A Look Across the Universe | YA Nonfiction Spotlight

For space enthusiasts eager to expand their knowledge, these YA nonfiction titles explore what we know about our solar system and the universe beyond.

For space enthusiasts eager to expand their knowledge, these YA nonfiction titles explore what we know about our solar system and the universe beyond, as well as the history and science behind how we know it. Readers will come away with the sense that for as much as we’ve learned, there are plenty of mysteries left to be solved.


Francfort, Jérémie. Big Bangs and Black Holes: A Graphic Novel Guide to the Universe. tr. from French by Jeffrey K. Butt. illus. by Herji. 64p. Helvetiq. May 2023. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9783907293751.
Gr 9 Up–Young astrophysicists, cosmologists, and theoretical physicists will find plenty to think about in this dense but humorous exploration of the universe. Fictional characters Dr. Celeste ­Aster (pun intended) and her college age niece, ­Gabrielle, with the help of the real Dr. Michel Mayor, the 2019 Nobel ­Laureate in Physics, attempt to explain the study of the universe. The creators use the graphic novel format and break the fourth wall to blend up-to-date science with an ­action-packed story. Gabrielle’s offhand questions and genuine reactions mirror the average person’s knowledge base. Chapter 1 covers some basic history highlighting Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Albert ­Einstein. Chapter 2 tackles ­cosmology, the Big Bang theory, and CMB (cosmic microwave background). Matter is explained with quarks, protons, neutrons, and atoms. Chapter 3 explains black holes, their birth, and their behavior. Dark matter and dark energy are also introduced. Herji adds wry humor to the slapstick interactions of Aster and Mayor with celestial bodies and theorems. The book wraps up by reiterating that unraveling the mystery of the universe is an ongoing science prone to reevaluations and adjustments. An excellent glossary is appended. VERDICT This is a great addition to high school graphic nonfiction ­collections. Hand this to students who love the “Science Comics” series.–Elisabeth LeBris

 Miller, Ron. The Big Backyard: The Solar System Beyond Pluto104p. Twenty-First Century. Mar. 2023. Tr $37.32. ISBN 9781728475349.
Gr 9 Up–Hugo award-winning author and illustrator Miller brings his experience illustrating for NASA to this engaging book, taking curious readers on a fact-filled tour of the outer reaches of our solar system. Readers learn about the many unmanned missions that have contributed to the body of knowledge on the solar system, including the equipment scientists used to capture important readings that allowed NASA to study far-flung objects and planets. When describing the atmosphere of Pluto or the terrain of a comet, Miller includes the collected data that assisted astrophysicists in reaching their conclusions, written in an easy-to-understand way. While Miller shows how much we have learned about our solar system, he also makes clear how much there is left to learn. There are great mysteries at the edge of the solar system that continue to engage scientists and are waiting for the next generation of young astronomers. Illustrations and charts are found throughout. Back matter includes a glossary; an index; a bibliography; an extensive selection of books, magazines, and websites for further reading; and source notes. VERDICT This book is for students with an interest in astronomy. It is packed with information but also thoroughly entertaining, and is highly recommended.–Cathy DeCampli

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