Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 31, 2023

Book Giveaway: THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made of by Kristen Larson

Kirsten Larson has a new picture book, THE FIRE OF STARS, illustrated by Katherine Toy and published by Chronicle Books on February 7th. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or re-blogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Kirsten and Katherine.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


A poetic picture book celebrating the life and scientific discoveries of the groundbreaking astronomer Cecilia Payne!

Astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne was the first person to discover what burns at the heart of stars. But she didn’t start out as the groundbreaking scientist she would eventually become. She started out as a girl full of curiosity, hoping one day to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

With lyrical, evocative text by Kirsten W. Larson and extraordinary illustrations by award-winning illustrator Katherine Roy, this moving biography powerfully parallels the kindling of Cecilia Payne’s own curiosity and her scientific career with the process of a star’s birth, from mere possibility in an expanse of space to an eventual, breathtaking explosion of light.

WOMEN IN STEM CAN CHANGE HISTORY: With women making up less than 30 percent of the science and engineering workforce, supporting young girls who are interested in STEM fields is more important than ever! This picture book tells the story of Cecilia Payne, a trailblazing female astronomer and role model for young girls to relate to and see themselves in, from even the youngest age.

LOOK TO THE STARS: Any reader or stargazer who feels dazzled by the striking night sky will be enchanted by this true story of discovery and invention, as Cecilia’s contributions to science prompt us to wonder: What else is out there?


This book began in August 2014 – almost nine years ago – during an episode of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s TV show Cosmos titled “Sisters of the Sun.” On that TV show I first learned of astronomer Cecilia Payne, who would boldly turn the world of astronomy upside down with her discoveries about what stars – and our universe – are made of. I researched and wrote my first draft of the story that month, sharing it with my critique group a few months later.

Fast forward to May 2017, just a few months after my first picture book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS sold. My agent and I picked this story about Cecilia as our next project to take out on submission. I was busy revising, when I worked with picture book author Hannah Holt on a blog feature called “Query Letters That Worked” for the Sub It Club blog. Hannah shared her query for THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, which said,My picture book biography, DIAMOND MAN, is a two-tale picture book—a turn and flip. In one direction is the story of natural diamond creation. In the other is a biography of inventor Tracy Hall. The two stories meet in the middle with a shared phrase.” 

For me reading that query was like being hit by a lightning bolt, not unlike the lightning bolt of understanding that Cecilia Payne experiences when she makes her scientific discoveries. Could I make my picture book even better by transforming it into a parallel story of the story of star formation told alongside the story of Cecilia Payne being formed as a scientist?

THE FIRE OF STARS was one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written, mostly because I wanted to tell the two stories of Cecilia and the star side-by-side on each page (versus a turn and flip), and I wanted to unite the two stories on each page with a single, lyrical line of text that linked both stories. There were moments I doubted myself and wanted to scrap the whole idea. I credit my agent Lara for urging me on, assuring me I’d have a breakthrough.

The book sold pretty quickly in its new format in a competitive situation. That was the good news. But it took a couple of years before we were able to get an illustrator on board. Finding Katherine Roy was well worth the wait though. She really brought this book to a whole different level with her innovative art process (involving toothbrushes!), so different from her usual techniques. She’s been such a wonderful partner.

This book definitely had a longer journey than most, but I hope this double read aloud will spark readers’curiosity and encourage creators to try new ways of storytelling and making art. I love to connect with readers and writers via my monthly newletter (click here to sign up), on my website:, and on social media @kirstenwlarson.


Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of the picture books: WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020), A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion, 2021), THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, February 2023), and THIS IS HOW YOU KNOW, illustrated by Cornelia Li (Little, Brown 2024). She also is the author of the middle grade, graphic nonfiction, THE LIGHT OF RESISTANCE, illustrated by Barbara McClintock, (Roaring Brook, 2023), along with 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Kirsten lives near Los Angeles with her husband, lhasa-poo, and two curious kids. Her house is filled with LEGOs, laughter, and lots of books!

Kirsten is a member of The Soaring 20s picture book group. Check out her posts at STEM Tuesday or join her on Twitter or Facebook. Click here to sign up for occasional news and updates about Kirsten’s books, speaking engagements, and more. She also teaches at The Writing Barn and serves as a nonfiction and query corner “elf” for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge.

Kirsten is represented by Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary.


Katherine Roy is the award-winning and best-selling author and illustrator of many science-based books for kids, including her Robert F. Sibert Honor Book Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands, How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild, and Making More: How Life Begins.

She is also the illustrator of numerous other books, including Barb Rosenstock’s Otis and Will Discover the Deep, Richard Ho’s Red Rover, and Kirsten W. Larson’s The Fire of Stars. She lives with her husband and sons in western Oregon, where she’s busy writing and drawing her next books.

Kirsten, than you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love that this book could spark a galaxy of stargazers. And a trailblazing female astronomer like Cecilia Payne is a stellar role model to inspire young girls to follow in her footsteps and reach for the stars. Katherine’s stunning illustrations are out of this world and will keep readers visiting for years to come. Best of luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What a beautiful story. I can’t wait to read this one. I am sharing on Twitter and subscribe to your post, Kathy.


  2. How interesting! Would love a copy. Email subscriber.


  3. Kristen, this looks so interesting and I love the unusual format. Fabulous idea for presentation.


  4. What an interesting structure and topic. Congrats, Kristen! I look forward to reading your story. I shared on Twitter and am a subscriber.


  5. Ooh, I’ve read about Cecilia Payne. Can’t wait to see how this book introduces her to young readers.


  6. This looks like an extraordinary book! I want to read it!
    I subscribe and shared on Twitter.


  7. I love every bit of this book! Cannot wait to have my own copy!


  8. I can’t wait to read this book! This format sounds fascinating–way to work for it!! Thanks for sharing your journey with this story. Congrats, Kirsten and Katherine!


  9. I adored Wood, Wire, Wings, and read it at Story Time a few years ago. This sounds just as fabulous!!!!!!!!!!


  10. I am fascinated by this format and am excited to read another wonderful book by this talented author. I’m an email subscriber and shared on tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


  11. Such a gorgeously illustrated book! I am inspired by Kirsten’s story behind its evolution. You never know when one of those moments of insight will hit. This one is on my “must have” list!


  12. I shared on FB in 2 places, Twitter, & Pinterest.I WANT this book!


  13. How intriguing a story structure! I love A Boy and A Diamond. This sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read it.


    • Tweeting this out. Best of luck sharing this story that needs to be told!


  14. The Fire of Stars sounds fascinating! I want to read it! Thanks for sharing!


  15. This looks like a lovely book. Thanks for telling me about it.


  16. Kirstin, I can’t wait to read your book!
    Gail Hartman


  17. I love looking at the stars and am fascinated by the story of Cecelia Payne.


  18. Thank you for sharing your book journey with us! Wow! This book just sounds dazzling, brilliant, delightful! I hope it shines on the shelves and children see it’s worth! I love the idea of the two books in one. What a neat concept! Sharing the biography and also a beautiful story! Loved this post and jotted down notes for future ref. Shared on FB, Twitter and Pinterest!


  19. Can’t wait to read Fire of Stars! I’m subscribed and I’m tweeting and sharing to FB


  20. This sounds like an AMAZING book and the illustrations are simply GORGEOUS! I can wait to read it and see it in person. Thank you for sharing this story. It was well worth the weight.


  21. Looks like a great book.


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