Frank Asch ~ Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980
Awesome reader Andrew saw my post about Monkey Face the other day where I mentioned Asch's illusive book Starbaby and decided to share his copy with me. I first heard about Starbaby via a local school in San Antonio that uses the story to teach kids about love and parents and our connection to the universe. Because of the book's often high price tag, they didn't possess an actual tangible copy and were simply relaying the story from memory. Ever since hearing about it, I'd always wondered what the draw was considering the critical reviews were scathing.
From Kirkus - The domestication of a moonchild--and is it icky. It's also utterly unimaginative and peculiarly pointless. A little-boy infant (genitalia) plays in the moon-dust, visits the other starbabies (they ""play lots of starbaby games""), nibbles on a star when he's hungry, and crawls into a moon crater to sleep. Then one day, riding on a shooting star, he comes too close to earth and falls into the ocean. Some sport with the fishes ensues before he's caught in a fisherman's net, happily adopted by the fisherman and his wife (""Just what we've always wanted""), taken to the zoo and the park and on picnics, and finally tucked into bed. Now, we're told, ""he had lots of good things to eat, toys, and [a] nice warm bed""--none of which, however, he lacked in the sky or underwater. So why the whole rigmarole? (Rendered, by the way, in wispy pastels.)
Unimaginative and peculiarly pointless? Ouch. Even reader Andrew chimed in about the strangeness of the thing, but shed some light on why children might remember it so fondly...
Without a doubt, Star Baby is weird, but it was one of my brother's favorites growing up and we have old cassette recordings of him talking about Star Baby (and sometimes mixing the story up with The Hungry Caterpillar, which is funny).
Like Kirkus said, it's the story of a naked "starbaby" who falls to earth and finds domestic bliss with a fisherman and his wife.
Starbaby lived way up high in the sky behind the moon. All day long he played in the moondust, piling moonrocks one on top of the other, and making moon castles. Sometimes Starbaby liked to jump off the moon and fly through space...
And again, like Kirkus said, it's weird because his life on the moon, and later, under the ocean, sounds pretty darn good... though I supposed without companionship and love, even the most idyllic lifestyles might be less than.
Let me make this clear, I am not really a fan of Mr. Asch's work, but his longevity and popularity with children speak louder than any blog rant I could post. There has to be something special about a used book that can fetch $300 in fine condition. I thought once I saw the book, I'd understand the obsession, but now that I've seen it, it confounds even more.
Does anyone out there have fond (or terrifying) memories of this book as a child?
Here Comes the Cat!
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