On The Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest & Jenni Desmond

On The Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest & Jenni Desmond

Oh, the simple beauty of this tale. Every reading tugs at my heart strings.

The author, whose You Can Do It, Sam is another of D’s favourites, employs a simple way of comparing the heart-achingly similar lives of two neighbours - Bunny and Dog - who share a fence. The very few differences that appear between them are in their choice of snack (Bunny loves cocoa, Dog loves biscuits), in the little activities they undertake during the day (Bunny grows carrots, Dog hides his ball and digs it up; Bunny sketches and paints, Dog knits), and in the colour of their houses (Bunny’s house is blue, Dog’s is red).

Do you notice how you could be describing Bunny’s life, and you only need to alter a word or two in each sentence and voila, you’d be describing Dog’s life now?! The simplicity and rhythm of this technique produces a story that is easy to comprehend but is also very clever at portraying how similar we all are, how few the differences between us, if only we could peek over the fence and care to find out.

And oh, Bunny and Dog, how each wonders about the other! How each peeks into the other’s window at night, wondering if the other needs a friend! And how they both are outside their homes on a wonderfully starlit night, and both see a shooting star zip past, and something shifts in the Universe. They go back to their homes and wonder about the other a little more this time, enough for each to reach out to the other across the fence, and a beautiful friendship blooms.

One thing I greatly fear for D is the lack of children in our neighbourhood for him to play with, to grow up with. (This is also the reason we registered him to attend a half-day toddler program in a Montessori school, a decision that took us down a completely unexpected path and ended up in us pulling D out of school barely two months after his first day of school! Turns out I was implementing Montessori practices at home far better than his teachers at school were; but to the school’s credit, the administrator did apologise to me for the way D was (not) being cared for.)

Despite the fact that D has not had steady playdates, his ex-teachers noted that he is an unusually kind and gentle child for his age. I’ve seen this too in our jaunts to public places; D often hands over a toy to another child who may be looking longingly at it, he often moves on if another child snatches a toy from him but just as frequently stands his ground if another child tries to push him away. It’s as if he has some inner guide that tells him when to budge and when to stay. It’s a code that I haven’t been able to crack, and I don’t think I ever will … it will remain one of the mysteries of the Universe, how children innately know what to do if only we can let them be.

My own childhood was filled with a plethora of friends although for the life of me I can’t quite remember how those friendships blossomed. What were the first words we said to each other? How did I know there was another one out there, just like me, and also not like me, someone who would be as interested in me as I was in them? Was there fear? Fear of being rejected? Of not having enough things in common for a friendship to blossom? Or was there excitement? The allure of company for mischief-mongering? Or was there a common enemy, most likely an adult quick to reprimand, or some secret that could bring us together in a bond of friendship? I don’t remember at all. But I am sure D will reveal the answers in due course of time.