April 14 – National Look up at the Sky Day & Interview with Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronaut-clayton-anderson-photo

Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton C. Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

National Look up at the Sky Day Review

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday hopes to inspire people to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures—like gazing up at the sky and really seeing the beauty that’s there. Throughout the day and night, the sky presents an ever-changing world of color and motion, depth and light. It’s a work of art like no other.  Ever since the earliest times, people have been fascinated with the sky, directed by the stars, and questioning of what lies beyond. Today, we also celebrate those poets, mathematicians, scientists, and especially the astronauts who have explored the sky and brought all of its wonders a little closer.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-A

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-N

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-P

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or Insta. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for Astronaut

National Look up at the Sky Day Activity

 

Show your excitement about all things space-related with these fun activity sheets from Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson and Sleeping Bear Press! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-fill-in-the-blanks-activity

A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-vocabulary-activity

A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet

 

Picture Book Review

March 23 – National Near Miss Day and Interview with Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-cover

About the Holiday

Today we remember a cosmic fly-by that occurred on March 23, 1989. On that day the 300-meter-wide asteroid 4581 Asclepius, named for the Greek god of medicine and healing, came within 430,000 miles of hitting Earth—actually passing through the exact position Earth had held only six hours earlier. This near miss wasn’t discovered until nine days later by astronomers Henry E. Holt and Norman G. Thomas. “On the cosmic scale of things, that was a close call,” Dr. Holt said at the time. To celebrate today, you can thank your lucky stars for this near miss or any others you’ve experienced recently or in your lifetime. Another stellar way to spend the day is to learn more about space and our universe!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-A

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-N

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-P

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or InstaFor speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for AstronautYou can download two A is for Astronaut Activity Sheets here:

A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet | A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

Meet Astronaut Clayton Anderson
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronaut-clayton-anderson-photo

Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | TwitterFor speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

Near Miss Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocket-to-the-moon-tic-tac-toe-game

Rocket to the Moon! Tic-Tac-Toe Game

 

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. 

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!

Picture Book Review

October 8 – It’s World Space Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-to-the-stars-cover

About the Holiday

First declared by the United Nations in 1999, World Space Week has grown to be the largest public space-related event in the world. The week celebrates the advancement and contributions of space technology and exploration. This year’s theme is “Exploring New Worlds in Space” and aims to encourage and inspire new experimentation, discovery and participation in advancing ways to explore the cosmos beyond earth.

To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space

Written by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan | Illustrated by Nicole Wong

 

As a child Kathy Sullivan loved to explore. Her father designed airplanes, and when he brought home blueprints, she carefully studied every line and curve. When she saw airplanes in the sky she wished she were on them, flying to exciting locations all over the world. Maps and foreign languages fascinated her. “Their strange symbols, exotic tales, and musical sounds made her feel like the world was waiting for her.” Kathy wanted to see that whole world and thought maybe she’d like to be a spy or a diplomat, but her friends and other adults told her those weren’t jobs for women.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-to-the-stars-blueprints

Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of nicole-wong.com

But Kathy always followed her heart. She loved going fishing with her dad and brother and finishing the day with a swim. She “delighted in how her arms and legs moved in slow motion underwater.” Kathy was still a teenager when she learned how to pilot a plane. At first the busy instrument panel made her nervous, but she quickly learned how to manage all the “dials, buttons, and numbers.”

Kathy got a taste for the thrill of space when she bravely jumped at the opportunity to ride in a Breezy—an open-air-framework plane. Sitting at the very tip of the airplane, in front of the pilot, Kathy had a bird’s eye view. “The wind rushed past her face so fast it pushed her cheeks back. Higher! Faster! Young Kathy looked at the ground below her feet. She felt like she could see the whole world.”

