The Tiny Star

h1 August 19th, 2021 by jules


“Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth.”

This is the opening line of Mem Fox’s The Tiny Star (Knopf), illustrated by Freya Blackwood and originally published in Australia in 2019. It will on shelves here in the U.S. in October. A star falls to earth and, we learn at the page-turn, “turned into a baby!” As you can see, Fox is utterly matter-of-fact about this, the notion that stars regularly land on our planet and turn into humans — so matter-of-fact and plainspoken that it’s remarkably easy to accept, as unexpected as it may be to read.

A couple spots the baby, lying on the side of the road on an abandoned piece of furniture, and the baby becomes part of their family. “Everyone agreed it was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen.”

The rest of this tale is about a life lived “to the full.” The baby grows into a kind and caring adult, whom Fox continually refers to as “it.” (It began as a star, after all.) We see the long-haired “it,” whom Blackwood paints throughout the entire book as wearing a white dress and star-studded shawl, live its life and become an integral part of the tiny, close-knit community where it lives. “It was caring and kind, and loving and wise, and was loved and adored in return.” Animals and children, in particular, are drawn to it. In fact, “the longer it lived, the more it was loved.”

It lives until old age (“it grew smaller and smaller …”) — we see it become elderly, grey-haired — until the moment it simply disappears. Blackwood paints here the chair where it was once found as a baby, the same piece of furniture, and in it lies its shawl. Everyone grieves. But, Fox reminds us on the final spreads, it was a star, and so it merely “returned to its home in the heavens, and there it remained, to rest.” The people it loved may grieve, but they are content to know that star is still there, “loving them from afar.”

In an interview, Fox has explained that the story is meant to explain the death of a grandparent “in the most beautiful, ordinary, happy way.” Whatever its intentions, it works. It’s a gentle, evocative tale — if you need a break from everything going on in the world and you need a moment of beauty, this will do for 40 pages — and Blackwood does wonders here, extending the text in distinct and concrete and graceful ways. She fills the story with children, who (along with “it’) grow up, even becoming caretakers for “it.” Her palette here is especially mesmerizing, as you can see in the spreads below.

I’ll stop running my mouth and let you take in some art. Enjoy. …


“The baby grew rounder and rounder …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“… it was all grown up. It was caring and kind, and loving and wise,
and was loved and adored in return.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“Its family and friends took great care of it. They treated it gently and
wrapped it warmly in a quilt all covered in stars.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“What a sensation it was when it was seen again, twinkling in the night sky.
Every heart was lightened. Every heart began to mend.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

THE TINY STAR. Text copyright © 2019 by Mem Fox. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Freya Blackwood. Originally published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd, Australia, in 2019. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Knopf.

One comment to “The Tiny Star

  1. Ohhh, this would make me all teary. Just reading about it makes me all teary. What a lovely final spread.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.