Spaced out and starry-eyed

I have become a space junkie. It all began about 18 months ago when I read the light, accessible and informative children’s novel George’s secret key to the universe to my children. I learned a lot, and as it was written by Stephen Hawking and his daughter, I feel what I learned was fairly reliable. And my children kept saying: “Mum, didn’t you know that already?” just to confirm that they know everything and I’m a typical dumb parent.

Coincidentally the library hosted a space programme over the summer holidays, and I found myself wearing a pair of NASA overalls. You know, one of those delightful outfits that are much easier to get in to than out of, rather like a bad relationship or a black hole.

The space theme has continued to haunt me ever since. The favourite new book in our household last year was Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It’s a humorous, touching and exciting read about a boy who is constantly mistaken for an adult. This is awkward at times, especially when he ends up heading to the Moon supervising a bunch of kids. I read this book out loud to my children, which was tricky at times because I was laughing so much. In addition to the humour, there’s lots about families and especially the role of dads.

With a similar plot, i.e. bright kid heads to moon, but way more detail about space flight, is P.B. Kerr’s exciting new book One small step. It’s a great adventure story, which somehow manages to overcome its plentiful improbabilities and its unexpectedly philosophical end. Kids intrigued by space or who love adventure and can cope with the technical explanations will love this one.

Inevitably my space addiction has led me to the adult section, where I unearthed the story of the perilous voyage of Apollo 13 written by the commander of that mission, Jim Lovell with journalist Jeffrey Kluger. It’s a blow by blow account of the colossal amount of human resource, brainpower, commitment and teamwork that went in to bringing three astronauts safely home, and averting what could have been a mortal blow to the space programme. Although the technical side of the mission is intriguing in itself, the human story is what is totally compelling of course, even though it’s told in a slightly irritating Dan Brownesque cliffhanger manner.

To top all my space-themed reading off, the library launched a new interactive activity Space Explorer on the kids web pages last year. You can take a virtual journey through space and learn a few bits and pieces on the way. It also has links to other great space websites, library resources and children’s books on space.

So now that I know all about the space books in the children’s section, and was comforted to find from Erin’s post Great Gig in the Sky that I am not the only female space junkie librarian, I am keen to follow up on the books listed by Erin about Neil Armstrong.

And now we’re coming full circle as Stephen and Lucy Hawking have a released a follow-up title George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt which was up for review. So of course, I can’t help myself. The plan is that I will read it to my daughters over the holidays and review it. Watch this space! Well, it is the International Year of Astronomy, after all.

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