Above and Beyond: 4 Nonfiction Titles About Exploring Space

As we celebrate multiple space exploration anniversaries in the next few years, these are just some of the recent crop of titles that will spark kids’ interest.

As we celebrate multiple space exploration anniversaries in the next few years, these are just some of the recent crop of titles that will spark kids’ interest—from a biography about the mathematical genius “computer” Katherine Johnson to the ­possibility of life on other “just right” planets.

Manley, Curtis. Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. illus. by Jessica Lanan. 48p. bibliog. chron. further reading. websites. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250155337.
Gr 2-5 –Beginning with the insights of astronomers such as Lucretius and Giordano Bruno and continuing with the observations of a fictional young black girl from the present day, this illuminating book examines the possibility of life on other planets. Manley presents scientific certainties and theories alongside the child and her family’s trip to a museum. Lanan’s pleasing, watercolorlike artwork moves between expansive visions of outer space and panels that highlight key concepts. VERDICT An ideal addition for libraries building or updating STEAM collections. –Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH

Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola. Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow. 160p. bibliog. index. photos. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250308467.
Gr 5 Up –This book is a complement to and was inspired by the documentary of the same name created by Rory Kennedy celebrating the 60th anniversary of NASA. It profiles the history of NASA, beginning with Wilbur and Orville Wright and the first flight and continuing to the International Space Station and the planned 2020 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Boxes highlight fun and fast facts. This ode to the history and future of NASA and the pioneering spirit of space travel will appeal to young adults with an interest in the subject, along with casual browsers of all ages. VERDICT A good choice for collections in need of titles that provide a broad overview of American space history. –Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA

Slade, Suzanne. A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon. illus. by Veronica Miller Jamison. 40p. bibliog. chron. photos. Little, Brown. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316435178.
K-Gr 3 –Even as a child, Katherine Johnson loved numbers. She skipped through school, took a job as part of a team of number crunchers called “calculators,” and helped figure out the trajectory of early space flights of the 1960s, even after machine computing became a part of the process. This retelling of Johnson’s achievements focuses on her path as a black female mathematician. First-time illustrator Jamison relies on ink, watercolor, marker, and colored pencil to create spreads that emphasize math concepts. Often there’s a faint background of the geometric images and equations shown on the end papers. VERDICT Another appealing picture book biography of a successful woman; a strong choice for most collections. –Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

Southgate, Vix. Dogs in Space: The Amazing True Story of Belka & Strelka. illus. by Iris Deppe. 32p. chron. photos. Kane Miller. Mar. 2019. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781610678247. POP
Gr 2-4 –This volume chronicles the tale of two dogs, Belka and Strelka, who were sent into space by the Soviet Union. The simple, colorful illustrations complement the text and show how the dogs were trained to stay calm and how they were fitted into their canine spacesuits. Launched into space on August 19, 1960, the animals successfully orbited the earth and returned safely.  VERDICT A must-have for libraries and a welcome addition for all STEM collections. –Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mt. Carmel

These reviews have been excerpted from the Winter 2018 School Library Journal issue.

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