A whitetail fawn wakes up in the Sonoran desert as this gorgeously rendered picture book opens. Her mother doe gently and lovingly nudges her into awareness of the beauty of the desert world around her as they travel, searching for food and water. The fawn is encouraged not only to look at, listen to and appreciate her natural surroundings, but also to learn how to deal with fear and how to cry out against injustice.
This last is embodied by the mystifying appearance of an unnecessary wall, lamented by all manner of flora and fauna. It’s no surprise then, when the fawn turns into a young girl, who is urged to imagine a beautiful world where children are all loved for the bright stars that they are.
As an open borders absolutist, I am 100% behind the message of this lovely children’s book, and would recommend it to readers of all ages. And not just because of the message, vital as I think that is. The artwork, particularly of the natural world, is stunning. There is a particular transition towards the end, from fawn to child, that is especially affecting, almost haunting. You’d have to be pretty stone-hearted to not feel empathy for the poor kid, stymied by the wall. Border walls don’t just harm the environment, they also cause unnecessary trauma for children who don’t necessarily understand why they have to be separated from others, and especially the ones they love, on the basis of often racist politics.
Yuyi Morales was a 2022 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honoree for this beautiful picture book, and it’s easy to see why. The art is mostly paintings (the night time scene especially is otherworldly in its use of color) but there are also some lovely embroideries and yarn work that give the whole thing a wonderful dimension of texture. Ms Morales includes thought-provoking notes as well on the influences that inspired her to write and illustrate Bright Star. This was actually the first I’d heard of the Tohono O’odham people, whose rights are violated daily by the wall and other forms of border enforcement — I’m both appalled at what they’re forced to endure and grateful that Ms Morales could bring their story to a wider audience.
Hopefully, books like this will one day be looked at as historical chronicles of injustices we fought against and defeated. Till then, Bright Star and its ilk are important in both raising awareness of and providing comfort and beauty to the dispossessed and alone.
Bright Star by Yuyi Morales was published September 7 2021 by Neal Porter Books and is available from all good booksellers, including