April 16 – Global Astronomy Month COVER REVEAL of The Universe and You

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The Universe and You

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

 

As the sun goes down and the stars come out, a little girl is tucked into bed in the midst of a beautiful celestial dance. Although Earth seems solid and still while she sleeps, it’s actually spinning on its axis and circling the sun. Joining Earth in this orbit around the sun are the other seven planets in our solar system, along with dozens of moons and millions of comets and asteroids. Containing our solar system is the wondrous Milky Way galaxy, with its billions of stars, just like our own sun, swirling and whirling around. And on from there are billions of galaxies with their own stars swirling, whirling into the ever-expanding space called our universe. When the sun rises, the little girl awakens on a brand-new day as the “moving, circling, and swirling” dance continues.

Through lyrical text, award-winning science writer Suzanne Slade takes young readers on an exploration of Earth, our solar system, the galaxies beyond, and finally the universe as a whole. Illustrated back matter includes scientific facts about our solar system.

Meet Suzanne Slade

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Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of more than 100 books, including June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus. She lives in Libertyville, Illinois. Learn more about Suzanne at suzanneslade.com. You can connect with Suzanne on Twitter.

Welcome, Suzanne! I’m really excited to be talking with you about this inspirational book for little dreamers! What inspired you to write The Universe and You?

I’ve done a lot of research about space exploration in the last decade for various book projects, so space seems to be on my mind. (Plus, I’m a mechanical engineer who has worked on rockets.) In more recent years I’ve been working on a book about a woman astronomer, so was reading about stars/galaxies and visited an observatory. Then one morning I woke with the idea of a simple, lyrical bedtime book which starts with Earth, moves out to our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe.

The cover to The Universe and You is stunning! What was your first reaction when you saw it?

The illustrator, Stephanie Fizer Coleman, initially created 3 rough cover sketches to gather opinions. The sketch I liked best ended up as the cover design, so when I later saw it in full, glorious color I was blown away. Stephanie knocked this cover out of the park (and universe!).

In what ways did Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s illustrations surprise you or go beyond what you had imagined?

I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to what the child’s dreams might entail (though I knew they’d have to do with space). I love Stephanie’s creative and colorful depictions of the girl dreaming about soaring through space in a rocket and walking on the moon. I also adore the wonderful space items in the girl’s bedroom and the fantastic planets in the solar system! 

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

In college you studied engineering and actually worked on Delta and Titan Rockets. What is one of the coolest things you learned while working as an engineer on these rockets?

How a rocket works. It was fascinating to learn about the rocket “stages” needed to launch it from Earth, how a rocket soars through space, and much more.

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

You’ve written so many wonderful books about so many diverse people and subjects, including June Almeida, Virus Detective!, which was just released in March. What is your favorite part about writing STEAM books for kids?

My favorite part is introducing young readers to a fascinating STEM topic or person who has made a big impact in a STEM field. The challenging aspect of creating a picture book is to find an engaging way to present the story so it draws readers in and makes them want to find out more.

What would you like for kids to take away from this story?

I hope it inspires children to dream BIG dreams and boldly pursue those dreams!

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

Meet Stephanie Fizer Coleman

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Stephanie Fizer Coleman has illustrated numerous children’s books, including You Are Mine, Porcupine. She lives in Scott Depot, West Virginia. Learn more about Stephanie atstephfc.com. You can connect with Stephanie on Instagram.

Hi, Stephanie! I’m thrilled for readers to get their first look at the breathtaking cover you designed for The Universe and You! What inspired this image? Can you describe your process of designing and finalizing this cover illustration?

Well, I can’t take all the credit, because Felicia, the art director on this book, had a clear idea of what would go on the cover. I knew the cover would feature some beautiful universe bits and of course, our smart and sweet main character too.

I worked up three cover options to start with, including one with the rocket ship, which is my favorite bit from the book. In the end, the image of the girl sitting on the moon with the Milky Way swirling behind her was chosen. We did a few more versions of the sketch, changing some little things like having her sitting on the Earth instead of the moon, and then it was off to final cover art!

