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Explore the cosmos from your armchair with these books

By Amber M. Schilling, Youth Services Librarian

Summer may be drawing to a close, but we still have one more exciting event:  the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017! According to NASA, this eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since 1979, and we won’t see another eclipse like this one from coast to coast until 2045. Across the country, libraries are gearing up for this exciting event. The library will host a few special events before the eclipse, and we have eclipse viewing glasses available for free!

For the junior astronomers in your household, several books in our collection will build excitement for the eclipse. We have a wide range of non-fiction books about our solar system and space, but we also have fiction titles that will appeal to young stargazers.

Follow an adventurous young girl and boy through the cosmos to explore planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies in Theresa Heine’s Star Seeker:  A Journey to Outer Space.  Hunt with Orion, lasso Saturn’s rings (while wearing cowboy boots, naturally), and take a ride on Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Our young narrators experience different adventures throughout the galaxy via flying armchair, paper airplane, and North Star.

Heine’s lively, bouncy rhymes introduce these concepts to younger readers. Brazilian artist Victor Tavares’ colorful, rich illustrations pair familiar sights, like ice skating and a day at the beach, with the more unfamiliar, Uranus and Jupiter. The book includes ample information to share with children about space, the solar system, and planets and other bodies. Share this book as a sweet read-aloud with little ones, or as a space exploration with plenty of non-fiction content with older readers.

Optimistic and idiosyncratic Alex Petroski has a lot on his plate:  an out-of-touch mother, a far-off brother, a (supposedly) dead father, and a mission to make it to the Southwest High Altitude Rocket Festival so he can launch his iPod into space. Why is an 11-year-old trying to send his iPod into space? So that if aliens find it, they can use his narration to figure out things work on Earth. In Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos, Alex’s eye-opening adventure takes him from Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas, and finally Los Angeles, making unusual friends along the way.

This 2017 release deals with some pretty serious themes with sensitivity and soul. It’s a “riveting, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious” story, according to Kirkus, as Alex learns about family, friendship, and resilience.

If you had to write a list of ten things worth seeing on Earth to save the planet from destruction, what would you choose? At the opening of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, Prez Mellows is still adjusting to life in foster care after he’s removed from the home of his aging grandfather. Space-traveling alien Sputnik arrives in Prez’s life, enlisting his help cataloging Earth’s wonders for an interplanetary guidebook. Sputnik looks like a dog to everyone except Prez, and it’s up to the two of them to save Earth from destruction by shrinking.

Science fiction lovers will enjoy this funny and touching story Kirkus describes as “a raucous adventure with a heart of gold.” Cottrell Boyce delivers a humorous examination of home and family in this must-have for middle school readers.

Sometimes a single event can bring together even the most reluctant of strangers. This is the case for the trio of protagonists in Wendy Mass’ Every Soul a Star. Nature-loving Ally, glamorous Bree, and reclusive Jack experience a total solar eclipse together and find their lives transformed. The teens are gathered at Ally’s family’s campground, which will soon be sold to Bree’s family. The two girls must come to terms with how radically their lives are about to change, while Jack must save his failing science grade and learn to make friends.

Mass brings these characters to life and avoids allowing her characters to fall into boring stereotypes. Each teen discovers “unexpected powers of adaptability and new talents,” according to Publishers Weekly. Mass weaves astronomy facts into this self-reflective novel, building drama and anticipation for the big event.

As you prepare for our own eclipse in August, make sure you stop by the library to pick up some free glasses to safely view the eclipse, and come to our events! We will be at the Flint Hills Discovery Center for Community Day on Sunday, August 6, with activities and glasses, and we will have a viewing party the day of the eclipse at noon.

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