April 03, 2023

A Bed of Stars

By Jessica Love
Review by
A desert camping trip reassures a child about their place in an immense universe in this gentle, comforting picture book.
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Jessica Love (Julián Is a Mermaid) gently demonstrates the power of knowledge in A Bed of Stars, a picture book about a child whose father takes them camping in the desert.

Every night before bed, the child imagines “the whole universe stretching on endlessly.” This recurring thought makes the child feel small and insignificant, and it prevents them from falling asleep. Then one morning, Dad announces that they’re going out to the desert beyond their city to “shake hands with the universe.” Together, the two explore the desert and meet some of its inhabitants, including flowers, insects, birds and a friend of Dad’s who runs a junkyard. When night falls, the pair “snuggle up all cozy” in the back of Dad’s pickup truck, Darlin’, and make up names for the stars they see.

Love narrates from the child’s perspective in straightforward, earnest prose. In keeping with its youthful tone, the text is filled with small observations that lend authenticity and occasional humor. For instance, the child notes that the city they drive through “smells like rubber and french fries.” Later, when Dad stops at the junkyard, he says it’s to “shoot the breeze” with his friend, and the narrator explains that “‘shooting the breeze’ is when adults have a boring conversation.” 

Love’s watercolor, gouache and ink illustrations convey both vastness and intimacy. She peppers desertscapes with wonderful details such as coyotes howling on a distant ridge, beetle tracks in the sand and the shadows cast on the ground by birds circling in the sky. Just as Love’s text is sprinkled with narrative asides, her artwork includes field guide-esque sketches of desert flora and fauna. An earthy color palette and a soft, hazy quality to the linework and shading give the book a comforting, well-worn feel, while layered blues and purples create a majestic image of a star-studded night sky. 

The strongest element in A Bed of Stars is the calm, simple way in which the father makes the immense and overwhelming universe less frightening and more enchanting. Nestled in the bed of their pickup truck as they name the stars, the child realizes that they’ve gained a new perspective: “It’s not that I feel bigger or the universe feels smaller; it’s more like we’re all made of the same stuff, in different bodies.” A Bed of Stars is a natural fit for bedtime or any situation that calls for reassurance. Love offers a moving reminder that learning can help us face our fears, move with confidence and find our place in the world.

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A Bed of Stars

A Bed of Stars

By Jessica Love
ISBN 9781536212396

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