Tuesday, April 3, 2012


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?

Also by:
MacGoose's Grocery
Here Comes the Cat!
Monkey Face


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Melissa@Julias Bookbag said...

well I think babies and stars are just appealing to children! My daughter walked by as I was reading this and stopped, oohed, and said "BABY!" (she is 6. she has more words than this.) But I think it helps to illustrate the appeal of naked babies. Sitting on stars.

Kim said...

I am not familiar with Starbaby, but one of my favorite books from childhood was by Frank Asch: Popcorn. I am not sure why I love it, maybe it is the house filled with popcorn, but I have shared the same copy with my kids and they love it too.

Anonymous said...

I remember as a child imagining where I came from. (I didn't know about sex). I believe this story helps children dream about the place they came from, or at least imagine it. It takes the place of origin tales.

Kat said...

This is the first time i've seen this but it really looks promising. My daughter loves collecting books and this might be a good addition

Janna said...

I never read Starbaby, but I did watch the Weston Woods video of Frank Asch's "Happy Birthday, Moon" and loved it.

Annie W. said...

I'm with Melissa. It's adorable. Love the babies and the stars and the fish. Too cute IMO. But then I never got the appeal of The Little Prince which in one of the most popular books in the world. Um, I don't want to give anything away here but the outcome..really? What, ugh. I didn't even find the illustrations to be so wonderful. I'm a huge lover of illustration.

Kylee said...

Absolutely. This was my very favorite book growing up, though I couldn't give you an in depth analysis as to why. It was adventuresome and I loved the illustrations, and how different the sky and the sea and the land were. I adored the illustrations, and the whole story. It is still beloved!

Robert said...

I am 34-years-old and still look back to this story with such nostalgia, but like so many commenters, I can't really explain why. The story is absurd, but sweet. I loved the illustrations (and still do) and what young kid doesn't love space or the ocean...or better yet, space AND the ocean. I still have my original copy (complete with crayon scribbles on the cover) and read it regularly to my two young girls, who seem to adore it just the same. If it weren't so sentimental, I'd hock the damn thing with what collectors command for it!

Anonymous said...

It's one of the first books I remember checking out at the library with my first library card. At that time, my mom had had a baby that died shortly after birth and being five years old at the time, I had some difficulty processing that. I think this story appealed to me because I wanted to think that my little sister was up there with the other Starbabies. -Amber S.

Anonymous said...

I had a very fleeting memory of this book as a child, and yet when I was about 3 or 4 years old I do recall this was my absolute favorite book in the world (well, along with The Little Engine That Could).

Whenever I visited the library as a kid, I insisted that my mom check out Starbaby as one of the books. Every single time. I even remember the dark blue cover which I searched the shelves for.

I didn't recall the actual plot other than I knew it was about a baby who lived in the stars and somehow fell to earth, where he was adopted by a fisherman and his wife. I remember liking it simply because I was happy that the fisherman and his wife, who I recall being lonely, finally had a child of their own and that Starbaby had a family of his own. It just seemed very satisfying to me.

For the life of me, however, the fact that Starbaby was 100% anatomically correct and unabashedly proud of that fact.....I don't remember that. At all. That's just...weird and random. But it doesn't necessarily detract from my overall memories of this book.

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