Cover Image: The Forest of Stars

The Forest of Stars

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Member Reviews

This was a lovely story, which reminded me a little of the night circus. However, the story didn't fully grip me, which made it hard at times to keep myself focused on the story itself. All in all it was an okay read.

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In a book that made me think of titles such as Circus Mirandus and The Girl Who Drank the Moon, readers can't help but get caught up in Louisa's story of loss and ultimate hope. This is a beautifully written tale of a girl looking for a family, and finding one that she never expected in a mesmerizing (and dangerous) Carnival. Louisa's world will draw readers in, and the message of discovery and acceptance will leave them feeling fulfilled. I had not read any books by Kassner before, but I will seek out her titles after finishing this lovely story.

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At the Carnival Beneath the Stars, you'll find wonders you couldn't even dream of. A girl who can control darkness, a boy who moves things with his mind, a fortune-teller who can actually read your misfortune, and now a girl who can float.

Louisa LaRoche has recently lost her mother. She wanders, lost in the world trying to find her father who has the same gift, the power to float in the air. She stumbles upon a ticket to a magical carnival that she believes her father would be at. She ends up staying even when she doesn't find her father after her path out is blocked by dark forces. Increasingly worrying things keep happening to those around her. It's up to her and her new friends to find out what's going on at this magical carnival that seems to have a life of its own.

A story of magic, grief, and finding home - The Forest of Stars has a Coraline spirit. It can be gloomy yet magical. It can be sorrowful yet hopeful. I enjoyed getting to know Louisa and her new found friends each unique and caring. There are two mysteries happening side by side with one another. One obvious and the other not so much. But even with the obvious mystery, I loved how much I felt engaged with the story. I was talking to Louisa like she was actually there telling her the answers I already knew and she had not figured out yet. The carnival atmosphere was the best. It's been a while since I've read anything like it. I had such a great time listening to the story. The narrator, Fiona Hardingham, did a wonderful job with all the voices. If you read the physical book you can see some perfectly charming illustrations by Iz Ptica.

Now the obviousness of one of the mysteries might bother you even if it didn't for me. I also felt like the love bugs weren't properly explained. There are these grief bugs that will eat your heart when you are sad. I don't think everyone needs it to be necessarily explained. It's a metaphor. But, it was introduced oddly and I would have liked more explanation. Other than that I always wish I had more time with the characters. Mainly the side characters. You do get to know them pretty well but I like getting to know my characters completely.

If you are looking for a book like Coraline, then look no further. The Forest of Stars is perfect for those looking for a magically dark and hopeful story.

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My Thoughts
This book ticks a lot of boxes for me – fairy tales, carnivals, magic, mystery, adventure – so I had to read it! Here are my pros and cons for The Forest of Stars:


1. This is a dark, magical story full of everything from intrigue and danger to friendship and love. It really is a wonderful rollercoaster of events and emotions.
2. The carnival atmosphere is fun and foreboding at the same time! I seem to be drawn to books that include circuses and carnivals… that unsettling underbelly is just intriguing to me.
3. This book doesn’t get too scary – it is a middle grade book after all. However, the atmosphere created is dark and mysterious and the people Louisa (the lead character) encounters range from almost normal to quite odd.
4. Considering she is essentially orphaned and homeless at age 12, Louisa never really feels sorry for herself or her circumstances and I appreciated that more than I can express. She is open to learning about herself and others and helping herself and others. She is a strong and determined girl with a mission and you will applaud her throughout the entire story.
5. The friendships forged between Mercy, Ox, Jess, Quiet Si, and Louisa were really fantastic.
6. I loved the concept of having your misfortune read, instead of your fortune. I won’t go into detail here, but a misfortune can be a good thing if you look at it if from the right perspective. I really liked that idea! I think it helps to remind children to at least try to find positive aspects or unseen benefits from what initially appears to be an adversity.
7. The Night Circus (by Erin Morgenstern) is one of my favorite books and I thought this book definitely had some similar magical elements.
8. Creative and unique black and white illustrations by Iz Ptica are sprinkled throughout the book.
9. Gorgeous, eye-catching cover!


