Crowdsource: what are good astronomy books for kids?

By Phil Plait | April 5, 2012 11:00 am

I get a lot of email from folks asking me questions. Many times, these are easily searchable on Google (fair warning: if I get these, I delete ‘em. Use Google, people!), and other times they’re something I can answer easily. The most common ones are about careers in astronomy and what telescope they should buy (I need to start a FAQ).

I got one the other day, though, that stumped me. A woman asked me what astronomy books were good for her 10 year old child.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know. There are lots of books, but I haven’t read them! I’ve never needed to. I know a few for younger kids and older kids (the latter is easy, since any popular level book is good; if the kid doesn’t understand something then they can go to the internet and get more info). But at that age I’m just not familiar with the literature that’s out there.

And honestly, I don’t know all the books available anyway! So what’s an internationally beloved astronomy blogger to do?

Ah HA! Ask the readers. You folks read astronomy stuff (that’s tautological), so there must be tons of people reading this who would know.

So I ask you: what books do you recommend for parents with kids interested in space, science, and astronomy? Please leave a comment below, and give the name of the book, the author, and the age you think it fits, and I’ll collect them in a little while and repost them all as a compiled list (give a URL if you can, and e-books are good too!). That way, we can all help excite the next generation of astronomy enthusiasts. And who knows? You might just help spark a fire in a young mind that will lead to a lifelong interest, even a career, in astronomy.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy
MORE ABOUT: books

Comments (86)

  1. David

    Definitely “Icarus on the Edge of Time,” by Brian Greene. It’s a retelling of the Icarus fable — the consequences of flying too close to a black hole. Short on data, long on accurate story, AND the most beautiful photographs of space imaginable.

    http://www.amazon.com/Icarus-Edge-Time-Brian-Greene/dp/0307268888

  2. Exploring the Night Sky by Terence Dickinson (Firefly Books, 1987; ISBN 978-0920656662) seems to be aimed at 10 and up based on the Amazon listing.

  3. Jeff

    when I was about 7, I ordered from then scholastic book service, which kids ordered from in the 1960s through their teachers, today it’s available at amazon.com

    H.A. Rey “THE STARS”, houghton Mifflin pub., first edition 1952

    It is the classic kid book for learning constellations, which is a good place to start astronomy.

  4. Richard D.

    Emily Lakdawalla has a few years worth of reviews about astronomy books for kids on the Planetary Society blog.

    The books at these links are pretty good. She has more reviews, but they’re mostly for younger kids.

    http://planetary.org/blog/article/00003287/
    http://planetary.org/blog/article/00002783/

  5. PeterCoffey

    Not exclusively astronomy, but at 10 I loved my copy of Cartoon History of the Universe, by Larry Gonick. I guess I would say it’s for 9-15+

    http://www.amazon.com/Cartoon-History-Universe-Vol-Pt-1/dp/0385265204

  6. John

    As i kid growing up in the late 80′s, early 90′s i remember checking out the Issac Asimov books from my local library about twenty times each. No clue how recently they have been updated but i rememeber loving them:

    http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&rh=n%3A3207%2Cp_lbr_one_browse-bin%3AIsaac%20Asimov&page=1

  7. Bandsaw

    Dead trees? –I mean–Books? For my 10 year old, her astronomy education right now comes from a few really good websites. Astronomy Picture of the Day (apod.gsfc.nasa.gov), Universe Today, and one other that always has this ad about DEATH from the SKIES! My 12 year old, on the other hand, has read DEATH and How I Killed Pluto, and enjoyed them both, but I don’t know if they can be classified as pure Astronomy books.

  8. Jap3tus

    The Planet soc blog had an article about this last december. some picks from Emily: http://planetary.org/blog/article/00003287/

  9. Peter Eldergill

    I read a kids book to my 2 year old called “Someone’s Eating the Sun!”

    It’s from the 70′s (out of print, unfortunately) and is a kids book about solar eclipses. How cool is that?

    The best part is that the copy of this also happens to be *my* copy from when I was a kid. It even has my name written it (very poorly, backwards “E” and all) . I even remember reading it and being confused as to the difference between an “eclipse” and “paper clips”. Heh

    Anyhoo, if you have young children, and if you can find it, try to get this book

    Pete

  10. I’m not sure if this is appropriate for 10 year olds, but my 8 year old loved Basher Science: Astronomy: Out of this World! They have a fun drawing of an astronomical object on one page and a scientifically accurate (though simplified for kids) description on the other page.

    To this day, my son loves talking about Supermassive Black Holes and Pluto. (Here’s my blog post about the book including a photo of one of the pages: http://www.techydad.com/2011/11/what-supermassive-black-holes-have-to-do-with-thanksgiving/ )

    They also have books on Math, Geology, the Periodic Table, etc.

