Stephen Hawking once declared that his goal was simple: “It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” At what point do we begin to wonder about the universe, and when to want to understand it? Young readers in the library are often my most inquisitive. The five and six year olds gravitate towards non-fiction, asking questions about genes and trees, dinosaurs and evolution. And they have only to look up at the night sky to ask the big questions.
Space Kids: An Introduction for Young Explorers by Andrea De Santis and Steve Parker
Space Kids introduces each element with a first person narrative voice. Nebula speaks first, explaining it is a wispy cloud of gas and dust. Then come Star and Constellation, Solar System and Asteroid. The text is clear and matter-of-fact with small tidbits of information. Steve Parker is a veteran of such non-fiction, and his clarity shines through.
The illustrations, showing a range of children exploring and enjoying their learning, changes tack halfway through, with a strange, almost futuristic look on the double page spread about rocks – narrated by Ariane 5.
The book then reverts to its colourful, child-friendly appearance towards the end, although finishes on a bit of a dud note with the page entitled ‘You’: vastly unnecessary and somewhat patronising.
What’s interesting is that the book leaves the impression of giving a general appreciation of Earth and space rather than imparting bucketloads of knowledge. But perhaps, at this age, some inspiration is necessary – inspiring curiosity is a major asset. You can buy it here.
The poem tells the story of how the Earth was created, from emptiness and nothing to the Big Bang and through to the formation of the Earth and all that dwells upon it. It’s a feat of ingenuity that the rhyme and rhythm expertly tell the story while remaining true to their forms, and this alone is impressive.
But matching that is the brightness of the images, the almost retro-colour palette that also delights and inspires – the constant use of lines to indicate bursts of sun or energy, and a playfulness with the typeface that swirls the words around the page, whilst always maintaining legibility. It is smart to look at as well as to read.
This book, as the one above, aims to inspire as much as educate, although it gives the ‘sciencey’ bit at the end with some key facts spelt out acrostically.
This book leads to exploration and discovery and is beautifully produced. If read enough at bedtime, it could definitely inspire a future astrophysicist. You can buy it here.
Although both books show that science and the arts can mesh successfully, by taking narrative or poetic forms, sometimes the factual information given can feel a little light. For other space books, check out this blog here.