Review of Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler

Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler
by Ibi Zoboi
Intermediate, Middle School    Dutton    128 pp.    g
1/22    978-0-399-18738-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-399-18739-1    $9.99

A biography that’s as unique in form and content as the groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy author herself. Zoboi (The People Remember, rev. 11/21) came to this project from a lifetime love of Butler’s work and from having met her on several occasions. The word constellation in the subtitle is used both literally — referring to the otherworldly stories about which Butler dreamed and then wrote — and figuratively, for she was a lonely “rogue planet,” with others revolving around her but rarely ­getting to really know her. Focusing mainly on her early life, Zoboi tells the author’s story in several literary modes: original poems in many forms (haiku, concrete, and acrostic, among others); excerpted quotes from interviews; and descriptive passages that offer further explanations of these biographical snapshots. This variety is narratively enthralling and reflects Butler’s openness to telling stories in many different ways. The volume also offers superb historical context for Butler’s life, from the Great Migration to the U.S.’s fascination with UFOs, the baby boom, ­McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, and more. Zoboi occasionally includes relevant visuals — a photograph of Octavia and her mother, Butler’s handwritten childhood notes, the cover of a Dick and Jane basal reader — that will provide readers a clearer sense of the historical details. Informational and inspirational, this innovative work will draw committed Butler fans and entice those unfamiliar with her work to seek it out.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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