Emily LakdawallaDec 11, 2012

More recommended nonfiction and activity space books for children

This is my last set of reviews of recommended children's books for this year. Don't miss my other reviews of kids' nonfiction series and kids' story books about space! And if you're still looking for gift ideas, check previous years' reviews as well. If you're wondering why all my reviews are raves, it's because I don't usually waste time writing about books that I don't like.

Eight Days Gone (48 pages) is a curious story book about Apollo 11. It would appear to be intended for very young children; the illustrations are stylized, and the text consists of very sparse couplets. Few pages have more than ten words. But read the text and you'll realize you're not reading baby singsong verse; this is poetry. "Edwin Aldrin hops around. / Boot prints left on ashen ground. / Desolation. Silent. Dark. / Tranquil sea. Barren. Stark." Eight Days Gone is a pleasure to read aloud to young children. They may not understand all the words, but the words are mellifluous ones. After all, the story -- a trip to the Moon and back -- is straightforward to understand from the illustrations, while the lovely words provide a sense of the strange aand new.

Blast off with Doodle Tom (96 pages) is an activity book, in the spirit of the "Anti-coloring books." It's printed with stories and facts on each left page and, on the facing page,  a large frame of blank space with a drawing idea, e.g.: "Draw your very own Martian"; "Draw new undiscovered planets and give them funny names"; and, on a page randomly studded with dots, "Create new constellations by linking stars." There are two large sheets of cartoony space stickers in the back. My six-year-old dove straight into this one with her pencil. Kids will have to be able to read fairly well to be able to understand the prompts.

Destined for Space (64 pages) is an illustrated history of the human fascination with space, split roughly evenly among the pre-spaceflight era (going back to a Greek science fiction story from 160 AD!), the century of flight, and the future of space exploration. It's focused mostly on human spaceflight, with only a few pages given to robotic missions. It's lavishly and excellently illustrated. Suitable for 9 to 13.

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole (48 pages) does the best job I've seen of explaining what black holes are, approaching them from many different directions with different analogies and lots of humor. The text is suitable for about ages 10 to 13 but I suspect a lot of parents and teachers would learn a lot about how to explain a very difficult topic by reading this book!

How to Draw Amazing Airplanes and Spacecraft (64 pages) is exactly what it sounds like. It's similar to the "Draw 50 _______" books I enjoyed as a kid, employing construction lines as a base for the final shape, so this one is for older children (and grownups). It's mostly airplanes, both civilian and military, but it includes the Apollo Command Module, Explorer 1, the Phoenix Mars Lander, the Saturn V Rocket, the Space Shuttle (in launch configuration), and SpaceShipOne.

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