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“When I was seven, I got to spend the night in a planetarium.”

Indonesia, 1977. Seven-year-old Innosanto spends a night with his mom sleeping under the stars in the Jakarta Planetarium. Innosanto’s father is a playwright and the boy memorizes lines during the actors’ rehearsals, so they invite him to join the performance, which tours the country. The play is about a General, who doesn’t treat people very well, “so they decided to do a play about how that was wrong.” Fact: Indonesia, aka The Spice Islands, is the place Christopher Columbus was looking for when he crashed in the New World. Fact: Indonesia is made up of 17000 islands where people speak over 750 different languages. Fact: when Inno was a child, speaking out against the government could land you in jail. On the last night of the performace Inno packs a toothbrush (“they figured if you’re going to go to jail for a long time, you may as well have your toothbrush with you so you can keep your teeth clean. (true story).”), the curtains go down, and with soldiers on the way, the actors scatter into hiding. On its surface, My Night in the Planetarium is a modern Indonesian children’s story about one night in the late ’70s that the author got to spend in the Jakarta planetarium. But it’s actually much more than that. It’s an introduction to the history and culture of Indonesia. It’s about colonialism, revolution, how power corrupts, and how through art and solidarity liberation can be won.

 

REVIEWS


My Night in the Planetarium is a sweet, smart tribute to the author’s father, to the radical power of art, and to the rich history of Indonesia. With gorgeous illustrations and an engaging narrative, this is art and resistance as seen through a child’s eyes, and told by a fantastic storyteller.”

—Kate Schatz
Rad American Women A-Z
and Rad Women Worldwide

“It’s a stirring tribute to the power of the arts to challenge injustice, recounted with the confidence of a practiced storyteller.”

—Publisher’s Weekly (Read the full review)

“I loved this story so much, my God it is just like the reality we are living in, just like a mirror, it inspires and guides us to do what we need to do. This story makes us want to cry and scream out: it is enough, let us be brave and stop lying to ourselves, face the reality! It is a story that gives us hope and tells us not to hesitate and it teaches our children to always follow the truth even if it is sometimes difficult.”

—Nabil Al-Raee
Artistic Director at The Freedom Theater in Jenin refugee camp, Palestine

“Can children be fascinated by dictatorship, persecution, the struggle against silence in a country very few people have heard about? This enchanting book proves that this sort of story, treated with delicacy and humor can – and should – reach a wide audience.”

Ariel Dorfman
Playwright, novelist, and human rights activist. Author of Death and the Maiden, and many other works.

“Innosanto Nagara’s beautifully illustrated My Night in the Planetarium is a delightful narrative about Indonesia: the fourth largest country, which we should all know more about. Told from the point of view of himself as a young boy, the story encourages children to be curious, engaged and courageous. What a wonderful lesson about history and people power, written and illustrated with great charm and wit.”

—Medea Benjamin
Co-founder, Global Exchange and Code Pink

“This is an all-ages masterpiece. There are few people who are looking at children’s lit through the anti-oppression lens. I was incredibly moved by this book on every possible level.”

Dan Zanes
Maker of 21st century all-ages music and Grammy Award winning album Catch that Train!