  11. Quantum Penguin

    I have been very fond of “The Night Sky Book: An Everyday Guide to Every Night” by Jamie Jobb (http://www.amazon.com/The-Night-Sky-Book-Everyday/dp/0316465526)
    It has worked as a primer for getting many young relatives and kids of friends into astronmoy. I’ve had kids a young as seven and as old as 50 find it to be a very good start into the basics.

  12. Blondin

    I second the suggestion for HA Rey’s “The Stars”. (HA Rey of “Curious George” fame, btw).

    I also recommend “Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe” by Terence Dickinson.

  13. Chris

    When I was 10 my parents got me Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” Loved it.
    Also remember reading Kip Thorn’s “Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy”

    and Kaku’s “Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension” in high school, but still pretty easy reading for a 10 year old.

    If the 10 year old is more advanced mathematically I’d suggest Steven Weinberg’s “Cosmology”.
    Also Weinberg’s “The first three minutes” but now a little outdated

    More astrophysics than astronomy, but will help grasp how the universe is put together.

    There is also Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Death by Black Hole”
    Bourland’s “The Astronaut’s Cookbook: Tales, Recipies and More”
    Dave Doody’s “Deep Space Craft: An Overview of Interplanetary Flight”

  14. Achernar

    I got interested in astronomy when I was 6 and my parents gave me David Levy’s ‘Skywatching.’ Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s ‘One Universe’ followed that when I was 12, I think. Now I am studying chemistry, quantum and particle physics, and still think of these topics in relation to Dr. Tyson’s brilliant book.

    Also, having the peterson field guide on stars and planets made the actual telescope-based astronomy so much easier. I highly recommend any of these 3!

  15. My three year old son adors “Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun” by Marcus Chown on both paper and iPad versions. Now he knows all the planets and some satellites too.

  16. Adam K

    These are more about space exploration than astronomy, but the one I remember most as a kid was a book called “The Day We Walked on the Moon”. It had a lot of photos for each major space event up through the early days of the shuttle program, as well as an image of the New York Times front page for each of those events.

    There is also Sally Ride’s “To Space and Back” about her time on the shuttle. Very cool.

    Both those books are good for kids around 7-8 and up.

  17. Katie Berryhill

    My son enjoyed Andy Fraknoi’s Wonderful World of Space at that age (if you can ignore all the Disney characters that Disney added after he wrote it).

  18. MisterFweem

    “The Stars,” by Curious George’s own HA Rey. It’s a good introduction to finding things in the night sky, along with quite a bit of science that my 12-year-old just soaks up and soaks up and soaks up. He loved it so much he wore his first copy out. FWIW, Amazon.com for just over $10. http://www.amazon.com/The-Stars-H-A-Rey/dp/0547132808/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333650233&sr=1-1

  19. Nick G

    I think “NightWatch” by Terence Dickinson is a fantastic first book for any aspiring astronomer, but it may not be the most accessible one out there for younger children (10 and under). It’s fine, and kids could understand much of it, but there may be other books out there that would be a little more engaging and a little less technical for a young kid.

  20. David

    I also came here to recommend H.A. Rey’s “The Stars” but I see someone beat me to it, so consider this a “second.” Check out the “Look Inside” link on Amazon for a taste.

    It’s extra-awesome when you know that H.A. Rey also created Curious George.

  21. Any books written by Terrence Dickinson, Canadian astronomer, especially Nightwatch, Firefly Books and The Universe and Beyond by Camden House. Both are good for students 8 to 18.

  22. Chris

    Not a book, but would highly recommend “Stellarium” Explore the sky from the warmth of your house.

  23. Brian

    My 4 year old loves playing around with Stellarium, finding interesting things, and then asking me questions about them. He get’s upset if he can’t play his ‘video game’! So, while not a book, I concur with Chris.

  24. aztec1

    I have fond memories as a kid reading and looking at the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe for hours on end. Great text and fantastic illustrations!

    Also Astronomy Cafe by Sten Odenwald. Nice Q+A format and easy to read aloud due to it’s conversational style.

  25. “The Manga Guide to the Universe” is a great astronomy book in the “Manga Guide” series of science books. http://www.nostarch.com/manga

  26. I’ve been looking for books to recommend to my nephew, and kids’ books are not something I know a lot about, so… this is fantastic. Thanks so much for the great ideas!

  27. Chris

    Oh, I just remembered my parents got me the 20 volume Time-Life Series: “Voyage Through the Universe” when I was in grade school. I eagerly anticipated each new volume and was sad when I got them all because no new ones were coming. Doesn’t seem to be in print anymore, but you can pick up some older editions people are selling. Nice illustrations, probably a little out of date but for little kids would be a fun read.

  28. Dan

    The books listed are excellent, so not a book: If you have an iPad or iphone, Redshift is available. You point it at the sky and it tells you the constellation- and also links to wiki for more info. (Plus, of course, all of the other great stuff Redshift is known for.)

