Where Are the Aliens?

The Search for Life Beyond Earth
Little, Brown. Sept. 2023. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780759553996.
Gr 4-8–Whether tracing the history of the known universe or explaining the Fermi paradox—the mathematical concept that, if intergalactic travel were possible, Earth should have been visited by now—McAnulty’s narrative is thoroughly clear, engaging, and fun. One chapter outlines the SETI project, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, another examines some of the history of UFO research. The tone throughout is informal, meandering, sometimes veering into corny (physicist Fermi is characterized as “a smarty-pants who won scholarships and studied at notable European universities”), appealing to the younger end of the likely age range, though it should engage many middle school readers. Illustrations are simple but effective and contribute to a consistently upbeat style. “Fun fact” boxes and sidebar texts, such as a profile of astronomer Jill Tarter or an explanation of naming conventions for exoplanets, provide complementary information and balance the often heady concepts of the main text. Extensive back matter includes comprehensive source notes, as well as a bibliography of favorite resources, a time line, glossary, and list of acronyms. McAnulty allows that no women or people of color were involved in the early days of SETI because “few non-white men were admitted to study in the STEM fields.”
VERDICT A superb resource for budding astronomers or a fascinating read for any kid with an interest, highly recommended for libraries serving elementary and middle school students.

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