As an adult, Kathy put all of these experiences to good use as she studied complex science that would lead her to NASA. And when she became the first American woman to walk in space, she fulfilled her childhood dream to see the whole world!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-to-the-stars-spacewalk

Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, have written a compelling biography of Dr. Sullivan that not only tells the story of her adult achievements, but also reveals the childhood and teenage motivations and influences that fostered her journey to the stars. As each event in Kathy’s young life is introduced, it is followed by an adult accomplishment: Kathy’s poring over her father’s aircraft blueprints leads to a spread of college-age Kathy studying charts in textbooks. Her enjoyment of swimming underwater is followed by an illustration showing her NASA training underwater. Her initial introduction to a plane’s instrument panel informs her later responsibilities inside the spacecraft. And the question she once asked herself as a child—what kind of job would allow her to see the whole world—is answered as the astronaut Kathy gazes down at Earth from space.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-to-the-stars-breezy

Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Nicole Wong’s lovely, realistic watercolor and ink paintings clearly show readers Kathy Sullivan’s trajectory from curious girl to accomplished astronaut. The blueprints that Kathy studies are filled with schematics. The aqua water she swims in swirls and bubbles in the wake of her cannonball dive, and the crisscrossing fields lay like a mottled green quilt under the Breezy. Especially stunning and effective are the illustrations of Dr. Sullivan’s work with NASA. Kids will love the up-close view of the spacecraft’s instrument panel with its myriad buttons and dials. Likewise, they will find the gorgeous two-page spreads of the space shuttle’s launch, the view from the cockpit, and Kathy’s spacewalk particularly thrilling.

Following the text is a personal note from Kathy Sullivan to her young readers. More extensive biographical notes reveal how Dr. Sullivan discovered her love of science as well as information on the NASA missions she supported. Two more pages highlight the women of the first space-shuttle class, which included Kathy Sullivan, and other firsts by eight other women in space.

To the Stars is a wonderful book to teach children that following their own heart is the best path to future happiness and personal accomplishment. It’s a beautiful addition to any budding scientist’s or adventurer’s library!

Ages 5 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580896443

To find fun activities for To the Stars—including how to make space play dough—as well as other books by Carmella Van Vleet, visit her website!

To learn more about Nicole Wong and view a portfolio of her artwork, visit her website!

World Space Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronaut-coloring-page

 

Astronaut Coloring Page

 

Would you like to be an astronaut? Draw yourself in this spacesuit and then grab your crayons, pencils, or markers and have fun with this printable Astronaut Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 20 – Space Exploration Day

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

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-bath-tub

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.

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

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.

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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

April 4 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

Humor month was established to promote all things funny and to raise awareness of the benefits of laughter and joy. The health benefits of an optimistic outlook are well documented. Lightheartedness also improves communication skills and boosts morale. Reading funny books is a fantastic way to find the humor in life—for kids and adults—and to encourage a love of literature. In fact, there’s even a Funny Literacy Program that can get you started! Click here to learn more and to find a list of funny books to celebrate with. You’ll notice that the Jon Agee—the author of today’s reviewed book—is at the top of the list.

Life on Mars

By Jon Agee

A little boy travels in a rocket all the way to Mars to find life on this mysterious planet. He strolls confidently away from his ship, past craters and mountains, singularly focused on his mission even though he knows that everyone thinks he’s crazy and “nobody believes there is life on Mars.” The boy is so focused, in fact, that he doesn’t notice a head pop up from inside a crater.

As he weaves his way around the planet, the boy decides that Mars is “pretty gloomy,” and begins to doubt that anything could live there. He’s disappointed, too, because he brought chocolate cupcakes, and now it seems he’ll never get to share them. By now the pink creature is is following along behind, completely intrigued. 

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Copyright Jon Agee, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

The boy stops with the Martian only a half step away. I was wrong,” the boy thinks. “Mars is nothing but miles and miles of rocks and dirt! It’s obvious. Nothing could possibly live here!” Disillusioned, the boy drops his bakery box and heads back to his rocket ship, determined to return to Earth. The Martian picks up the box, the size of a chocolate chip in his four-fingered hand.

The boy wanders and wanders, but can’t find his ship. Suddenly, as the Extraterrestrial looks on, the awful truth hits him—he’s lost! “Lost on Mars, where there is no life.” In that moment, though, something catches his eye. High up in the crag of a cliff, the boy spies a yellow flower. He climbs to the top and gazes at his “amazing discovery.” As he picks the flower and turns to go, he sees his cupcake box sitting on a nearby ledge.

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Copyright Jon Agee, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

He picks up the box, ignoring the fleeting conundrum of how it got there, and resumes the search for his space ship. He climbs higher onto the cliff, where an even taller rock juts skyward. “I bet I’ll get a good view from the top of that mountain,” he tells himself. He steps up onto the Martian’s backside, and happily locates his ship.

With his flower and box in hand, the boy settles into the rocket. As it roars off into space, he unties the string, thinking that he “deserves a treat” after his adventure. But where did the cupcakes go?!

