6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt

Title: What Came From the Stars

Author: Gary D. Schmidt

Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Middle Grade

Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication date: September 4 2012
Hardcover: 304 pages

The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion starsall the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass. Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn’t notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of a hanorah. As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymouth in search of the chain, Tommy learns he must protect his family from villains far worse than he’s ever imagined.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Why did I read this book: I’ve read and absolutely LOVED last year’s Okay for Now and finishing that book wanting to read ALL THE Schmidts. So I had to buy this one as soon as it came out.


In a galaxy far, far away, the Dark Lord Mondus is about to kill the last of the Valorim and thus, seize control of their Art. In a last desperate effort, Young Waeglim forges the Art of the Valorim into a chain and sends it across galaxies and planets. And so it has come to pass that said chain lands squarely in the ridiculous Ace Robotroid Adventure lunch box of Tommy Pepper, a sixth grader from Plymouth, Mass. Thinking the chain is just another birthday present from his grandmother, Tommy starts wearing it and soon enough and almost without realising it, Tommy absorbs the language and the collective memory of the Valorim.

What he does notice – and very clearly too – is how the memories of his late mother become more vivid. And so under the influence of the Art of the Valorim, he is able to draw and paint her face, and to sing his grief and love. His life becomes a little bit more bearable because of that, even though his family is still grieving, even though his sister won’t utter a word, even though they might lose their home.

In the meantime, the Dark Lord Mondus is relentlessly pursuing the Art of Valorim and a creature made of sand causes havoc around Tommy’s town. The story progresses alternating between what is happening back in that distant planet and what is taking place in Plymouth, in a mixture of Fantasy with Contemporary MG.

I am slightly torn about What Came from the Stars. On the one hand, this is vintage Schmidt with the usual assuredness with which the author writes kids and their dialogue. Tommy’s group of friends is fun and I loved seeing their realistic interaction with each other. Similarly, Tommy Pepper’s grieving family and the beautiful relationship between them, especially between Tommy and younger sister Patty are expertly handled and easily the best thing about the novel. I love reading about siblings that get along well and it was heart-warming to see Tommy being so protective and loving toward Patty.

On the other hand, I can’t help but to feel that What Came from the Stars is an incredibly familiar story not only in relation to the author’s previous book Okay for Now but also in a broader Fantasy context. With regards to the former, one of the most important themes present in Okay for Now is present in this new book as well: the importance given to art as part of a healing process. It is evidence of how torn I am about the book that I even include this here because I often love stories about how important art is but given how the memory of Okay for Now is so fresh, I see it as a repetitive thematic core…if that makes sense? I guess first-time readers of Schmidt’s work would not find the same problem.

This brings me to the Fantasy side of the story, which is another aspect that left me conflicted about the book. The Fantasy storyline, with the Valorim and the O’Mondim, its motifs of Good vs Evil and the creation of the One Chain is kind of derivative Fantasy. That said, there is an obvious affection for an old-fashioned Tolkien-inspired Fantasy setting and What Came from the Stars could be a great introduction to Fantasy for a Middle Grader.

To summarise: this was perhaps not the right book for me and despite seeing obvious qualities about it, I was ultimately not impressed.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

You can read the first chapter here:

What Came From the Stars Excerpt

Rating: 6 – Good.

Reading Next: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Buy the Book: (click on the links to purchase)

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook kobo &, sony

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  • Linda W
    September 25, 2012 at 6:45 am

    This is about the fourth time I’ve read a review (or been told) that Okay for Now is great. I’ll add that to my list before I tackle this book.

  • Heidi
    September 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry to see you a bit disappointed in this one, Ana! All sorts of bookish friends have been bugging me to read Schmidt for a while now, so I actually got a copy of this one. I do plan to read it, but I’m also considering going for The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now first. Maybe you just need a good long while to forget that all of them are so similar? (See why I don’t read John Green books back to back).

  • Simone
    December 26, 2012 at 7:02 am

    , I never gave up hope. On Christmas Eve 2008, I heard sleigh bells ring @ 12:12 AM. @ first I was sound aselep, but my dream woke me up @ the wrong moment.I have been a very good girl my entire life, especially this year. I admit, I have told my fair share of lies, but who doesn’t lie these days? Anyway, all I want for Christmas this year is a Nintendo3DS. More importantly, I want to be able to help out those in need. I’m not as selfish as many people nowadays, but I admit that I can be from time to time.Thank you for always knowing what I want even when I never asked for it. I don’t care that I’m 19 almost 20 years old and I still believe that you are real. You never let me down. So I’m taking this time to say, thank you for making my dreams come true while I was growing up.Love Your True Believer,Christine, a.k.a. Princess.P.S.If it’s even remotely possible, do you think you can grant my wish and help me to actually become my character, Princess. I love superheroes and I want to be one. That’s why I created the world’s one and only indistructable superhero. I want to be able to travel through time and space, and travel between dimensions. If you can’t give me the superpowers I have always wished for, that’s okay. Just remember that I will NEVER stop believing in you. You are a hero to me and all the boys and girls who’s families cannot afford anything. So once again, thank you for everything you have ever done for all of us-not just my family and I, but the entire world!P.S.S.I love you Santa and I never gave up hope.P.S.S.S.I know that this must be strange for you to receive a letter from a woman such as myself, but I have always believed you are real.

  • joanna
    May 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

    i read this book and i LOVED LOVED LOVED it.
    It even made me cry a bit
    this is the best book i EVER read in my entire life

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