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Did you have a passion for outer space prior to reading this story?

You know, I’ve always been more of a history buff, but my husband is a space nerd, so over the years a fascination with space has grown in me as well.  I could look at Hubble photos for hours!

Do you have a favorite spread in the book? If so, which one and why?

Both dream spreads, with the rocket ship, are my favorites! It was fun to think up what this girl would be dreaming about and to tie that in with the outer space theme.

One of my initial sketches for this was the girl as a little artist who loved painting planetary bodies and I was a little sad when it got cut, so instead I hinted at her creative energy by imagining the kind of rocket ships her dream self would create.

In the end, I’m so happy that both dream spreads involve the adorable rocket ship and our adventuring astronaut pair.

If you were going to visit outer space, where would you like to go?

This is tough because I’m obsessed with the Crab Nebula! How magical is the Crab Nebula? I mean, seriously. But also Jupiter is my favorite planet and I think I could orbit Jupiter for many years, totally engrossed in watching the rolling storms on its surface.

You have an affinity for flight of another kind too—birds! Several years ago you embarked on a project to paint a bird a day for one hundred days. Readers can see the original charming and beautiful 100 + 1 birds on your website as well as follow along with your current bird drawings on Instagram. What inspired you to do this project? Do you have a favorite bird?

I started the 100 Day project as a way to explore my style using a subject matter I already loved: birds! The simple shapes and vibrant colors lend themselves to creative exploration while feeling easy and approachable as a subject matter. My favorite bird is the chickadee and I try to sneak them into as many children’s books as I possibly can.

What do you like best about illustrating children’s books?

I love getting to illustrate the books that I would have loved as a child! There’s something special about making something that will show children how beautiful the world is and how magical nature is.

Thanks so much, Suzanne and Stephanie, for sharing the story behind The Universe and You! I’m sure readers can’t wait to see your book when it blasts into bookstores on August 15th!

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You can preorder The Universe and You from these booksellers

Anderson’s Bookshops | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, preorder from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 14 – It’s Global Astronomy Month

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About the Holiday

Instituted by Astronomers Without Borders, a group who sees in our shared sky an opportunity to create “a global community that appreciates, studies, and shares the wonders of the universe, to broaden perspective, transcend borders, and improve lives,” Global Astronomy Month brings people together with arts events, parties, and special events. To find resources, such as April sky maps in English and Spanish, and more information on how you can participate, visit the Astronomers Without Borders website.

Thanks to Abrams Books and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m excited to be hosting a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

 

Vera had always been fascinated with the night sky. As she gazed up through her bedroom window, she saw when “the stars were stirring, and something bright stirred in Vera too.” She began studying everything she could about the stars, planets, and how they interacted in the night sky. She even made her own telescope from a cardboard tube and a lens. At seventeen Vera began attending Vassar College as the only astronomy major in her class. Here, she could use the school’s telescope whenever she wanted.

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

While at Vassar, she fell in love with Robert Rubin, a mathematician. They married and soon Vera was going to have a baby. During her pregnancy, she explored an idea she had: “was it possible that galaxies rotated around a center in the universe like the Big Dipper circled the North Star?” By the time her son was born, Vera decided she was right. Vera presented her conclusions at a meeting of America’s top astronomers. They thought her ideas were “outlandish” and “ridiculous” and told her so. “Vera felt like the smallest, slowest star on the edge of their galaxy” and wondered if she’d “ever really be an astronomer.”

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

After Vera had a baby girl, she decided to concentrate on a new question that she thought would be fun. She wondered if galaxies were scattered haphazardly or whether there was “a pattern to where they spun.” After many months of staying up late into the night doing calculations, Vera determined that galaxies were “clumped together like dew drops on a spider’s web.” This was a major discovery; one that earned her a doctorate in astronomy. Instead of criticizing her, America’s top astronomers ignored her.