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Copyright Jon Agee, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

Jon Agee has such a wonderful way with quiet books in which the humor sneaks up on readers much like the alien in Life on Mars. Kids will love being in on the joke as the little astronaut wanders around the dark, lonely planet unaware that the very thing he seeks is right behind him. His discovery of the yellow flower and the moved cupcake box add suspense, and the final scene of the box full of crumbs is deliciously surprising.

The barren Martian landscape, set against the blackness of space, provides the perfect setting for the simple comic touches that propel the story. The first glimpse of the pink creature’s head in the crater sets the stage for the giggles to come, as single objects lead to the final joke. Readers will feel for the adorable creature as it copies the little astronaut’s expressions, scratches its head in bewilderment, and unwittingly becomes the stepping stone to the resolution of the boy’s search.

Ages 4 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399538520

Check out more books and illustrations by Jon Agee on his website!

Begin the humorous adventure of Life on Mars in this book trailer!

Humor Month Activity

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Happy Alien Coloring Page

 

This alien is enjoying a funny joke, and you’ll enjoy coloring this printable Happy Alien Page!

Picture Book Review

March 23 – Near Miss Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday commemorates a most auspicious moment in history that never happened! On March 23, 1989 a huge asteroid missed hitting Earth by only 500,000 miles. Did you feel the breeze as it blew by? Yeah, me too! I think we can all remember exactly where we were when we happily escaped suffering the same fate as the dinosaurs. So drink a toast to serendipity and the gravity of natural forces.

Oh No, Astro!

Written by Matt Roeser | Illustrated by Brad Woodard

 

Astro was not a typical asteroid. Instead of zooming around crashing into obstacles, he believed in “personal outer space” and had for millions of years. One day when Astro spies an approaching satellite, he greets him cordially and lays down the rules: “please keep your distance” and “stay in your orbit.” But the satellite ignores him and comes closer and closer until…

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Image copyright Brad Woodard, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

“‘Good gravity! You’ve struck me!” Astro exclaims. He’s just about to “point out to the satellite that it had done considerable damage to one of his favorite craters” when he discovers that he is spinning out of his orbit and out of control. How humiliating! The usually unflappable space rock suddenly finds himself hurtling past Mars. At the same time young astronomer, Nova, is “enjoying a quiet night of stargazing” through her telescope. She catches sight of Astro as he zips past an astronaut, rushes past the Moon, and finds himself on an inevitable collision course with Earth.

As he enters Earth’s atmosphere he begins to break apart, shedding bits of the past, as the universe watches. He lands on Earth with a SMASH! Reeling from the impact Astro slowly opens one eye and then the other. He finds that he’s smaller but in one piece. Standing by is Nova, waiting to welcome him to his new home. “‘My stars,’” he mutters. “‘Dare I say that was…FUN?!’”

And as Astro gazes at the night sky from a fresh perspective with Nova by his side, he asks, “‘What on Earth shall we do next?!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-hurtling

Image copyright Brad Woodard, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

For anyone stuck in the rut of their own orbit, Matt Roeser’s story of the unwitting space traveler is a humorous invitation to explore the universe around them. Roeser’s language—from calling asteroids “rambunctious” and the satellite a “celestial wanderer” to exclamations of “good gravity!” and “Pluto’s revenge!”—is an inspired treat. Kids and adults will laugh at Astro’s attempts to handle his undesirable predicament with dignity. Complacent Astro with his dry-as-space-dust wit and sparkling puns makes a stellar guide on this journey to more self-discovery and life enjoyment.

In the hands of Brad Woodard, deep space is a very cute and cool place! Rendered in flat tones of black, aqua, yellow, red, and white, Woodard’s illustrations give Oh No, Astro! a retro feel for a space-savvy audience. The oblivious satellite floats through Astro’s orbit with wide eyes and a sweet grin, while angular Astro with his stick arms, expressive face, and boldly displayed “No loitering” banner would be a welcome alien intruder in any back yard. Inquisitive and inclusive Nova, in her ponytails and Saturn-patterned dress, is the perfect companion to greet him! The night sky abounds with constellations, but Astro is the real star!

In the final pages, Astro leads readers in a “A Selection of Space Facts” from the  very Manual of the Cosmos, 2nd edition that he used to sort things out in  his own life. A short list of suggested reading is also included.

