About the Holiday
Readers might say that every month is National Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories, and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now or new titles to give to the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves! This month is also a great time to discover books that get kids excited about history, science, and technology in a whole new way – like today’s book!
Thanks to Cicada Books for sharing a digital copy of Professor Wooford McPaw’s History of Astonomy with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Professor Wooford McPaw’s History of Astronomy
By Elliot Kruszynski
The study of astronomy harkens back to the earliest days of scientific discovery, when “civilizations in Mesopotamia, Persia, China, India and Greece all examined the night sky. With only the naked eye, they mapped out the stars and used the information they gathered to create calendars, navigate great distances and keep time.” So begins this comprehensive, detailed, and even humorous compendium of our skies, scientists and thinkers, equipment, and a look to the future.
Professor Wooford McPaw and his telescope sidekick, Teley, takes kids back to 3000 BC, when religious leaders determined the longest day of the year by tracking the sun’s progress through the arches and columns erected at Stonehenge, and speeds forward to 1000 BC, when people connected the stars, creating the constellations and stories about them.
Kids then meet Aristotle and learn about his theories on the placement of the earth, the four elements, and the role of the gods in the universe. Then they discover the conflict between the teachings of Claudius Ptolemy around 140 AD and the discoveries of Nicolaus Copernicus in the 16th century, who left it to future scientists to explore his theory that that the earth revolved around the sun (and not the other way around). And what happened to those scientists? Well, children learn about Galileo Galilei, who, in addition to inventing the telescope, spent a good part of his life under house arrest for saying the earth and the planets did indeed revolve around the sun.
Professor Wooford introduces readers to Isaac Newton, whose “findings, along with the improvement of telescope technology, changed the way that humans (and for some dogs) looked at our planet.” What kind of telescope technology is the Prof talking about? He gives kids a run down from Galileo’s invention in 1609 to a switch from glass lenses to mirrors in the 1700s to today’s Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope. Here’s Teley explaining about lenses:
“Early telescopes, like the one Galileo invented, focused light using pieces of curved glass called lenses. The bigger the lens, the more powerful the telescope. They were called refracting telescopes. However the glass had to be a precise shape, with not even the tiniest scratch or flaw, otherwise the telescope wouldn’t work properly. It was very difficult to manufacture huge, perfect glass lenses. Also, they were very heavy and had a tendency to break.” Teley goes on to explain that it was Isaac Newton who “had the bright idea to swap the pesky glass lenses with mirrors,” which are much easier to make and are thinner and lighter, allowing telescopes to “be huge and super-powerful without weighing a ton.”
Albert Einstein travels back through time to explain his “mind bending and space bending” Theory of Relativity in terms that readers can understand. Then kids are launched into space—the space race, that is—where they learn about the advancements and setbacks of the Russian and American from 1957 to 1969, when the first moon walk occurred, as well as a weely … I mean … really unusual tradition among space-going astronauts.
Children get info on different kinds of space probes from rovers to orbiters to interplanetary probes before blasting off into our solar system to find out about the planets (even little Pluto gets a cameo. But where is Earth and all of our other planets located? Professor McPaw explains: “Earth is located in a galaxy called the Milky Way. At its center is a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*, which contains as much mass as four million suns.” The prof goes on to teach kids about the three different shapes of galaxies, what dwarf galaxies are, how bigger galaxies cannibalize smaller galaxies, and where the term galaxy comes from.
Professor Wooford McPaw and Teley also impart the same fascinating in-depth facts about stars, black holes, and dark matter. And what’s a trip into space without a ride on the International Space Station? Well, readers won’t find out because they get to explore the ISS and learn how the astronauts experience 16 sunrises and sunsets a day, sleep strapped to a wall, and develop “chicken leg syndrome” from not using their legs as much as their upper body in the no-gravity conditions.
By this time, kids are probably wondering about whether there’s life in other parts of the solar system or beyond as well as what the future might hold for astronomers, astrophysicists, other scientists, and even themselves. But are readers going to be abandoned in space? Not at all! Professor Wooford has thoughtfully included a Race to Earth “board game” on the last two-page spread that will get all astronauts … I mean readers … back home in time for dinner.
Elliot Kruszynski’s Professor Wooford McPaw’s History of Astonomy is just the kind of book that both kids who already love space and those who don’t yet know they do will devour, either bit-by-bit or all in one sitting. With affable hosts who give excellent easy-to-understand explanations, historical characters who add funny asides, and a quick-paced graphic-novel format, (title) will spark readers’ interest in learning all about the past, present, and future of astronomy. The book would make a perfect gift and very welcome addition to any home library. Educators and homeschoolers will find it a go-to text for introducing many scientific topics and an engaging way to heighten student’s eagerness for further research. School and public library librarians will find Professor Wooford McPaw’s History of Astonomy to be a favorite to recommend and to have on their shelves.
Ages 6 – 10 and up
Cicada Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1800660236
To view a portfolio of work by Elliot Kruszynski and connect with him on Instagram, visit his website.
National Book Month Activity
Out of This World Tic-Tac-Toe Game
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