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Vera had two more children, and as her family grew she dreamed of observing galaxies from a mountaintop like the senior astronomers and watch gravity work within galaxies. She began teaching astronomy at colleges in Washington D.C., and other astronomers began hearing about her and wanting to know more about her ideas that had been dismissed in the past. More than ever Vera wanted to view the sky from an observatory in the mountains—one like the Carnegie Institution had in the California mountains.

One day she went to the Carnegie Institution and announced that she would like a job there. When the director and other scientists learned about her work and theories, they were so impressed that she landed a job. While the other senior astronomers worked on other questions, Vera studied the “slow-moving stars at the edges of the galaxies.”

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

In Arizona Vera studied the Andromeda Galaxy and the stars on its outside spiral. What Vera found was astounding. Instead of moving slower at the edges of the galaxy because of waning gravity from the center, these stars moved at the same speed. She remembered that earlier astronomers had theorized about a mysterious, unseen “dark matter” with its own gravity that “might be at work in the universe.”

Vera believed dark matter “could fill the space between the stars.” In fact, she was sure it was there by the way the stars moved. Once again, when Vera revealed her findings, most astronomers didn’t want to believe it. They didn’t want to believe that all this time they’d only been studying a small fraction of the universe. After Vera studied two hundred more galaxies, the astronomers had to agree that she was correct. At last “Vera was no longer at the edge of astronomy, she was at it’s very center.”

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note detailing more about Vera Rubin’s work, a timeline of Rubin’s life, resources on quotes found in the text, and a selected bibliography.

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Sandra Nickel’s straightforward and comprehensive storytelling gives kids a well-rounded view of Vera Rubin’s life as she doggedly pursued a career in astronomy despite all the naysayers and snubs along the way and made an astounding discovery that still baffles scientists today. Rubin’s inspirational example will resonate with young readers and give them a pathway to accomplishing their own goals. Nickel does an excellent job of explaining the complex ideas Rubin studied, theorized on, and wrote about, allowing readers to fully understand her impact on the field of astronomy and our understanding of the universe. Nickel’s lyrical prose is also sprinkled with metaphors that link Rubin’s feeling and life changes to the night sky she loved to observe.

Through Aimée Sicuro’s mixed-media illustrations, readers follow Vera Rubin as she matures from a curious child who loves watching the night sky to a college student to a mother to an astronomer making discoveries that changed the way scientists understood the universe. Her detailed images give kids visual representations of Rubin’s work and ideas, including a complex mathematical calculation she works on while her family sleeps and her idea that galaxies were clumped together. Depictions of the Palomar Observatory will thrill space buffs and show readers why Rubin so wanted to study the sky from a mountain top. The final image of a group of children gazing up at the night sky as a shooting star flashes by offers an inspirational quote from Vera Rubin.

A superb biography that will inspire and nurture young minds, The Stuff Between the Stars is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419736261

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website. You can also find curriculum guides and activity sheets to download on her site.

You can connect with Aimée Sicuro on Instagram.

Watch the book trailer for The Stuff Between the Stars!

The Stuff Between the Stars Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Abrams Books for Young Readers and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Stuff Between the Stars by Sandra Nickel | illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite constellation for extra entry

This giveaway is open from April 14 to April 20 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on April 21. 

Prizing provided by Abrams and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Global Astronomy Month Activity

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Explore the Galaxies Coloring Pages

 

Indulge your love of star stuff with these printable coloring pages!

Looking through the Telescope | Studying the Stars | Milky Way Dot-to-Dot

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You can find The Stuff Between the Stars at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 26 – It’s Rising Star Month

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About the Holiday

Are you a rising star? Of course, you are! What is a rising star? It’s someone who shows great promise for the future. That sounds like you, right? Today, celebrate all of your special talents and knowledge that will take you far as you grow up. How far? Well, why not shoot for the stars? Get started on a new learning journey about those stars with today’s book.

Animals in the Sky

By Sara Gillingham

 

The weather’s warmer and the sky is dark. From your window or in backyard you can look up and find… what? Little ones know the sky is “filled with twinkling stars.” But do they “know that it’s full of pictures too?” Just like a dot-to-dot puzzle, “if you draw lines between some of the brightest stars, you can find animals.” These animals and other pictures made from stars have a special name: constellations. Youngest astronomers will shine while putting their scientific minds to work on the riddles that accompany each constellation and discovering the answer. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

Riddle: “I have thick, shiny fur, and large, padded feet. I the winter, I like to take a long sleep in my warm den. What animal in the sky am I?”

