Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fly Me to the Moon: A Picture Book Roundup That's Out of This World!

There are lots of new books about the moon this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for Neil Armstrong, the first and only human to ever be on the surface of the moon for 19 minutes before being joined by Buzz Aldrin. Yet, as momentous an event as the Apollo 11 and the subsequent six others moon landings are, the moon remains a rich source for our imagination, speculation, and even information. Here are some of the new books that my young readers and I read and enjoyed.
Field Trip to the Moon 
written and illustrated by John Hare
Margaret Ferguson Books, 2019, 40 pages, age 4+
If you're looking for a very serious information book about the moon, this isn't it. But if you are looking for a fun story about the moon, look no further that this book. In this wordless story, a class piles into a yellow space bus for a trip to the moon, and yes, one little astronaut lags behind, then goes their own way once they arrive. Quietly drawing in a sketchpad, the child falls asleep and misses the space bus home. Waking up and realizing what has happened, they continue sketching, when suddenly they realize they are not alone. But soon child and moonarians are happily drawing together, until the space bus arrives to take the youngster home. Set against a black background of the lunar sky, this is a delightful, whimsical story. My kids loved it because it was a fun tale that basically reminded them of school, yellow space bus and all. And since it's wordless, there was lots of speculating about what was happening and what could happen. The minimally colorful illustrations are done in acrylics against a grey moonscape, black sky and white spacesuits.  Interestingly, there is no indication as to what the gender of the child is.

The Moon Book: New and Updated
written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons
Holiday House, 2019, 32 pages, age 4+
When my Kiddo was young, and it became apparent that she was probably not going to grow up and become a scientist, science fair time was a bit stressful in my house. When she was in second grade, we used this book to make an informative project about the moon. It obviously wasn't a groundbreaking project, but we both learned a lot. And this book gives a lot of information about the moon: what it is, how it may have come into existence, its orbit, its phases, the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse, how its gravitational pull affects the ocean's tides, and of course, the lunar landings. The writing is clear and simple, and the text, which runs across the bottom of the page, is complimented and enhanced with simple, full-color illustrations that take up most of the page. Back matter includes Moon Milestones, a timeline of moon-related information, and Moon Legends and Stories, most of which will be very familiar to young readers, and finally More Moon Facts, interesting tidbits, such as what a blue and harvest moon are. I am very happy to see that this book has been reissued in an updated and revised edition in time for 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. It will be a welcome addition to any home or classroom library.

Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty,
illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Henry Holt & Company, 2019, 40 pages, age 4+
This is the third book in McAnulty's Our Universe series, and I can honestly say, it is every bit as good as the first two books - Sun! One in a Billion and Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years. This is a playful information book narrated by the moon, who tells us that because earth is never without moon they qualify as BFFs. Kidding aside, there is lots of basic moon information to be found here, I particularly liked how moon differentiated itself as earth's only natural satellite, as opposed to all the man-made plastic and metal satellites "not exactly best-friend material." Distance from earth, phases of the moon, how gravity works on the tides are all covered, as is the weight differences between the two are all covered mixing humor with information. The illustrations, done with color pencils and digital tools, depict earth and moon as two friendly female faces, and are done in the same light-hearted manner as the text. This is a really informative, entertaining moon book with some very interesting lunar facts in the back matter. I shared this with my young readers, who didn't understand everything in it, but certainly began to learn and appreciate the universe around them more.

If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon
by Joyce Lapin, illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli
Sterling Children's Books, 2019, 40 pages, age 6+
Birthdays are always fun and what could be better than a birthday party on the moon, after all, one day there lasts 706 hours, compared to earth's mere 24 hour day. After a 3-day ride in a rocket ship to the moon, the birthday child, with friends and dog, arrives. As everyone disembarks wearing spacesuits and party hats, because there is no breathable air on the moon, the first thing they notice is the moon black's sky, and earth shining in the distance. But now let the party begin. No need for a bouncy house thanks to the moon's weaker gravity, partygoers can just jump and slide all over the moon's surface. Playing ball is great - a ball can be hit much higher and further then on earth; the candy and other prizes will fall so slowly from a piñata, you can easily find your favorites before they hit the ground. Explore the moon's craters, make moon dust angels that will last forever, play a game of scavenger hunt for all of the things man has left behind, or collect of moon rocks, but be careful, they will weigh much more on earth than on the moon. And finally, have you cake and pizza inside the rocket before heading home. This is a fun birthday/moon story, but it is also an interesting information book. There are easy to understand explanations about everything that the partygoers see and do on the moon compared to doing and seeing those same things on earth. The earthlings are depicted as very colorful in the cartoon-like digitally created illustrations, and are in sharp contrast to all the greys and blacks of the moon's environment. Back matter includes a Glossary, Selected Bibliography, Suggestions for Further Reading, and internet links of astronauts on the moon.                   

Luna: The Science and Stories of Our Moon
by David A. Aguilar
National Geographic Kids, 2019, 64 pages, age 10+
This is a beautifully put together book that covers just about everything a young reader might want to know about the moon. Beginning with its theoretical creation and evolution, and ending with projects kids can do, including making a 3-D of lunar craters, this book is chockablock with more information about the moon. Each topic is age-appropriately informative and includes full-color illustrations or photographs that compliment the text. I particularly liked that Aguilar covered things like the different names for the moon (supermoon, harvest moon, strawberry moon), and talked about some of the different cultures whose festivals and religious holidays are determined by the moon. Another favorite chapter was on the great hoaxes and other mysteries surrounding the moon, all of which were new to me. I did like that Aguilar invites readers to explore the moon with a telescope, suggesting best viewing times and including a map of the moon to help understand where and what different places on the surface are. This is followed by an in-depth look at the moon's most prominent features. The moon continually fascinates us and this is the kind of book that curious kids will return to again and again, and each time they will find something they didn't notice before, so the in the end, young readers will gain a great deal of new information about the moon and its relationship with earth. This would be an excellent addition to home, school, and classroom libraries, or just a great book for kids interested in space.  

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