For centuries, the constellations have provided a roadmap of the night sky, helping sailors and other voyagers navigate, well before the existence of GPS technology. Even today, astronomers use constellations to describe the location of stars, comets and other heavenly bodies.
For Wisconsin writer Lindsey Becker, the constellations provided the inspiration for her new middle-grade novel, The Star Thief. The fantasy novel introduces us to Honorine, a 12-year-old girl working as a maid in a Victorian-era mansion. She winds up swept into an adventure story that features the mysterious owner of the mansion, a scientist turned mad, and a group of constellations that have come to life.
It has been a nearly decade-long process to bring The Star Thief to fruition for Becker. "The thing about the constellations that's interesting to me," she explains, "is that they're very scientific. But they're also stories. You don't just look at them and see patterns - you know who they are and what their background is.
"I love the idea that they're real things and they're stories," she adds. "And I always liked the part where they're put up there in the sky, but I always wanted to know - and then what? Are they really up there? Can they see us - and if they can see us, what are they doing?"
The constellations in Becker's novel are very much alive - but at risk. But explaining more than that would be a risk, too - of giving too much away.
Lindsey Becker will talk about The Star Thief on Friday evening, April 14th, at Boswell Book Company.