1. I wanted a little more backstory about Mercy, Ox, and Jess.
2. There were times the writing felt a little bit verbose for the average middle grade reader. I was getting more of a literary fiction vibe from time to time, rather than a middle grade fiction vibe.
3. Louisa’s mother does die at the beginning of the book and Louisa visits her grave alone. Louisa’s father vanished years before, so Louisa is essentially alone, penniless, and homeless. This isn’t a con to me personally, and it is an integral part of the story, but I’ve included the information here in case these events are triggers for other readers.

At its core, this is a coming of age story wrapped up in an adventure and a mystery, with a big dose of magic thrown in for good measure. Louisa learns a lot about herself and others and I really think young readers will enjoy it.

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Henry Holt and Co. for a free eARC of this book, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

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Louisa’s story is enchantingly beautiful and a bit of a dark fantasy that keeps you wanting to read more.

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I reviewed this book for School Library Journal

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Kids that are into magic will like this. It moves along a little fast, but I love the theme that you have to work for your dreams to come true. The friendships among the circus are explored well and lay out what you should do for your friends. The circus is spectacular and fun. A nice ending ties up all the threads. Recommended for grades 3 to 6.

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Twelve-year-old sweet Louisa LaRoche endures the death of her mother in the first pages of this story. It is done so tenderly and I hurt for her. She is one her own as she looks into the sky in hopes to find her father. Louisa is made of hollow bones and though she believes she is not full of magic, she quite is. She floats about the ground, just like what he father could do. However, he is no longer around as he was swept away by powerful winds never to be seen again. Since her mother has passed, all she wants is to find her father. He must be near, and since he can float she deems it may be possible to find him sooner than later. As she treks into the forest, she comes across a black-and-gold ticket. This ticket will lead her to the Carnival Beneath the Stars. If her father is anywhere, it would be there. When she arrives to the beautiful carnival with black-and-gold tops sprinkled throughout, she learns that this place isn't what she thought it would be. There are numerous acts with magical performers and as she watches the Raven's tightrope act something eerie and catastrophic happens. Soon she comes to grips that something terrible is happening and she must protect herself and her new friends Ox, Mercy, and Jess.

There is so much more to this story that I would love to share, but I do not want to ruin it! However, this is a story with themes of hope, friendship, heart, belief in yourself, and a touch of magic. Kassner's writing is beyond words. It reminded me of Jess Redman's writing from Quintessence. I am eager to read her first book The Bone Garden next, and hopefully read her forthcoming novel The Plentiful Darkness soon.

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Forest of Stars is a beautifully written story that toes the line between fantasy and magical realism. When Louise’s mother dies of grief and lovebugs eat at her heart, Louise is left alone in the world with nothing but a book and a few photos of her missing father. But life in the city isn’t easy for a young girl, and much more difficult when people realize that you can float into the air on a moment’s notice. Desperate to find her father, the only person that could possibly understand her, Louise’s journey takes her to a carnival on the outskirts of town where she befriends Jess, Ox, and Mercy. The trio show her around, but just as Louise is about to leave, dark magic strikes, and it's up to the four of them to set the record straight before Mercy is blamed.

This book is perfect for children who are interested in an adventure filled with caramel corn and cotton candy! The character’s are just as sweet, and a reader will have an easy time finding a character that’s more likable than the next. While the majority of the book takes place at one setting, the carnival gives off a mythical atmosphere that readers will not want to leave. There are surprises from around every corner, to Mercy who controls shadows to the mysterious Fiona who can tell one their misfortune as flowers bloom from her hair. The amount of imagination that went into the book is truly admirable and transports a reader to a land where the impossible becomes possible.

The only thing that this book could benefit from is perhaps a map of the carnival and the surrounding areas. Louise and her friends are constantly running amongst the tents and occasionally it's difficult to keep up with where they’re going or coming from. However, over all, this book is one that will take children on a magical adventure and leave them wanting more.