If your little one guesses “a bear,” they’ll be grr-atified to learn that they’re right! In reward they learn about another well-known constellation that is part of the Big Bear.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Ready to try another one? Terrific! Riddle: “I have a tail that wags when I’m happy, a big wet nose, and a loud bark. What animal in the sky am I?” Anyone lucky to have one of these for a pet will know right away that connecting these stars makes the Big Dog. But readers will also discover the name of the that right where his dog tag would be is “the brightest star in the whole sky”––Sirius.

Five more clever riddles and facts about the Rabbit, the Lion, the Southern Fish, the Eagle, and the Wolf also await star-struck kids. A fold-out page at the back depicts ten more constellations named for favorite animals.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham introduces the youngest stargazers to twenty animal constellations that will pique their interest in astronomy and all things space related. Her lyrical riddles for seven constellations give kids clues to their names with evocative descriptions that not only lead readers to the right answer but reveal facts about the real animals in nature. Her stylish presentation of connected stars on a navy-blue background, as crystal clear as a cloudless night, allows little ones to easily see the basic formation of the constellation. The page then folds out, and the outline is superimposed with an image of the animal inspired by the shape. The third page goes on to show the two floating in a star-sprinkled sky along with another interesting tidbit of information.

With a gold-embossed cover and sturdy pages, Animals in the Sky is fun to share for nighttime star gazing and as a spark for lessons on astronomy, science, space, history, and mythology. The book would make a beautiful gift for new babies, baby showers, new little siblings as well as a go-to favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660246

Older children will enjoy the stunning Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations, also by Sara Gillingham. You can read my review here.

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

To learn more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Rising Star Month Activity

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Courtesy of education.com

Star Gazing Dot-to-Dot

 

What constellation do these kids see in the sky? Print and follow the dots to find out. Then color the picture! Then enjoy another page filled with star-studded fun!

Star Gazing Dot-to-Dot | Constellations Dot-to-Dot

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Older children will enjoy this printable Read the Stars Constellations Word Search

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Animals in the Sky at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 15 – Museum Selfie Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was created in 2015 by Mar Dixon, a museum enthusiast, as a way to encourage museum visitors to be creative and have fun taking selfies while also emphasizing the importance of all types of museums to the community. This holiday is celebrated in museums around the world, with participants sharing their selfies on Twitter and Instagram. To celebrate, head to a museum near you with your kids and make some memories.

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum

By Jessie Hartland

 

A science teacher leading her students through a science museum stops at the display for the Peekskill Meteorite that fell to Earth in New York state on October 9, 1992. As she explains a bit about meteorites, one student raises his hand and asks, “But how did the meteorite get here—to the museum?” With that question the students—as well as readers—are off and running on an adventure of astro-nomical proportions as the teacher begins: “Hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, in deep, dark, cold outer space, there are vast fields of space debris flying around.” The smaller rocks are called meteors, and a meteor that falls to Earth is called a meteorite.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

The teacher sets the scene: “Here in outer space is a meteor…flying around and around and around”—for over four billion years! Then for some unknown reason the meteor changed direction and entered “Earth’s atmosphere over the state of Kentucky.” With a Hissssss and a Crack! the zipping meteor alerts a sleeping dog, who begins to bark at it. The space rock, trailing a fiery tail, zooms over a burger stand in Virginia, attracting the attention of some late-night snackers.

In Pennsylvania, a few seconds later, a high school football game suddenly turns historic as the meteorite, hissing and crackling through the sky attracts the attention of video cameras throughout the stands. Yes, this is the same celestial body “which was spotted by the Virginians, and yelped at by the dog as it zipped toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

With a Crash, Bang, Boom, the rock hurtles downward. “Here is the teenager, who had been watching late-night TV at her house in Peekskill, NY, when she heard a tremendous CRASSHHH! She has rushed outside and discovered a huge dent in the trunk of her car and a smoking ‘rock’ nearby.” Wanting to discover the culprit of this vandalism, the teenager calls the police who summon firefighters to cool down the “rock.”

