Category Archives: astronomy

If You Were the Moon

When children are starting to learn about the sun, moon and planets, there are not a ton of books that really engage them. So I was very excited when I was able to get a hold of an advance copy of If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim.

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At first glance, this book looks like a simple bedtime story in fiction format. But once you get past the first spread the entire book is filled with fascinating facts about the moon! A little girl looks up at the moon one night and wishes that she could “do exactly nothing, just like you.” moon-1

The moon responds by telling her all of the various things he does.  Each page has a really basic explanation of the moon’s role with supplementary blocks of text in a different font that give the reader detailed facts. moon-phases

So between the text and the outstanding illustrations, a young mind will understand that the moon impacts Earth’s balance,  that while it appears to glow it is really “catching” and “throwing” light from the sun, and that its gravity is what creates the tides in our oceans.moon-tide

The moon also is important to a lot of different animals and cultures. Nocturnal animals use the moon as an alarm clock. Sea turtle hatchlings need the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean. In terms of people, not only has the moon inspired great works of art, but farmers across the globe have used moon phases to guide their seasons and the race to put a man on the moon challenged our space program.

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There are also silly items like the fact that the moon spins like a ballerina making a full turn every 27 days or that it wouldn’t be very good at playing dodgeball because it never gets out of the way of meteorites that crash into it.

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This is a really wonderful book to share with a young child to get them more interested in astronomy and science. It is also still good for an older child to comprehend some of the more confusing aspects of the moon. There really are not a wealth of great books that engage children on this subject, so this is a welcome addition.

nfpb2017Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the  Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!

To Burp or Not to Burp – A Guide to Your Body in Space

Many kids are fascinated by space and space travel. Even though we are not pushing a huge amount of space exploration at the moment, NASA is busy working on the notion of sending people to Mars and other cool projects. So it is quite possible that today’s children could be the next people to man a space mission. Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?”

cover87615-mediumNow there is a fun and informative book all about the way space impacts bodily functions. NASA astronaut Dr. Dave Williams and children’s writer Loredana Cunti offer an entertaining and educational look at the weird, wild, and wonderful ways the human body copes with zero gravity for aspiring astronauts ages 7-10. This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body: How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who speaks from first-hand experience.

This fun book is separated into six sections

  1. The “Number One” question – or everything you wanted to know about going to the bathroom in space.
  2. Clean and Neat – all about personal grooming.
  3. All Dressed Up – clothing inside and out of the space-craft.
  4. Antigravity Appetite – how to eat, what to eat, and why burping isn’t such a good idea.
  5. Body Basics – how your body responds to being in space.
  6. Sleeping in Space – no pillows, no beds, no lying down.

Using age-appropriate language and a sense of humor, Dr. Dave explains the different phenomena that astronauts encounter during a mission. The bright, colorful pages, short blocks of text accompanied by photos and humorous illustrations make this a very attractive choice for young readers.

space-1As mentioned, kids are fascinated by the notion of how you go to the bathroom in space. Dr. Dave gives them all of the necessary information. From needing a special vacuum to suction the waste away from the body, foot restraints to hold you in place and how constipation is a real issue in space, you learn everything you want to know, and probably some thing you didn’t want to know, about human waste in space.

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There are also other issues that most of us have never thought about. You can’t take a shower in space. Cutting your hair can be a challenge as the hair would just float away. Even brushing your teeth requires special techniques! If your curious child hasn’t already thought about these things, this book will really make them consider how life without gravity is completely different than life on earth.

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Of course, the book is called To Burp or Not to Burp and the would be remiss if that wasn’t something that was fully covered. I learned things about why you burp and how that I never would have thought of without this book.

For any aspiring astronaut, or just kids who are curious about how things work, this is a great addition to any library!

nfpb16This is part of my attempt to stay engaged with the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Frenzy. This is a weekly link-up of amazing non-fiction picture books for kids. I’ve learned about a ton of great books by checking out these great posts. Click here for this week’s selection.

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Journey to Mars

J has long had a fascination with astronomy and studying planets. This year, it turns out that they are also studying planets a ton in school. So when I was offered a copy of Buzz Aldrin’s new book from National Geographic Kids called Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, I jumped at the chance to add it to our library. Then I was at the library yesterday and found the book You are the First Kid on Mars, by Patrick O’Brien. It is amazing that they are really taking it to the next level with these books and allowing people to truly consider what life would be like on another planet.1-mars

In Welcome to Mars, Buzz Aldrin challenges curious kids  — who he refers to as “Generation Mars” — to think about the faraway red planet as a possible future home for humans (National Geographic Children’s Books, September 2015, ages 8-12). What will your new home look like? How will you get there? What will you eat for breakfast? Buzz is passionate about making traveling to and living on Mars a reality and encourages young scientists, engineers and astronauts to not just reach for the stars, but to join him on this journey to build a permanent home on Mars.

aldrin coverAldrin manages to write the book in a way that is really accessible to young scientists. With bright graphics, hands-on science experiments, handy timelines and content that showcases the history of inter-planet travel as well as the future, this book is a must for kids who want to know more.

The first half of the book focuses on the history of space travel and knowledge. Aldrin of course has a large amount of experience with space travel, and he talks about what it is like to travel in space and the costs involved. Young scientists learn the history about how people have studied space over the years and how they managed to make maps of distant planets.  Aldrin explains who major players were in Mars discoveries and how the various forms of exploration have happened.

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The second half of the book becomes the “what it” portion. Aldrin discuss how long it would take to travel there, the difficulties of landing and the challenges to going back to Earth. Throughout this section, kids are also presented with the real life issues of what life on Mars entails, such as the need for space suits, but also talks about how to turn some of the challenges into benefits – like turning sunlight into electricity.

NG-Kids-Welcome-to-Mars-Inside-Page-2J has really enjoyed reading this book and brought it in to school when they were working on planets.

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In Patrick O’Brien’s book, You are the First Kid on Mars, he takes a lot of the same information and puts it into a different package. While Aldrin’s book is a great resource for older kids who are able to read through a lot of details, O’Brien’s book shortens the information down to a really cool picture book.

In First Kid on Mars, you get to imagine yourself actually flying to Mars from a space station. It takes a really long time to get there, so the ship has rooms with everything you need and it spins to make it feel like you have gravity. Once you’ve landed, the book takes you through a wide variety of aspects of what life on Mars would be like and what kind of scientists would be doing work there. A big job is searching for Martian life, but not the little green men kind, more the kind of microscopic life that would require a microscope to see.

The book also touches on a number of aspects of the history of getting to Mars. For example, in the picture below, the Mars explorers find the remains of the Pathfinder named Soujourner Truth that landed on Mars in July 1997 and communicated information back to Earth until September 1997 when the batteries failed. soujourner

In beautiful pictures, that are often a rusty tint due to the dust you would find on Mars, you can imagine what life would be like. From the whirlwinds to greenhouses and the robots that help do a variety of jobs on the planet.

Both of these books are an excellent way to get kids excited by the notion of space travel and exploration. There are also a number of really wonderful quotes about science and imagination that encourage kids to use their imaginations and make the discoveries of the future.

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nfpb16This post is part of my contribution to the Kid Lit Frenzy Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge. We’ve really been getting into non-fiction books and I love challenging myself to write about them more frequently. Check out the link for some other truly amazing non-fiction picture books.