. Others prefer to stand back, to observe, to test the water, to feel out the situation, and to exhaust all of the what's and why's before even thinking about taking the plunge. In Marie-Louise Gay's latest book, Stella, Star of the Sea, we are presented with the lovely, sensitive interaction between two such different children.

Celebrated, award-winning illustrator Marie-Louise Gay combines her artistic and linguistic zest in Stella, Star of the Sea, which she both wrote and illustrated. Although the book is aimed at a younger audience (ages 2-4), the narrative that unfolds in a wonderfully intelligent and humorous way between bold, red-headed, jump-in-feet-first Stella and her more inquisitive, hesitant little brother, Sam, will appeal to inner child in all of us.

The story takes place at the seashore. This being Sam's first day at the beach, he naturally has many questions. But Stella is prepared, for "Stella had seen the sea once, before Sam was born. She knew all its secrets."

Stella proves to be a wonderful guide as she explains to Sam that "Starfish are shooting stars that fell in love with the sea", that moon shells come from the moon, and that angel wings (naturally) come from angels. She assures cautious Sam that there are no monsters in the water today, and that the only shark that she's ever seen was a "little one...with an eyepatch."

With enviable patience and attentiveness, Stella listens and responds to each and every query. The only question Stella asks Sam in return is when on earth is he ever going to get into the water?

"Does the sea touch the sky?" asked Sam.

"Do boats sail off the edge?"

"Where do boats come from? Why..."

"Sam!!" yelled Stella. "Are you ever coming in?"

The exciting day at the seashore is captured and complemented by Gay's characteristically vibrant watercolour illustrations. Fiery, confident Stella skips across these pages, her wonderfully unkempt hair flying behind her like a comet's tail; she is always followed by little Sam who tumbles along at his own pace. Each page is filled with marvellous detail, complete with a recurring print which we see first on a kite, then on the sail of a boat, later on Stella's beach blanket, and finally on Sam's hat.

The story not only shows the pleasant interaction between two children of very different temperaments, it also presents a splendid and touching relationship between an older sister and her little brother. Know-it-all Stella, with characteristic assurance, takes Sam's hand and humours him (attentively and patiently) until he's finally ready...to jump!

Erinn Banting is finishing a Specialist program in English at the University of Toronto.


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