This week we’re exploring space with three stellar books!


Destination: Space by Dr. Christoph Englert, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

Destination: Space by Dr. Christoph Englert, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole (Wide Eyed Editions; ages 8-11), is an ambitious and beautifully executed introduction to the study of cosmology.

Starting with The Beginning of Time and concluding with Life on Other Planets, its scope is broad and comprehensive. There are sections dedicated to anticipated astronomy topics (e.g. the solar system, the moon, stars), but many others focused on topics less expected: Earth and Its Magnetic FieldEarth’s Atmosphere, and Light. Where appropriate, discussions branch into astrophysics concepts such as dark matter and spaghettification. A review of telescopes (ancient and modern) leads into a history of space travel and discussions of modern unmanned space exploration.

Throughout, the writing is clear and concise with information well organized so that no single section is overwhelming. The illustrations evoke authentic representations of space, and make the reader truly feel like they are exploring the universe. The result is a tantalizing taste of the fascinating scientific knowledge, endeavors and opportunities within the modern study of cosmology. Overall, this book is both educational and inspirational.  It would be an excellent addition to any science classroom and a wonderful gift for children with a special interest in space.


Stars In the night sky, a star might look like a tiny pinprick of light, but up close, you’ll discover it is a massive ball of hot, burning gas. One star that you will already know is the Sun. The Sun isn’t the biggest star in the sky, but it is the closest star to us, which is why it looks so much larger and brighter than the others we can see at night. The stars in our night sky begin life as a cloud of swirling gas, left over from the Big Bang, or old, exploded stars. Over time, gravity caused this cloudy mass to group together and spin into balls of hot, dense gas. Eventually, these balls formed a star. New stars are still in the process of being born all over the universe.


Earth and Its Magnetic Field Earth is the densest planet in the entire Solar System, which means that it is the heaviest planet compared to its size. Like other planets made out of rock, such as Mars, Earth is made up of different layers like an onion. Its outer core is mostly made up of melted iron, and as the Earth spins, the molten metal moves around. This creates electrical currents in the inner core, turning the metal there into a kind of giant magnet. Because of this, Earth has a huge magnetic field that extends out into space. This magnetic field gives Earth its North and South Poles. It also acts like an invisible shield, which protects Earth from harmful particles that would damage our atmosphere.


Space Travel Rocket science is the key technology that finally allowed humans to leave Earth. Space had fascinated humanity for hundreds of years, but it was not until the mid-nineteenth century when space exploration and space travel were finally possible thanks to the development of this new technology. Only rockets can accelerate spacecrafts to a speed that is high enough to overcome Earth’s gravity. This “escape velocity” is very fast — more than 6 miles per second! At this speed, you could cross the English Channel in just over three seconds!


The Skies Above My Eyes by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer

The Skies Above My Eyes by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer (Words & Pictures; ages 4-7) is a visual delight that extends over 8 feet when fully opened!

Stunning illustrations cover both sides of this gorgeous concertina book. Starting at a point on Earth’s surface, our eyes follow the images up past trees, tall buildings, birds, airplanes, clouds, into space, past our solar system and out into the universe. The relative distance from Earth’s surface is demarcated as you move along and atmospheric layers are labeled. Text is scattered throughout to identify, describe, and share interesting facts about all the fascinating things you see as you travel up to the universe and back: window washers, a helicopter, weather balloons, lightening, the Hubble telescope, planets, and so much more! Large portions are dedicated to space with educational information about space exploration, our solar system, comets, the moon, meteoroids, and more included.

While this book may not be as information-packed as others, it is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The experience of unfolding the pages, immersing yourself in the art, and counting the miles to various planets conveys the vast and wondrous nature of the universe in a unique and tangible way. My daughter calls this book “magical” and I cannot disagree — it is a remarkable gem that will be warmly embraced by all who read it.



The Know-Nonsense Guide to Space: An Awesomely Fun Guide to the Universe! by Heidi Fiedler, illustrated by Brendan Kearney

The Know-Nonsense Guide to Space: An Awesomely Fun Guide to the Universe by Heidi Fiedler, illustrated by Brendan Kearney (Walter Foster Jr; ages 8-12).

Like the previous books in the Know-Nonsense series, this introduction to Space is comprehensive, concise, and well-organized. It is broadly divided into three sections — The Solar System, Galaxies, and Exploring Space — that include 5 to 14 subtopics. Each subtopic has a dedicated page of information paired with a fun illustration. Included within The Solar System section are the asteroid belt, comets, and the Oort Cloud. The Galaxies section has subtopics dedicated to the Life Cycle of a Star and Black Holes. And the Exploring Space section has an excellent discussion of the use of robotic science and introduction to the International Space Station. Excellent writing with information that is well-paced and easily parsed into separate lessons makes this book a fantastic resource for the classroom. Eye-catching illustrations emphasize the book’s humor and draw the kids in quickly. Overall, it’s another fantastic installment in the stellar Know-Nonsense series and would be well used by any science educator.


THE SOLAR SYSTEM: VENUS Venus is the planet closest to Earth. When you’re a heavenly body named after the ancient Roman goddess of love and beauty, you might expect aliens to swoon. But any swooning that happens on Venus is more likely caused by how intensely hot the planet is. The thick atmosphere traps heat, so temperatures can reach over 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius) on the second planet from the sun. The atmosphere is also poisonous, and acid rains down from a thick layer of clouds. And at the very top of Venus’s mountains, there is a layer of snow. But not as we know it! Snow on Venus is made from frozen metal.


GALAXIES: ANDROMEDA GALAXY The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest large galaxy to the Milky Way. On a clear, moonless night, the Andromeda Galaxy looks like a milky blur to the naked eye. It’s 2.5 million light-years from Earth and similar to the Milky Way, but way bigger and with more stars. Telescopes reveal it’s moving toward us at 100 kilometers per second. It will most likely collide with the Milky Way in several billion years (yikes!), merging to form a jumbo galaxy called Milkomeda (groan). At least there’s time for scientists to come up with a better name for the new galaxy.


EXPLORING SPACE: INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION The International Space Station (ISS) is a large spacecraft that orbits around the Earth and houses astronauts and other scientists. The International Space Station is an enormous laboratory built by scientists and engineers from countries around the world. The first piece was sent up in 1998. It took two years for the station to be ready for people to live there, and another eleven years for the station to be finished. Now it’s nearly the size of a football field, with two bathrooms, a gym, and a room for six people. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and other space agencies use the station to study what it’s like to live and work in space, as well as do research that can’t be done on Earth. It’s an important step toward taking longer journeys and exploring deeper space. So what do ISS astronauts call our home planet when they’re orbiting above us? Spaceship Earth, of course!