July 20 – Space Exploration Day

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About the Holiday

On July 20, 1969, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon’s surface. With one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon. Today’s holiday dates back to that Apollo 11 spaceflight and honors the phenomenal achievement of leaving earth to explore the universe around us. We also celebrate Moon Day today in commemoration of the first lunar landing. There are many ways to remember this moment in history that captured the imagination of millions and still resonates today. Why not go moon and star gazing, set off model rockets, enjoy a sci-fi movie or book, or throw a moon-themed party?


Today, I’m happy to welcome a guest reviewer—Nick Alexander!

Hi there! I’m so glad I could participate in reviewing this book. I’m Nick, a space-obsessed environmental science and geology major from Connecticut College who adores anything related to exploring the universe! I developed my love of space at an early age, and it’s inspired me to always think scientifically about the world around me. I’m a big fan of sci-fi, and I love classic science fiction novels. I love to write, read, and create things as well as come up with new ideas to research. I still hold on to my childhood ambition of becoming an astronaut, and I hope to one day get out into space and explore the cosmos!


The Darkest Dark

Written by Chris Hadfield | Illustrated by the Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric Fan)

 

The Darkest Dark is a story of many lessons, trials, and triumphs. The book focuses on a little boy named Chris as he discovers the best way to deal with his fear of the dark, a phobia that many children experience. Chris is a boy who dreams of outer space and aviation and longs to one day touch the stars like his heroes. However, there is one problem; Chris is terrified of the “aliens” that lurk in the dark, especially in his bedroom after the lights are turned off. He is so afraid that he can’t sleep through the night in his own bed.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Through a journey of trial and error, with the support of his parents, and by watching the 1969 moon landing (which just had its 48th anniversary on the publication of this review), he overcomes his fear and pursues his dreams of becoming an astronaut. This wonderfully charming book explores many a small child’s fear—the dark—and reveals that there is far more to the dark than may meet the eye.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Chris Hadfield, ISS commander and renowned Canadian astronaut, was very particular in the way he wrote the story, as it explores elements of his own childhood and ties into his own life. The fear of the dark—achluophobia or nyctophobia—is an incredibly common fear that many children deal with at some point in their life. By exploring this phobia, Hadfield channeled his fear into something that he later dedicates his life to. He uses his story to empower the reader and make them feel that even with fears, one can still accomplish anything.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-dock

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Terry and Eric Fan use a great series of techniques to help the reader understand what Chris is scared of, which also helps the reader learn to not be afraid of what’s around them. In the beginning of the book, the illustrators create an environment that gets the reader more accustomed to the idea of darkness and shows how it actually contains many possibilities and endless new questions to be answered. In a way, this atmosphere almost changes the reader’s view of what darkness really means, as it’s presented differently throughout the progression of the book. The illustrations, from the perspective of a space geek, are also rather accurate as well, showing the footage of the Apollo 11 landing and shots of the International Space Station in orbit!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-playing-astronaut

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As a self-proclaimed space expert, I’m delighted to get the chance to review this wonderful book. Growing up, my fear of the dark often got in the way of being more confident about myself, and to see that people I admire went through something similar really means a lot. As someone who eventually wants to go to space and explore the unknown, maybe it means I’m on the right path. As we continue to move forward, we must keep our eyes turned skywards, and we must continue to come up with inspiring stories like this, to encourage the next generation.

A note about Chris Hadfield and his life and work follows the text.

For kids who love space exploration or who are struggling with overcoming fears, The Darkest Dark is an inspirational read that would be welcome on home bookshelves and a wonderful resource in school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316394727

You can learn more about Chris Hadfield and his events, music, and videos as well as view a gallery of aerial photographs on his official website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Terry and Eric Fan on their website!

Blast off to The Darkest Dark with this book trailer!

Space Exploration Day Activity

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Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

Picture Book Review

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