The Same Stuff as Stars

The Same Stuff as Stars

4.7 25
by Katherine Paterson

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2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Angel Morgan needs help. Daddy is in jail, and Mama has abandoned her and her little brother, leaving them with their great-grandmother. Grandma is aged and poor, and doesn’t make any attempt to care for the children—that’s left up to Angel, even though she is not yet twelve. The only bright spot in


2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Angel Morgan needs help. Daddy is in jail, and Mama has abandoned her and her little brother, leaving them with their great-grandmother. Grandma is aged and poor, and doesn’t make any attempt to care for the children—that’s left up to Angel, even though she is not yet twelve. The only bright spot in Angel’s existence is the Star Man, a mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights and teaches her all about the stars and planets and constellations. “We’re made out of the same stuff as the stars,” he tells her.

Eventually, Grandma warms to the children and the three begin to cobble together a makeshift family. Then events in Angel’s life take yet another downturn, and she must once again find a way to persevere.

Katherine Paterson’s keen sensitivity and penetrating sense of drama bring us a moving story of throwaway children, reminding us of the incredible resilience of childhood and the unquenchable spirit that, in spite of loss, struggles to new beginnings.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In the complex story that unfolds, Paterson asks her readers to think about what it means, exactly, for one person to be responsible for another, and what it takes to be a good person. She throws light on how abuse, mistrust, selfishness and abandonment can be passed down from generation to generation; and how promises that aren't kept can break hearts and poison the soul. The spark of light in Angel's life comes from a mysterious neighbor, who shows her the heavens in his telescope and evokes a fascination with astronomy that takes Angel where she needs to be. — Lois Metzger
Kathleen Odean
Eleven-year-old Angel Morgan has had to grow up too soon. Her father's in prison, her mother shirks responsibility and her little brother needs someone to take care of him. When their mother abandons the two children at the home of their great-grandmother, Angel feels hurt and scared. Yet her new life in rural Vermont has consolations, including the town's perceptive, friendly librarian. Outstanding characterization, realistic dialogue and effective imagery distinguish this heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful novel.
Publishers Weekly
An 11-year-old girl looks out for her younger brother after their mother leaves them with their paternal great-grandmother. "The heroine's blossoming friendship with a mysterious `star man,' combined with her intelligence and abiding trust in the direst of situations, will persuade readers that she will rise above her circumstances," according to PW's Best Books citation. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2002: It's difficult to decide what is a YA novel, but in the end I feel that this story of a resilient child (11 years old) will have appeal to readers even older than she is, in the way that One Child by Torey Hayden appeals to all ages. Psychologists are wondering more and more why certain children seem to have the resilience to survive neglect and abuse, and why they are able to act like responsible adults for themselves and younger siblings when the need arises. Angel Morgan is just such a child. She lives in Vermont and would be classified by sociologists as part of the rural poor. Her father is in jail; her mother is incompetent. After a visit to the prison at the beginning of the narrative, Angel's mother puts Angel and her younger brother Bernie into her old car, drives them to the father's grandmother, and then drives away, leaving the children with their great-grandmother. This is history repeating itself, because Angel's father as a child was dumped here as well. This is not a loving, nurturing grandmother, and her confidence in her own ability to raise children is nonexistent, for good reason. Angel manages the whining Bernie brilliantly and finds a way to get food on the table because she knows that canned peaches and baked beans from the grandmother's stock are insufficient nutrition. She gets connected to the local library, enrolls herself and her brother in school, endures the humiliating comments from her classmates, and generally copes with life's problems as they arise. She is nearly defeated, however, when her mother comes to Bernie's school secretly and takes him away, not communicating with Angel at all.Since Paterson is a skilled author, and because she is a person of great compassion and understanding, she tells Angel's story in a way that helps us understand Angel's strength, without layers of useless sentiment. We don't see the child as a superhero, but we do see her as a kind of hero: courageous, loving, and amazingly resourceful. You may wonder where the title comes from, and in fact "the same stuff as stars" is a major theme of the story because Angel finds inspiration to continue struggling with this life by reading about stars and constellations and astronomy. (Her favorite books are Know the Stars, by H.A. Rey, and Starry Messenger, by Peter Sis.) She sneaks out at night to share a telescope with the broken-down man who lives in the old trailer on her grandmother's property. This man, who turns out to be her uncle, tells her that all the elements that go into building our bodies in fact are made up of the same stuff as stars, and thus we are connected to the universe intimately. For Angel, this is enough to keep her from total despair. Thanks to the fine talent of Paterson, children's literature has another memorable heroine. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2002, HarperTrophy, 270p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
Children's Literature
Angel's life has been anything but heavenly. She and her brother have been in and out of foster homes and their father is in jail. They are back in the care of their mother, but not for long before she takes them to their paternal great-grandmother's house. Not only will 11-year-old Angel have to take care of her 7-year-old brother, Bernie, but she has to care for the elderly woman as well. Angel discovers the beauty of the stars in the night sky and meets a stranger with a telescope who tells her they have met before and he teaches her about the constellations. Wanting to know more, she finds solace and a friend at the library. Angel is a resourceful character who must learn to deal with the kidnapping of Bernie, the teasing of classmates, visits to the jail and the sudden appearance of her father, as well as the death of the star man. In Paterson's capable hands, all the threads of the story come together in a satisfying ending to a story that presents the many facets of family relationships. She adeptly conveys the essence of each of her fully developed characters. Readers will quickly get caught up in this fluid and beautifully-told tale with a heroine who is simultaneously strong and vulnerable.
—Sharon Salluzzo
Kirkus Reviews
A gently written tale of family caught in the most corrosive of situations, this is a story of guilt and reconciliation. Indeed there is plenty of guilt to go around. Eleven-year-old Angel and little brother Bernie have "parents that acted like spoiled babies and a great-grandmother who needed a mother as much as they did." Dad is in jail and the children are at the mercy of their mother’s irresponsible, mercurial moods. She abandons them with their prickly great-grandmother, who lives a hardscrabble life in a ramshackle Vermont farmhouse. Then she returns to "kidnap" Bernie, breaking Grandma’s and Angel’s hearts. After the mother’s drunken boyfriend has an accident in which she is almost killed and Bernie is injured, the family seems headed for reunion. Some characters may have been seen before: from the feisty grandmother with the soft center who herself has failed several generations of children, to her Vietnam-veteran son whose life has been ruined by drugs, but who is one important adult in Angel’s life. Central metaphors are best stated by the wise, elderly librarian (the only truly unselfish adult in the book) to whom Angel turns in each crisis. Miss Liza, the only physically misshapen character in a world of crippled adults, quotes the Bible to remind Angel that God is always mindful of man, that He "hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor." Angel is indeed angelic. She is the selfless caretaker, the responsible "adult" in a world where she’s always left behind and always disappointed by the very adults who ought to love and care for her. If she’s almost too good to be true—constantly buckling seat belts, lecturing on the five foodgroups, and fussing over proper outerwear in the cold—readers will recognize her and root for her because the odds are so badly stacked against her. (Fiction. 10-13)
From the Publisher