Kids would love to find Oh No, Astro! on their bookshelf for story times of cosmic fun!

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481439763

Visit Matt Roeser’s Website to discover his gallery of book jacket designs!

You can learn more about design and illustration work by Brad Woodard at Brave the Woods!

Near Miss Day Activity

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Name That Asteroid! Word Search

 

Can you find the names of 20 asteroids floating around in this printable Name That Asteroid! Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 20 – National Moon Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the astounding technological achievement that saw men land—and walk—on the moon. On July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins touched down on the moon. Six hours after landing, Armstrong made the first “small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” when he descended the ladder of the space craft to the moon’s surface. He spent two and a half hours exploring our nearest neighbor. Aldrin also made a lunar walk. Between them, the two astronauts brought 47.5 pounds of material back to Earth. Millions of people watched live coverage of the moon landing on television, cheering along with NASA at this amazing feat.

To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space

Written by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan | Illustrated by Nicole Wong

 

As a child Kathy Sullivan loved to explore. Her father designed airplanes, and when he brought home blueprints, she carefully studied every line and curve. When she saw airplanes in the sky she wished she were on them, flying to exciting locations all over the world. Maps and foreign languages fascinated her. “Their strange symbols, exotic tales, and musical sounds made her feel like the world was waiting for her.” Kathy wanted to see that whole world and thought maybe she’d like to be a spy or a diplomat, but her friends and other adults told her those weren’t jobs for women.

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Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of nicole-wong.com

But Kathy always followed her heart. She loved going fishing with her dad and brother, finishing the day with a swim. She “delighted in how her arms and legs moved in slow motion underwater.” Kathy was still a teenager when she learned how to pilot a plane. At first the busy instrument panel made her nervous, but she quickly learned how to manage all the “dials, buttons, and numbers.”

Kathy got a taste for the thrill of space when she bravely jumped at the opportunity to ride in a Breezy—an open air framework plane. Sitting at the very tip of the airplane, in front of the pilot, Kathy had a bird’s eye view. “The wind rushed past her face so fast it pushed her cheeks back. Higher! Faster! Young Kathy looked at the ground below her feet. She felt like she could see the whole world.”

Later, as the first American woman to walk in space, she did!

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Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, have written a compelling biography of Dr. Sullivan that not only tells the story of her adult achievements, but also reveals the childhood and teenage motivations and influences that fostered her journey to the stars. As each event in Kathy’s young life is introduced, it is followed by an adult accomplishment: Kathy’s poring over her father’s aircraft blueprints leads to a spread of college-age Kathy studying charts in textbooks. Her enjoyment of swimming underwater is followed by an illustration showing her NASA training underwater. Her initial introduction to a plane’s instrument panel informs her later responsibilities inside the spacecraft. And the question she once asked herself as a child—what kind of job would allow her to see the whole world—is answered as the astronaut Kathy gazes down at Earth from space.

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Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Nicole Wong’s lovely, realistic watercolor and ink paintings clearly show readers Kathy Sullivan’s trajectory from curious girl to accomplished astronaut. The blueprints that Kathy studies are filled with schematics. The aqua water she swims in swirls and bubbles in the wake of her cannonball dive, the crisscrossing fields lay like a mottled green quilt under the Breezy. Especially stunning and effective are the illustrations of Dr. Sullivan’s work with NASA. Kids will love the up-close view of the spacecraft’s instrument panel with its myriad buttons and dials, and find the gorgeous two-page spreads of the space shuttle’s launch, the view from the cockpit, and Kathy’s spacewalk particularly thrilling.

Following the text are a personal note from Kathy Sullivan to her young readers, as well as more extensive biographical notes on how Dr. Sullivan discovered her love of science and the NASA missions she supported. Two more pages highlight the women of the first space-shuttle class, which included Kathy Sullivan, and other firsts by eight other women in space.

To the Stars is a wonderful book to teach children that following their own heart is the best path to future happiness and personal accomplishment. It’s a nice addition to any budding scientist’s or adventurer’s library!

Ages 5 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580896443

To find fun activities for To the Stars—including how to make space play dough—as well as other books by Carmella Van Vleet, visit her website!

To learn more about Nicole Wong and view a portfolio of her artwork, visit her website!

National Moon Day Activity

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Out of this World Coloring Page

 

The view of the Moon from Earth or of Earth from the Moon is spectacular! Have fun coloring this printable Out of this World Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review