I had written this little poem many years earlier, showed it to a few editors who shrugged and couldn’t figure out what to do with it, though all along I thought it a perfect picture book. And then I began a relationship with the Canadian publisher Key-Porter where my dear friend and editor Jonathan Schmidt had gone (leaving Tor Books where he’d been my editor to move to Toronto marry his fiancée and become editor-in-chief of Key-Porter.)
I did three small board books about hippos with the children’s book editor whom Jonathan had introduced me to, then a picture book Pumpkin Baby, and she adored the manuscript for Under the Star. It may surprise some readers, but I did a half dozen revisions on this very small book, mostly to accommodate the brilliant illustrator. It was the editor’s idea to use Vlasta, whose wonderful pictures had made the hippo books such a hit.
When I signed books at NCTE in Phildelphia, just after Under the Star had been published, the book quickly sold out.
What reviewers have said:
- “Yolen and artist Vlasta van Kampen keep the simple dignity of this popular Christmas story, but also gives it a slightly humorous touch as the Christ child’s “birthday guests” soon overcrowd the manger. Easily appreciated for its whimsical artwork and interactive story, this simple narrative makes a fun story to read to groups of young children.” –Suite101.com
- “In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, this book quietly glows like its titular star.” –Washington Parent
- “The text of this picture book is very well suited for young readers. The vocabulary is simple and easy to understand. The repetition of sentence constructions will help young readers to follow the story more easily. This picture book also has great potential as a read-aloud. The beautifully written descriptions will intrigue young readers. In a classroom setting, Pumpkin Baby could also be a great tool for shared reading. The use of quotations provides a great teaching moment for features of text. Children could also discuss what they have learned about family life from the young heroine’s experiences with the “Pumpkin Baby?”– Manitoba Library Assn Magazine Highly Recommended. 4 stars out of 4