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To Infinity and Beyond: Books about Space and Astronomy

by Miriam Downey 26. March 2013 07:10


 One of our favorite family nighttime activities is to lay on the beach at our cottage on Lake Michigan and stare up at the skies. I don't know all the names of stars and constellations, but I love to look at them, staring into infinity. Because it is so dark down there on the beach, we can dream big dreams and talk about important things. In August the sky is often filled with falling stars, and sometimes on very clear nights, we can see the Northern Lights. It is no wonder that the night sky has enthralled people for thousands of years.

Many children want to know all that they can about the sky, about space, about stars--about infinity. Infinity is one of those words that children like to bandy around--both when counting or when talking about space. Your local library has a wealth of materials about the sky and space as well as books that name all the constellations. Here is a beginning list of books that can be found at the library. I have also included a couple of websites that will be helpful too.

Books for Grades K-4

Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey. Be sure to get the 2008 edition of the book. H.A. Rey is also the author of the Curious George books. Who knew?

Seeing Stars by Dandi Dailey Mackall. A book of stars for very young children.

Constellations: A Glow-in-the-Dark Guide to the Night Sky by Chris Sasaki. This book is cool because it glows in the dark.

Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations by Jacqueline Milton. Discusses 19 animal constellations and explains how to find them in the night sky.

3D Explorer: Solar System by Ian Graham. This is a pop-up book--very cool, although most libraries don't carry pop-up books. It would be a great gift book for kids who love space.

Books For Grades 5-12

The Stargazing Year: A Backyard Astronomer's Journey Through the Seasons of the Night Sky by Charles Laird Calia. This is a science book but also a memoir about an amateur astronomer who looked at the night sky every night for a year.

The New Atlas of the Stars: Constellations, Stars and Celestial Objects by Melinger and Hoffman. This is a reference for stargazers anywhere in the world.

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr. The true story of Homer and his friends in West Virginia who built and flew sophisticated rockets. The basis of the equally awesome movie, October Sky.

Out of This World: All the Cool Bits About Space by Clive Gifford. A fact-packed little volume.

Man on the Moon: How a Photograph Made Anything Seem Possible by Pamela Jain Dell. The effect the photograph of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon made on individuals and society.


The Planetary Society for Kids. This very cool website has a little bit of everything. It is created by Bill Nye so it is fun as well as very informative.

Kid Lots of information and games. (This website does have some advertisements.)

Ask an Astronomer for Kids. Has lots of factual information in a question and answer format.

Astronomy for Kids. This is a children's version of the magazine Astronomy.






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World War II Revisited: Accessible Books for Kids

by Miriam Downey 8. March 2013 05:27


Maxwell, my 15-year-old grandson, is fascinated by World War II. His great grandfather served in the war in the Pacific, and Maxwell has some of his medals and pictures. He is taking a trip with his father this summer to Dunkirk and Normandy as well as some of the other infamous sites of the European war.

I am currently reading a remarkable biography of the war with Japan called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, whose plane was bombed down over the Pacific in 1943. One of my other grandsons read the book last year and was fortunate to hear Louis Zamperini, now in his 90s, speak at our nearby university. I would highly recommend this book to students of high school age for a look at an important time in American history.

Thousands of books have been written about World War II. The following list includes books from several genres: fiction, biography, and history. Of course, this cannot possibly be an exhaustive list, but these are books that are accessible to young people. The war continues to be an important topic for authors of all types. We are losing the last of the veterans of World War II, and this generation of children only know of the war as history. All of these books will be available at your local library or bookstore. Following the book list are a couple of websites that may be of interest.

Non-Fiction History

Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II by Penny Colman. Describes the work of women war correspondents who covered all the theaters of the war. (grades 6=12)

Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Peter Nelson. This tells about a young boy who helped solve some of the mysteries about the sinking of the Indianapolis 55 years after it happened. (grades 6-12)

Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II by Penny Colman. Describes the many jobs women took on during the war. (grades 6-9)

Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins. The story of how Paris was saved from Hitler in 1944. (grades 9-12)

Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport. Describes the ways that teens and young adults stood up to the terrorism of the Nazis during the war. (grades 8-12)


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Newbery Medal winner about the Danish Christians and their efforts to rescue Jews. (grades 4-8)

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green. The friendship between a young Jewish girl in Arkansas and a German prisoner of war. (grades 5-8)

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki. Japanese American boys play baseball in an internment camp during the war. (grades 4-8)

Kingdom by the Sea by Robert Westall. A 12-year-old boy and his dog seek safety in war-torn England. (grades 5-9)

For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Bradley. A novel based on the experiences of a young woman spy during the French Resistance. (grades 9-12)

Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World WarTwo by Joseph Bruchac. Young Navajo Marines use their language to send coded messages during the war. (grades 8-12)

A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer. A Hawaiian boy tries to find his father after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (grades 6-9)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. An award-winning novel about two young women involved in the war effort in Great Britain. (grades 10-12)


No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel. The story of the author's journey during World War II trying to escape from Poland. (grades 5-9)

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This is probably the most famous memoir of Jews during World War II. (grades 6-9)

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The story of an Olympic runner whose plane was bombed down in the Pacific. (grades 8-12)

The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause by Damon Gause. A firsthand account of a soldier who escapes from the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. (grades 8-12)

Hiding in the Spotlight by Greg Dawson. The story of Zhanna and Frina, piano proteges who were living in the Ukraine when the Nazis invaded. They entertained their way through the war and escaped the death march. (grades 9-12)


The Perilous Fight: America's World War II in Color. This is a PBS series with some rare color photographs.

Pictures of World War II. Pictures and writings from the National Archives.

Life in World War II: The Photos We Remember. The story of the war as it was portrayed in Life and Time magazines.




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