I checked out a few books for my little astronomer the other day in an attempt to do some more reading with him rather than indulge his constant requests to watch the Moon episodes of The Universe. (He points to the TV and says, “Moon! Earth!” and would be content to watch these all day.) I did get him to read with me a bit, but, being a 2-year-old, he didn’t quite have enough patience for all of the text. He wanted pictures of the Moon and Earth. Anyway, I thought they were pretty good.
What’s So Special About the Planet Earth? by Robert E. Wells — This 32-page book is rated for ages 4-8, or Kindergarten-Grade 2. You won’t find photos of the solar system here–this book has cartoon illustrations (well done illustrations). While there are fact boxes for each planet, the rest of the text is factual but written conversationally. The book takes readers on a journey to the other seven planets for a quick review of whether they would be good places to live. When we return to Earth, we are treated to a discussion on why Earth is so special and how we can help take care of the Earth. (It would be a good choice for Earth Day reading.) The book reads like a story and can be an introduction to the solar system’s planets, although it does not visit the dwarf planets.
Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System! by Kathleen V. Kudlinski, illustrated by John Rocco — The title of this one is excellent, and I had high hopes for the book. I wouldn’t say these hopes were dashed, but there are some omissions and errors that detract from the book. First, the omissions. In the stories used to demonstrate how wrong people were about the solar system, details are glossed over. This may have been an authorial choice to not be another book with tons of names to learn and remember, but I think the names of some of the scientists (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton) or objects (I can’t think which comet has a 37-year period, although the story behind it sounds like Comet Halley with a 76-year period) discussed would have been fine in the text or in a footnote or aside, somewhere, and would have enhanced the learning experience. The discovery of Uranus and Neptune is told incorrectly, too: She writes, “People could see Neptune’s path wobbled too. Could there be yet another planet in our solar system? When they looked, they found Uranus.” Actually, Uranus was discovered first with a telescope, and perturbations in its orbit led to the discovery of Neptune. And speaking of telescopes, the Hubble Space Telescope (described but not named) is presented as having a large lens, but really it’s a large mirror. (Boy, was she wrong… 🙂 )This book is rated for ages 4-8. What it does well is show how the scientific process works to correct errors in “knowledge” — like, we thought we knew this, but new discoveries changed things, so now we think this. Oh, and the illustrations are awesome. This book serves as a good example that not every book you buy or check out for your kids will be 100 percent correct. Reading some of the less-than-glowing book reviews online can sometimes be a good way to do some quick fact checking.
13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar — Rated for ages 9-12. Not very long ago, National Geographic Kids books published 11 Planets. The 13 Planets book has been updated to include the dwarf planets Haumea and MakeMake in addition to Pluto, Eris, and Ceres. Each planet and dwarf planet gets about 160 words describing them, plus about three captions each for images. Special topics include Earth’s Moon, Meteorites, Water on Mars, Jupiter’s Moons, Saturn’s Moons, Comets/Oort Cloud, The End of Our Solar System, and Other Solar Systems. Each special topic also gets a page or two with images and about 160 words of primary text. The text is factual, but interesting, and the images are stunning. This book makes a good choice for kids learning about the solar system.
So, happy reading! And don’t decide to completely shun the Boy, Were We Wrong book from story time with your little astronomers — just slip in the corrections as you read it 🙂