After hosing down the ‘rock’ the firefighters “start to suspect that the rock may really be a meteorite.” A geologist is called from Columbia University to examine the rock. “He confirms that what smashed the car is, indeed, a meteorite, which was cooled by Firefighters, investigated by Police, found by the Teenager, gawked at by Sports fans, buzzed about by Virginians, and arfed at by a dog as it raced toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

Next, the Curator of Meteorites from the Museum of Natural History in New York City visits the geologist, hoping to obtain this special specimen for the museum. Soon, a Cosmologist develops a program about the meteorite that she presents at a museum symposium, explaining how this 26-pound meteorite crossed over 400-500 miles in just 40 seconds and collided with a car—a-one-in-a-billion chance. The Museum of Natural History secures the meteorite for its collection, and the Exhibits Team designs the “lighting, signage, and diorama for their newest acquisition.”

Which brings us back to the Ross Hall of Meteorites at the museum and the complete story of “the Peekskill Meteorite, which was…barked at tby the Dog, witnessed by Virginians, filmed by Sports Fans, found by a Teenager, poked at by Police, sprayed with water by Firefighters, validated by the Geologist, obtained by the Curator of Meteorites, summed up by the Cosmologist, presented by the Exhibits Team, and explained by the Science Teacher who says: ‘…and that’s how the meteorite got to the museum.’”

An Author’s Note following the text explains more about meteors and introduces Dr. Mark Anders, the Geologist mentioned in the book. A photograph of the car hit by the meteorite offers fascinating viewing.

In her entertaining and informative telescoping text, Jessie Hartland reveals in easy-to-understand steps the people and actions involved in bringing together a museum exhibit for a meteorite. The repetition of the important characters in this true, history-making drama combined with Hartland’s deft command of a vast array of synonyms makes reading each page a joy. Suspense grows as each stage of the meteorite’s trajectory from space rock to “star” exhibit builds on the previous one, exciting kids not only for the tale of the meteorite, but also for the displays they see when visiting a museum.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

Hartland’s folksy two-page spreads are a perfect match for the rhythmic text—both humorous and educational in their details. The meteor—zipping through the dark blue night sky dotted with stars, over a small town, above an out-of-the-way burger joint, and through the cheering sounds of a football game—leads readers on a page-turning chase until it crash lands on the bumper of the teenager’s car. Here, as the police write up their investigation on the left-hand page, the firetruck can be seen hurrying to the scene, siren blaring, on the right, even as raccoons and a cat take the opportunity of the distraction to make mischief.

Hartland’s depictions of the geologist’s office as well as the American Natural History Museum give readers a peek behind the scenes at the tools and displays used by scientists and museum workers. For kids who love museums, science, and fun wordplay, How the Meteor Got to the Museum is an absorbing addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and other libraries. Jessie Hartland’s other titles in this series—How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum and How the Sphynx Got to the Museum—are also highly recommended.

Ages 4 – 9

Blue Apple Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1609052522

Discover many more books by Jessie Hartland as well as other artwork on her website!

Museum Selfie Day Activity

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Museum Coloring Pages

 

If you love museums, you’ll love these coloring pages of three of the most amazing museums in the world

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art | London’s British Museum | The Louvre in Paris

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You can find How the Meteorite Got to the Museum at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

For little learners, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts about all kinds of subjects. Loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting and beautiful details, nonfiction picture books bring to life science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more of the world around us. This month, take a look for nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library.

Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations

By Sara Gillingham

 

If you have a young astronomer in the family and are looking for a book that will make their eyes twinkle like stars on a clear, dark night, Sara Gillingham’s magnificent guide to all eighty-eight internationally recognized constellations is a must. Combining information on how and where to find each constellation, the fascinating stories and/or myths surrounding them, and stylistically gorgeous illustrations, Seeing Stars offers children and adults not only a resource to use when stargazing, but a sit-down-and-explore beauty to enjoy any time.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Seeing Stars opens with brief and illuminating discussions on what constellations are, who invented them, using asterisms and brightest stars to find a constellation, which constellations are visible when and where, and the art of stargazing.  A chapter on the ancient constellations takes in the signs of the zodiac (I’m an Aquarius and learned that the famous water carrier of the sign is none other than Ganymede, who in ancient Greece was “considered the most beautiful man alive…. One day, in the middle of a quiet life tending sheep, Ganymede was snatched by an eagle and taken to Zeus” who put him to work as “the official cup-bearer to the gods.”).

In this section, readers will also find the constellations created from “well-known stories, characters, animals, and sacred objects” as well as the  heroes and gods of Greek mythology. Here, readers learn about Hydra, the water snake. Hydra, the largest constellation, covers one fourth of the sky in a “twisting line” that at one end curves inward to make a “small irregular polygon” that serves as the serpent’s head. She was “so wretched that even her breath could kill someone,” and was vanquished by Hercules in the second of his labors. Pegasus, Persius, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and Orion are just a few of the other well-known figures from the ancient world.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Next, come the modern constellations mapped by European explorers and named for exotic and even mythical creatures in the late 1500s and 1600s. One of these early astronomers was Elisabeth Hevelius, considered to be one of the first female astronomers. Colorful birds of paradise inspired these stargazers to name a small cluster of stars that “make a line with a narrow V on the end, much like the point of a beak” Apus (from the Greek word apous or “footless”), after some European navigators believed the birds had no feet.

What constellation outlines an animal with a “long neck like a camel and a body that is covered in ‘spots’”? Camelopardalis, of course! Or you may be more familiar with this animal’s more common name: giraffe. Chameleons, doves, dolphinfish, cranes, lizards, lions, and lynx also appear in our skies but there’s room, too, for the more whimsical, like Monoceros – or unicorn – and the phoenix.

Modern constellations also pay homage to invention and discovery. These include Caelum, the chisel, named for an engraver’s tool invented in the 1600s to “carve fine lines into printing plates” for book production; Circinus, the compass; Microscopium, the microscope; Telescopium, the telescope; and Pictor, the painter’s easel.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

A Resource section provides information on tools for stargazing, eight circular maps that chart the constellations seen from the northern and southern skies over three-month increments throughout the year, an illustrated guide to asterisms, resources for further reading, and an extensive glossary and index.

Each constellation is highlighted with a two-page spread. The left-hand page is attractively divided into four sections that provide an image of the constellation created from lines connecting stars in three different sizes that indicate their brightness, tell where the constellation is found and it’s proportion to other constellations, a circular map that spotlights the constellation among others nearby, and a paragraph on the story or myth surrounding the constellation. On the right, the image of the god, animal, or object that inspired the constellation floats on a midnight-blue background and contains within it the stars that make up the constellation connected to show its shape. The brightest star in the constellation is highlighted.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham’s writing style is knowledgeable and entertaining, opening up the world of astronomy to experts and novices alike with the kind of storytelling that captivates while it teaches.

Special mention must be made of the dazzling cover and dust jacket, which together recreate the depth of the night sky. The shimmering gold cover, splashed with the image of the Milky Way, shines through the tiny laser-cut “stars” on the deep blue dust jacket, making a stunning and interactive introduction to this well-crafted book. Kids will love finding and naming the constellations they see on the cover after reading about them inside.

Perfectly conceived and executed, Seeing Stars is a book the whole family can enjoy and will spark many trips outside to gaze at the stars with new interest and understanding. The book would make a much-cherished gift for astronomers, armchair stargazers, space buffs, and those who love mythology and history. It’s a terrific addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and would be just as at home on the coffee table as on the bookshelf.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

Discover more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle

 

Sometimes the constellations can seem hidden among all the other stars. Can you find the names of eighteen constellations in this printable Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle?

