Raise your hand if you had a poster in your dorm at college with this famous Herman Hesse passage from Damien:
“And she told me about a youth who had fallen in love with a planet. He stood by the sea, stretched out his arms and prayed to the planet, dreamed of it, and directed all his thoughts to it. But he knew, or felt he knew, that a star cannot be embraced by a human being. He considered it his fate to love a heavenly body without any hope of fulfillment and out of this insight he constructed an entire philosophy of renunciation and silent, faithful suffering that would improve and purify him. Yet all his dreams reached the planet. Once he stood again on the high cliff at night by the sea and gazed at the planet and burned with love for it. And at the height of his longing he leaped into the emptiness toward the planet, but at the instant of leaping “it’s impossible” flashed once more through his mind. There he lay on the shore, shattered. He has not understood how to love. If at the instant of leaping he had had the strength of faith in the fulfillment of his love he would have soared into the heights and been united with the star.”
I’m betting Oliver Jeffers was one of those people. (And, yes, I was one). This first book by him as both author and illustrator reminds me a great deal of Hesse.
This book begins:
“One there was a boy
and the boy loved stars very much.
Every night the boy watched the stars from his window
and wished he had one of his very own.”
The boy tries various ways to catch a star, including climbing to the top of the tallest tree he could find. But still, he cannot reach it.
One night he sees a shooting star, and the next morning, on the beach, he sees a starfish sea shell, and is ecstatic to think that he caught a star of his very own.
Well, thank heavens! You wouldn’t want the boy to take the route of the character from the story recounted in Damien. This is a much better ending!
Jeffers is a whimsical and humorous illustrator, using watercolors and vague looking characters and landscapes so that, as he said in an interview, “people all over the world think that the boy is one of their friends and that the geography is where they’re from. And that allows people in and to fill in the details with their own personal details. So he’s a little bit of me, a little bit of everyone else who’s reading the story.”
Evaluation: This entertaining story is about the rewards of persistence, and maybe faith and ingenuity as well. In the ten years since the publication of this very popular book, there has also been a coloring book version, a star gazer kit, and even theatrical productions for kids based on the story.
Published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004