The Stuff between the Stars / Get Up, Elizabeth!

The Stuff Between the Stars
Sandra Nickel and Aimée Sicuro
Abrams Books for Young Readers

This is an inspiring picture book biography of brilliant astrophysicist Vera Rubin, from the time when she was a star-gazing eleven year old who, despite opposition and ridicule

and being ignored during much of her lifetime, became, thanks to her dedication and an opportunity at the Carnegie Institution, a recognised and leading light in the field of astronomy. For it was while working at one of the Institution’s observatories that Rubin made her seminal discovery that “dark matter” explains the phenomenon that stars on the edges of the galaxy move as quickly as those at the centre—and that this dark matter makes up 80 per cent of the matter in the universe.

I love the Rubin quote at the end of the story,: ‘Each one of you can change the world, / for you are made of star stuff, / and you are connected to the universe.’

If the main body of this hugely engaging book hasn’t inspired youngsters, those words surely will. So too will Aimée Sicuro’s gorgeous watercolour, ink and charcoal illustrations that cleverly reflect Rubin’s spiralling ideas in this well researched, enormously engaging account.

An author’s note on Vera, a timeline of her life and a select bibliography conclude the book. It’s one I’d strongly recommend for primary age readers.

Get Up, Elizabeth!
Shirin Yim Bridges and Alea Marley
Cameron Books

The Elizabeth of this rhyming narrative is in fact, the child who later became Queen Elizabeth 1 of England.
It’s her morning routine we share as we hear her being roused from her slumbers. She’s then ordered by the rather impatient-sounding lady-in-waiting to submit to donning her smock, having her stockings laced, her face scrubbed and her teeth rubbed (with soot no less!). All this she tolerates with a degree of meekness but then having been laced into a petticoat,

and acquiesced to sleeve pinning, the young miss attempts to assert herself by stashing a mouse in her skirt. It’s no go though; and with her ruff duly stitched in place, there’s still that mop of unruly hair to be tackled.
Finally, she’s set to go and we watch as she stands, still seemingly meekly, before a throng of waiting subjects.

Shirin Yim Bridges’ rhyming narrative falters slightly on occasion during this chivvying regime and in this small slice of history, it’s Alea Marley’s visuals of the shock-headed miss with her radiant tresses that are the real show stoppers.

There’s a final page giving some extra details on Elizabethan fashion and routine ablutions, as well as a cheeky message from that mouse asking ‘Did you find me on all the pages?’ which adds a search-and-find element to the book. It certainly takes a bit of finding on one or two spreads.

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