Best Kids’ Space Books for the Holidays

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A good book about space can feed a kid’s obsession or inspire a brand new interest in exploring the wonders of the universe. If you’re hoping for a holiday gift, you’re in the right place: Here are Space.com writers’ and editors’ suggestions of great books about space exploration and space science for kids.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth,” the latest picture book by bestselling author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers, is many different things. It’s a love letter to his newborn son. It’s a toddler-friendly guide to the big, blue marble we call home. Or, as Jeffers’ editor joked, it’s a book for “new babies, new parents and misplaced humans.” But most of all, it’s a manual for how to be a stand up human being, one who is tolerant, respectful and unfailingly kind.

Jeffers’s jewel-toned renderings, liberally sprinkled with details that invite closer inspection, evoke the planet’s immensity with warmth and gentility. Yet for all its enormity — at least, from our vantage point — Earth barely registers in the vast expanse of space. We are impossibly fragile. And, for better or worse, we’re all in it together.

In “A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars,” Seth Fishman Tackles the numbers that permeate everything around us. Not just any numbers, mind you, but enormous numbers. Gigantic, mind-bogglingly tremendous whoppers of numbers. Numbers that the human mind can scarcely comprehend.

Accompanied by delightful illustrations by Isabel Greenberg, Fishman makes infinitesimal figures like the number of seconds in a year (31,536,000), the distance between the Earth and the moon (240,000 miles), and how many people go shoulder-to-shoulder every day on our big blue marble (7,500,000,000) relatable to the four-to-eight age group.

“A child isn’t necessarily going to get the number of raindrops in a thunderstorm (1,620, 000,000,000,000),” Fishman said, “but maybe it’ll help them connect with what the word ‘trillion’ means because they know what a thunderstorm looks like.” He also throws in fun facts that pint-size readers will take delight in. Who knew that a great white shark has about 300 teeth? Or that we might eat up to 70 pounds of bugs in our lifetime? Fish man’s numbers will thrill, amaze, and elucidate.

I Am Neil Armstrong,” a new children’s book by bestselling author and History Channel host Brad Meltzer, shows kids how never giving up got Neil Armstrong all the way to the moon. Meltzer artfully captures Armstrong’s journey all the way from childhood through his historic first steps on the lunar surface. But Meltzer doesn’t just focus on those famous steps. He begins the story decades before the Apollo 11 mission with a very young Armstrong trying to climb to the top of a silver maple tree. After falling and getting back up, Armstrong continued this pattern of determination throughout his career. Armstrong’s story of inspiration is masterfully executed in this colorful, delightful biography.

In “Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing,” Dean Robbins outlines the pioneering software engineer’s life, from the backyard of her childhood home, where she posed a million questions about the night sky, to the hallways of NASA, where she led a team from MIT to develop the onboard flight software that would land the first men on the moon. When an accident threatened to abort the Apollo 11 moon landing, Hamilton swooped in to save the day with her smarts and preparation. At a time when women were expected to stay in the home and raise children, Hamilton’s role in the Apollo program was “revelatory,” according to Robbins.

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