Space books that we love (for children… mostly)

One of the nice things about having a child fixated on space is that it’s an easy obsession to feed. The discount shelves of most bookstore chains are loaded with gorgeous picture books full of astronomical phenomena, courtesy of Hubble and other high-powered telescopes.

A few fellow parents hoping to foster or develop their child’s interest in space have asked me for book recommendations. We’ve checked dozens out of the library and received several as gifts, but there are only a handful that I would heartily recommend.

Rhyming & scientifically accurate books
There are still certain facts and concepts that I remember vividly simply because I learned a rhyme or poem or song about them when I was a child. I think these are handy and fun introductory books for kids, but I learned quite a few things from them too:

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings
“The Universe is every place,
including all the e m p t y space…”

I love the images in this book, as well as the rhymes that describe some characteristics of each planet, black holes, galaxies and more. You can crack the book open to one page and get your fill of Saturn and a few of its moons, or read the whole thing in one setting.

Planets: A Solar System Stickerbook
“First comes Mercury, catching sun’s rays/It has hot, hot nights and cold, cold days.”

A quick read with graduated pages that take you, in quick two-line rhymes, from the sun out to Pluto. This book and Goodnight, Moon were the first two books that my son memorized. He hasn’t forgotten that Mercury is both burning and fridgid, or that Uranus is lopsided.

There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System
“On Venus the weather is always the same/Hot dry and windy with no chance of rain.”

I don’t find the Seuss Learning Library books nearly as charming as any of the things written by their namesake. Still, this is a decent volume, written in highly Seuss-ian rhyme.

Fantasy/adventure space books
There is plenty of allure in the danger and mystery of the exotic locales that space has to offer, but I think that the latitude to imagine the completely off-the-wall is important too. Just look at your flip phone and consider how much Star Trek has influenced real science. I expect (and hope) that this list will grow substantially over time.

Space Boy
This is the story of Nicholas, who climbs into a his backyard rocket ship and takes a trip to the moon to get away from all of the noise in his house (because there is no noise in space). It’s a sweet and simple story, with bonus zero-gravity tomato slices.

Moongirl: The Collector’s Edition Book and DVD Gift Set
If you like collecting fireflies, and think that it makes perfect sense that children, romance and amusement park rides, not some man or dairy product, are responsible for the moon’s glow, then I can’t recommend this enough. The book, and the brief animated version of the story on the DVD (it’s under five minutes long), are both quality.

Books we want
There are a couple of new
titles that I’m really looking forward to reading, but that we might enjoy more once my boy is able to sit still a bit longer.

Icarus at the Edge of Time
We really love Brian Greene around here. For several months, his NOVA – The Elegant Universe was our Sesame Street. So I’m thrilled that he’s decided to recast the myth of Icarus as as a trip to a black hole in this giant board book. Just remember: when you’ve crossed the event horizon, there is no going back!

George’s Secret Key to the Universe
We haven’t graduated to chapter books yet, but when we do, this one, penned by scientist Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy, will be at the top of my list. Apparently, the bones of the story are deeper concepts of physics and time, wrapped in an adventure’s skin.

For more technical scientific information, including great photos, illustrations and conceptual explanations, I can’t recommend the various DK Books about Astronomy and the Universe enough, but they’re a pretty dry read on their own. Periodically, you can find one that has suggestions for cool, hands-on experiments, like reproducing the stormy clouds of Jupiter with food coloring and milk.

Happy space reading! If you have a book that you and/or your kids love about space, please tell me about it in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Space books that we love (for children… mostly)”

  1. Here’s another that you might like:

    The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto by Elizabeth Rusch. It is actually about Mike Brown who discovered Eris, the world larger than Pluto. It follows Mike from being a young boy, to becoming an astronomer, to his big discovery, and the IAU vote on Pluto.

    It is a great astronomy book for kids.

  2. I saw your web site and thought I'd mention my children's book "What if the Moon…" by Guardian Angel Publishing. My book offers a poetic text to expand a child’s imagination while teaching about colors and shapes. For example, the moon transforms into a grape, an orange and a chocolate chip cookie. A "seek & find" activity page is also included. See http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com, Barnes & Noble (www.bn.com), Amazon.com and more. Thank you. Tracy Ahrens.

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