recess radio program

7/28/04
Space and Stars
    by John Cech

Stars! Stars! Stars! -- not the Hollywood variety, but the real deal -- those ever fascinating points of light shimmering above us in the night sky. Stars! Stars! Stars! is also the title of a new picture book for young children written and illustrated by Bob Barner, that seeks to help kindle the natural curiosity of kids about these celestial matters. Barner uses a spare, poetic text accompanied by fluid, abstract shapes to inspire the young reader to want to know more, infinitely more, about what's happening above their heads in space.

To take children into the mythic realms of the stars, you might want to stop next at Once Upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations by Jacqueline Mitton, with illustrations by Chirstina Balit. Here you'll find brief sketches of the ancient Greek stories behind the figures of Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Perseus, Pegasus, Orion, and others. The stunning illustrations are built around the irridescent patterns of stars that form each of the constellations, and there are celestial maps on the end papers of the book to help place these formations in the larger context of the visible stars in the sky. For a beginning scientific approach to space, there's Zoom Space, which takes the reader past the stars and planets that can be readily seen by the unaided eye, to the deeper reaches of the universe that are only viewable through such enhanced images as those produced by the Hubble and other space telescopes. The "zoom" of the title refers to the die-cut arcs that are taken out of the corners of the pages, which allow the reader to have simultaneous views of things, like a "spiral arm" inside a cloud of billions of stars that form a gallaxy. There are helpful charts of the planets and factfiles about stars at the end of the book. What's particular helpful about this splendidly designed book is that it connects our world with the extraterrestial.

One volume that no family library should be without is The Kids Book of the Night Sky, written by Ann Love and Jane Drake, with illustrations by Heather Collins. Not only does it contain a wide range of stories from around the world about the constellations, but it also provides a variety of activities that children and families can join in together -- from baking cosmic cookies to making a star clock. This user-friendly compendium of facts and fictions, ideas and insights, has the unassuming power to bring the cosmos closer to families, and the members of each family constellation closer to each other

Copyright 2004 John Cech

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."