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – National Moon Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates July 20, 1969, the day when astronauts first walked on the moon. Six hours after landing on the moon with his fellow astronauts, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder and stepped onto the moon’s surface. Watched by millions of people on TV, this monumental human achievement ushered in the technical advancements we enjoy today. To celebrate, why not share that historic moment with your child and read up on the people who helped make that mission possible—like the subject of today’s book!

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing

Written by Dean Robbins | Illustrated by Lucy Knisley

 

“Margaret Hamilton loved to solve problems.” When she looked around, she saw many things that made her wonder “why?” Instead of going with the status quo, though, she came up with her own answers. Some things she questioned were why girls didn’t play baseball and why there were so few women doctors, scientists, judges and other professionals. So Margaret joined the baseball team and studied “hard in every subject at school—reading, music, art, and especially mathematics.”

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

From her father who was a poet and philosopher, Margaret learned about the universe. She wanted to know “how the planets moved, when the galaxies formed, and why the stars shone.” She loved to gaze “at the night sky in wonder.” She especially wanted to know more about the moon—how far away is it? How many miles is its orbit around the Earth? What is its diameter?

In school, Margaret found it fun to solve “harder and harder math problems” in algebra, geometry, and calculus. “And then she discovered computers!” She realized that she could use computers to solve so many of her questions about the universe. She began writing code and called herself a software engineer. After starting with simple mathematical problems, Margaret moved on to writing code that “could track airplanes through the clouds,” predict the weather, and perform functions they never had before.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In 1964 she joined the team at NASA that was working on sending astronauts to the moon. In writing her code, “Margaret thought of everything that could happen on a trip to the moon.” What if the spacecraft went off course or lost power? What if one of the astronauts made a mistake? Margaret wrote code that could solve all of these problems and more. Soon Margaret was leading a team of her own as “Director of Software Programming for NASA’s Project Apollo.”

She was instrumental in helping Apollo 8 orbit the moon, Apollo 9 hook up with another ship in space, and Apollo 10 come “within nine miles of the moon’s surface.” When NASA was ready to land people on the moon, Margaret wrote the code. She thought of every problem that could arise and included a solution. The printout of her code stood taller than she was.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

On the day of Apollo 11’s launch, Margaret was in the control room while the world watched on television. It took four days for the spacecraft to reach the moon. Finally, the lunar module, Eagle, separated and was ready to make the landing. But just as it was about to descend, an astronaut flipped a switch that sent the Eagle’s computer into overload.

Had Margaret “prepared for this problem? Of course! Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.” Slowly the Eagle approached the surface of the moon and touched down. “The Eagle has landed!” Neil Armstrong announced to an amazed audience. In NASA’s control room, everyone cheered. “Margaret was a hero!”

An Author’s Note with more information about and photographs of Margaret Hamilton follow the text.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

With excellent examples from Margaret Hamilton’s childhood and adult life, Dean Robbins presents an accessible and compelling biography that reveals, from the beginning, Margaret’s curiosity, confidence, and convictions. Robbin’s focus on Margaret’s hard work, her excitement at discovering computers, and her leadership at NASA creates a narrative that is inspirational for all children. His emphasis on positive, affirming events in Margaret’s life is welcome, allowing girls and boys to realize that through dedication and self-assurance, they can achieve their goals just as Margaret—a superb role model—did.

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Lucy Knisley’s bright, supportive illustrations, full of thought bubbles of Margaret’s ideas and wonderings, give readers the kinds of details that will spark their imaginations and help them understand and appreciate Margaret Hamilton’s many gifts and expertise. Images of mathematical problems give way to lines of code, helping children see the connection between what they’re learning at school and future careers. Kids interested in space exploration will be enthralled with the illustrations of the NASA control room and lunar launches.

For kids interested in computer science and other sciences, biographies, and history, Margaret and the Moon is an excellent addition to home as well as classroom and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399551857

Discover more about Dean Robbins and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lucy Knisley, her artwork, books, and comic, visit her website.

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

National Moon Day Activity

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Out-of-this-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

SUPPLIES

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

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You can find Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review