"A gently written tale of family caught in the most corrosive of situations,…readers will recognize and root for Angel." Kirkus Reviews, Starred

5Q/5P "Paterson's deft characterization, her insight into the human soul, and her glorious prose make this book one to rejoice over." VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

"Paterson’s beautiful words root the wonder of astronomy in gritty details of daily survival. This focused story evokes timeless tales." Booklist, ALA

"Thanks to the fine talent of Paterson, children’s literature has another memorable heroine." KLIATT

"Those who love her work will celebrate; those who aren’t familiar with it will have discovered a new star." Riverbank Review

"Paterson’s salt-of-the-earth style is in fine form here, making Angel’s dilemma credible, and Angel herself a compelling and believable figure." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"...Magical book...takes place in the most unmagical...circumstances...complex story...about what it takes to be a good person." NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW New York Review of Books

"Angel is an ultimately triumphant character." The HORN BOOK GUIDE, Pointer Review Horn Book Guide, Pointer

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Katherine Paterson’s international fame rests not only on her widely acclaimed novels but also on her efforts to promote literacy in the United States and abroad. A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved) and the National Book Award (The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Master Puppeteer), she has received many accolades for her body of work, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, given by her home state of Vermont. She was also named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. She served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in 2010-2011.Ms. Paterson is vice president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (, which is a not-for-profit education and advocacy organization. The NCBLA’s innovative projects actively promote literacy, literature, libraries, and the arts.  She is both an Alida Cutts Lifetime Member of the United States Board on Books for Young People ( and a lifetime member of the International Board on Books for Young People ( and her husband, John, live in Montpelier, Vermont. They have four children and seven grandchildren. For more information, visit

