Kid's Stuff -- Books About Outer Space & Planets & Moons & Rocket Ships & The Universe & Stuff Like That
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"The Sun Is My Favorite Star"
Written by Frank Asch
Illustrated by Frank Asch
(Gulliver, 2000)

A pleasant, kind of hippie-ish celebration of nature, with a little girl who sings the praises of the sun and its life-giving powers. I think I liked this book better than my girl did; she never asked for it to be re-read, but seemed to appreciate it anyway. (B)


"I Want To Be An Astronaut"
Written by Byron Barton
Illustrated by Byron Barton
(Harper Collins, 1988)

A nice book with bold graphics, ideal for kids who want to grow up and jump around in zero gravity. Personally, I find it a little depressing that the book centers in on NASA's space shuttle, which has always struck me as a rather timid project and more of a place-saver than an actual space program, but hey, you make due with what you've got, right? I just want my kid to be able to go to Mars, if she wants to. (B+)


"My Place In Space"
Written by Robin & Sally Hirst
Illustrated by Joe Levine
(Orchard Books, 1988)

A hilarious book explaining the scope and structure of the universe. In it, a young boy and his sister want to board a bus and are patronizingly asked by the bus driver whether they know where they live. The older sibling begins a patient and withering explanation of exactly where they are, starting at the micro scale and moving swiftly to the macro -- from their street address up through the Orion spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and on all the way through the everything-in-one universe itself. Great text, funny punchline, effective educational message. And Pluto is still a planet here, which is a plus as far as I'm concerned. (B+)


"Space Boy"
Written by Leo Landry
Illustrated by Leo Landry
(Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

One night, when little Nicholas is about to go to sleep, he finds himself bothered by all the noise around him -- a baby crying in the other room, the cars toot-tooting outside, his dog barking at the door -- who can relax with all that going on?? So, Nicholas packs a lunch, puts on his NASA regulation space suit, hops in his rocket and heads for the moon, to get a little peace and quiet. It works pretty well-- his sandwiches drift away in the low gravity, but at least it's quiet up there. Of course, it may be too quiet: after a while, Nicholas feels lonely and even misses the sound of the baby crying, so he packs his stuff up again and zooms back home, with the rest of the human race. A goofy, likable fantasy, although on balance it doesn't really stick to the ribs. (B-)


"You're Aboard Spaceship Earth"
Written by Patricia Lauber
Illustrated by Holly Keller
(Harper Collins, 1996)

The message is simple: just like the astronauts aboard the space shuttle, we live in a contained environment and we have to manage our resources well. Many examples are given, and may build on science lessons that have already been explored: the water cycle of evaporation and condensation; the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle; the life/death, ashes-to-ashes cycle (which is tied to a lesson on home composting) and of course, a quick glimpse of the shuttle itself, orbiting this little sphere of ours... Good book for discussing basic conservation ideas. (B)


"Roaring Rockets"
Written by Tony Mitton
Illustrated by Ant Parker
(Kingfisher, 1997)

(-)


"Stella To Earth!"
Written by Simon Puttock
Illustrated by Philip Hopman
(Clarion, 2005)

A lovely, lively father-daughter book, about an energetic, imaginative young girl named Stella, who dreams of being a space explorer and blasts off for distant planets every night, just before she goes to bed. While she brushes her teeth, puts on her PJs and lands on cratered moons, her dad calls upstairs: "Earth To Stella! Don't forget to wash behind your ears!" One night, though, communication from the home planet is disrupted, and Stella zips back across the galaxy to find dear old, tired dad crashed out on the couch. After she rouses him, they both set off to see the latest planet she's found (and on the way we briefly glimpse the various toys and bedclothes that made up the backdrop for her spacecapades... Stella's a great role model: her room is packed with scientific paraphernalia and such -- and if you're a fan of Spaceman Spiff, you'll dig Stella's universe, too! (A)


"There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System"
Written by Tish Rabe
Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz
(Random House, 1999)

The Cat In The Hat helps kids explore the solar system... (-)


"A Brave Spaceboy: Moving Is An Adventure!"
Written by Dana Kessimakis Smith
Illustrated by Laura Freeman
(Hyperion, 2005)

This book does triple duty -- as a book about outer space, moving into a new house, and making new friends. Told from the point of view of two toddler twin siblings, we see the twins as they move into a new house and make themselves at home by playing a big game of astronaut, using one of the empty moving boxes as their rocket. Meanwhile, the neighbors drop by with a housewarming gift, and their young, shy daughter in tow. The kids take a little while to sniff one another out, but by the end of the book, they're all having a ball. The text and artwork are both a little too cutesy and precious, but overall this is a nice book. Worth checking out. (B)


"Space Station Mars"
Written by Daniel San Souci
Illustrated by Daniel San Souci
(Tricycle Press, 2005)

Part of Daniel San Souci's "Clubhouse Gang" series... After seeing a scary B-movie about Martian invaders, the Gang gets into outer space stuff, and decide, improbably, that a rock they find in a neighbor's yard is really a meteorite. Just as they're trying to figure out whether it's radioactive or not, a new kid named Neil shows up in town, and he just happens to be a slide-rule science geek with a passion for finding extraterrestrial life. The story is kind of confused and awkward after that -- eventually Neil decides the space aliens are angry and wan their rock back, which proves to be easy when a "space ship" lands nearby. The best part of the book is when they visit the ship and it turns out to be a water tank (a real one, located in the San Francisco Bay Area!) I wasn't wowed by this one, but it does reflect some of the giddy excitement kids had in space travel and science in the post-Sputnik era of the late 1950s and early '60s. (C+)


"What's Out There? A Book About Space"
Written by Lynn Wilson
Illustrated by Paige Billin Frye
(Grosset & Dunlap, 1993)

(-)


"Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off To The Moon"
Written by Dan Yaccarino
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Scholastic, 1997)

(B+)


"Joey & Jet In Space"
Written by James Yang
Illustrated by James Yang
(Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2006)

In this overly-kinetic, wildly designed romp, Joey and his dog Jet are romping in outer space, but the cosmos is cluttered and ill-defined, as is the story. Jet zaps off somewhere, and Joey searches for him, past brightly colored blips, spaceships, robots and a big Saturn-like planet... Then, just as his search hits a hysterical peak, his mom calls him to lunch and snaps him out of his playtime daydream. The story's flimsy and the presentation falls flat, largely due to the haphazard layout. It's colorful and dynamic, but uninspired and unoriginal. (C-)






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