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I'm so, so sad that I didn't enjoy The Forest of Stars. I'd been looking forward to this book for so long and had such high hopes for it. Magical carnivals/circuses are king of my jam(really, don't we all fell that way at this point though). And this one just seemed like it might be a new, different spin on that sort of story. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it.

The Forest of Stars was a fast read, I'll give it that. So I don't feel like I wasted much time with it. But it wasn't very exciting. The synopsis promised me magic and mystery, but what I got instead was just a rather boring story. Things moved along, but it never really felt like much was happening.

I was also a little confused about who this book was trying to appeal to. I'd seen it marketed as YA, but it reads as though it's trying to affect the same tone as The Night Circus, which is adult, but features middle grade aged characters. Which has worked before- The Neverending Story, Furthermore- but here it just felt like a bit of a mess, like the story hadn't quite figured out its audience yet.

If I had to recommend The Forest of Stars, I'd probably do so to a younger audience. Going into it with a less critical eye would definitely benefit the overall reading experience. But even despite that, I was very bored while reading. It just felt like things were happening to the main character, Louisa, with no excitement or emotion to accompany them. It was a big letdown for me. I would maybe try picking it up again later on, maybe if I can get out of the reviewer mindset and when I have more free time. But right now, I need excitement in my books, and The Forest of Stars just didn't deliver that for me.

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When she was a baby, Louisa lost her father. He simply floated away, never to return. Now she’s lost her mother and has nowhere to go. As her coins continue to dwindle, her fears of being swept away in the wind grow. It’s auspicious that she finds an invitation to the “Carnival Beneath the Stars”, even if at first, she doesn’t see it that way.

While Louisa is a child, she is well ahead of her years in some aspects. That she can take care of herself after her mother dies is impressive. I thought the magic that the other performers had was creative. It made them multi-dimensional to the reader. Although I figured out who the villain was when it came to the mystery, and perhaps that is because of my age, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book.

This was a fun and creative read from the very start. From the love bugs and the fact that Louisa floats, and each person at the carnival, you’re immersed in a magical world. Every few chapters you get an illustration to go with the storyline. I think it unfair that adult readers aren’t reading through the eyes of the middle grade this is marketed to. It carries heavy themes of love and loss, of friendship, and healing. With the magic and mystery, it holds great appeal to readers of all ages. A fun and imaginative read. Thank you, Macmillan Children's, for sending this along!

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This gave me "Coraline" vibes which I love so of course I will be buying the book! I think the writing will appeal to readers of all ages and I can't wait to share this one at the library!

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I enjoyed this story so much! With vivid imagery, lyrical language, and the feel of a fairy tale, I loved following Louisa's unique and heartwarming journey. It was a wonderful blend of magic and sweetness.

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I received an electronic ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group through NetGalley.
Darker magical fantasy spun in a carnival setting. Think The Night Circus for a younger audience.
Louisa flees her town after her mother dies. She's homeless and penniless and her secret is discovered when she goes into town. Louisa walks on the air and can float as high as she chooses. A ticket to the carnival mysteriously appears and she flees to it when they chase her out of town. Her hope is to find her father who blew away with the wind.
At the carnival she finds friends, acceptance and a home. However, there is a darker magic stealing from others. Accidents happen and false accusations are made. The four friends - Louisa, Ox, Jess, Mercy - work together to figure out who is stealing the magic. As you'd expect, a final battle between good and evil completes the novel with a sweet reunion between daughter and father to wrap up the book.
A shorter book with plenty of action and mystery to pull middle grade readers in to the magic of this book. Kassner creates a fully developed setting and continues to reveal more about her characters throughout the story. The messages to believe in yourself and trust your friends come through clearly as does the triumph of cooperation over greed.

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A sweet and magical story about a girl on a quest to find her father and possibly a place to call home. I absolutely loved this story. The artwork was beautiful and charming. The friendships were sweet. Louisa was a great protagonist and her journey was a thrill. She was strong and had to deal with a lot for someone her age, but her determination and strength was remarkable. This was an overall fun book to read! It’s for friendship, magic, and a mystery!

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