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Same Stuff As Stars (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
JJames71 More than 1 year ago
The Same Stuff as Stars HarperCollins, 2002, 265 pp, $6.99 Katherine Paterson ISBN 978-0-06-0555712-5 Abandoned. Does that word sound familiar to you? This book is a powerful look at how children are abandoned by their mother and left at some relative's house that they barely know. An eleven year old girl Angel and her seven year old brother Bernie have to figure out how to live in their current conditions with their great-grandmother's house without her mother. Verna, Angel, and Bernie live in a bad situation. Angles and Bernie's dad is in jail and their mother doesn't really know how take care of Angel and Bernie. One day Verna abandoned Angel and Bernie at their great-grandmother's house. I felt really bad for Angel and Bernie when I heard this news. Along the way, Angel meets a star man who teaches Angel about the stars and constellations. I thought the way the author described how a young girl could become a leader was really excellent. I was really into this book and the author helped make the book emotional. The book really touched me in the heart. This book is pretty heavy. The author used many descriptive words to explain a character. I would recommend this book for people who like to read heavy books and people who like to read realistic fiction. Will Verna ever come back for Angel and Bernie? Will Angel and Bernie's dad get out of jail? Read this book to find out! -Joel James
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an excelent story. I just never wanted to put it down! It was so interesting! It was writen extremely well, too. I loved it so much!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really recommend this book because it is really intersting. this book makes me want to keep reading and hardly anybooks make we want to keep read. i am really picky about what books are good and this is a great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ive read many books in my life, comedy, romance, mystory, scarey, stupid, inmature, but nothing like this. This book really touched my heart in many ways. Before I read this book, I thought that my life was a total waist. Now beleiveing that others have a more worse life than I. I have came to a thought that lifes a game.......sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But in the end it all depends on you. And if you dont want to fight, then why are you here? sincereley, Danielle Martin
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I laughed and cryed through the whole thing! Angel Morgan is a girl you can relate to, even my friends agree. There is really no specific age group for this. My teacher recommended it to me because she loves it! You might even want to go grab some Sugar Pops to eat while reading. Bernie certainly would!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book definitley made me cry. I recomend this to anyone! I would hate to be Angel! Daddy In Jail, Mama is always gone...poor thing!I think evryone should read this book so they can realize how good they have it in their own life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book. I loved the reality. It made me realize how lucky i was not to be in this girls position. I would recommend it to ages 10-13. If you luva book you cant put down, and makes you want to cry, it.........
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just read it awsome or what????????
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very good, and I couldn't put it down. The sappiness wasn't overdone, the book was heartwarming, a sure classic to treasure! 10 A+ 98
Guest More than 1 year ago
Katherine Paterson does a great job at putting a real life problem into a story. I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was both miraculous and heart-warming. Everything about it seemed so realistic.I would definitely read another book by this author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about Angel and her family. I would recommend this book to any age. Highly Recommended
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book with passion to all my students. Even the ones with idyllic homelives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was absolutely marvelous. i enjoyed every second of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This reads very much like most Katherine Paterson books, but it is still worth the read. I'm part of a mother/daughter bookclub (I'm a mom) and I'm hoping they will decide to read this, mostly because the main character's life is so very different from the life of our daughters and it's good to be exposed to other's lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so boring! I did not enjoy it and it was not moving. It was a typical boring book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! Recomended to all! It just sucks you in and you don't want to stop reading it! Love Katherine P!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first I only chose the book because i needed to read a book for AR points but once i started to read the story it just draws you in, and only a good book has that capabilty! I highly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reserve a spot on a long car trip for this book! It is very captivating and moving. I loved all the characters, Angel, the 'Star Man.' I even cried at some parts . READ THIS BOOK!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I started to read it, I couldn't put it down. More people get involved in the book as it goes along and it makes the book more interesting as you read it. The end makes you want to add more on to it and see what else happens but I love those kind of endings.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very touching and when you read it You feel everything the charactersare feeling. Its is about a young girl who has a brother and their father is in jail and their mother leaves them and a few surprises happend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so wonderfully written; it just flows together. You feel connected to all the charaters: Angel, Grandma, and the "Star Man." Excellent. Highly recommended.