  29. Daniel B

    I was ten back in the late 60′s. I can remember reading all sorts of books that talked about what astronauts of that era were doing like walking on the moon and such. There must be similar books today which are targeted at kids and talk about what astronauts are doing today. Many of these astronauts are excellent role models. The fact that there are a respectable number from other countries is even better since reading about someone from your country or a friendly country near you that has been into space would probably be quite attractive to children around the age of 10.

    The same “role models” approach works with other aspects of space exploration. I’m sure that kids around the age of 10 would be quite interested to read about what astronomers are doing (the recent burst of announcements of planets orbiting other stars should be a real attention grabber).

  30. Tara Li

    There was one of a series called the Brown Paper Books – though I can’t find it on Amazon or anything, that had excellent illustrations and examples of various ideas for astronomy.

  31. Mike

    For finding interesting things to look at in a small telescope or binoculars, I recommend “Turn Left at Orion”. Someone already mentioned “Nightwatch”, and I’ll second that. I also recommend a subscription to “Astronomy” magazine.

  32. Todd

    Here’s a good book about constellations for young kids (maybe 3-7 years old):
    Zoo In The Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations
    http://www.amazon.com/Zoo-In-The-Sky-Constellations/dp/079227069X

    The illustrations are quite lovely, and the stories & factual info are great. It’s from National Geographic.

  33. Todd

    Whoops — I linked to the $100 hard cover. Here’s the $7.95 paperback for Zoo in the Sky:
    http://www.amazon.com/Zoo-Sky-Book-Animal-Constellations/dp/0792259351

  34. W Sanders

    A Third for “The Stars”. I still read my 50 year old copy. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0547132808

  35. I’ll put in yet another recommendation for H. A. Rey’s “The Stars’. My parents eventually bought me a copy of it when I was about 10 because originally I found it in our school library and the school librarian complained about me renewing it over and over and over again and never checking it back in. Besides teaching you to recognize the constellations, you learn about the mythological figures the constellations were named after, the prominent stars and other astronomical features in the constellations, and in the back of the book there’s a great introduction to the basics of celestical coordinates and the solar system.

    I’m suprised, however, that no one has yet mentioned Carl Sagan’s *book* “Cosmos”, which is another great book on astronomy for young readers.

  36. Dan

    Agree – any of Carl Sagan’s books would be excellent. It was his Cosmos series in the late 70s, early 80s on TV that got me hooked on astronomy when I was about 8. You can buy the DVDs, by the way, but it’s expensive. I’ve thought of buying for my 12- and 8-year-old boys. But meanwhile, I can read them the books.

    For general science, I just read my 8 year old, who’s really into science, “Evolution,” by Stephen Baxter, and it was a huge hit with him. The book is not meant for children, but it’s quite compelling for adults and kids. It treats the history of evolution from the dinosaurs to the far future as a series of stories, with characters. Hard to describe, but I’d encourage all of you to try it.

  37. Daniel J. Andrews

    A third vote for Stellarium here. Also, I’ve been playing with the app Star Walk which my 7-year old niece and 9-yr old nephew quite like. You can hold the iPad up to the sky and the iPad will show you the stars and planets in that area. We’ve also spotted a few satellites that way too. So, not books but it sure fires their imagination and makes them want to leaf through books.

    And yes, make an FAQ for telescopes. Those things were invaluable when I was trying to find more information on what types to buy. Without the FAQ from what once was Adlib Astronomics I may have ended up with the dreaded department store telescope which has probably done more to discourage astronomy-related activities than early bedtimes and light pollution.

  38. Gus Snarp

    I’m going to throw this out here even though it’s for a younger child than 10. I’ve had trouble finding things to keep the attention of my son, who is now 5, until his class at school started reading books by Gail Gibbons. We got one called the Moon Book, which is fantastic. It glosses over a lot, but it’s for really young kids, so it’s pretty perfect. It has great diagrams of eclipses and the phases of the moon. She also wrote books on the earth, the galaxy, and tons more science topics in every field. Remember, these are for really young kids, you can read them to kids who don’t read yet and they stay interested, so she didn’t have to be an expert in all those fields, but she had real experts advising her on each one. If you’ve got a really little kid who you want to light a fire in, check them out. Links to follow in another comment.

  39. Jeff

    wow, HA Rey’s “The Stars” is super popular here, it was pure coincidence my post was first, I KNEW that was a super good kid book and I’ve loved it for 50 years.

    and #11, when you get past 50, 50 even doesn’t seem old at all. Even 100 starts looking “young” , kind of.

  40. Tara Li

    One of the great thing about HA Rey’s “The Stars” is that it uses lines to draw the constellations that actually resemble the item to be pictured, rather than the classical lines which, frankly, can be *EXTREMELY* abstract.

  41. Mac

    This is a classic “Ask your local Librarian” question. It’s what they do for a living, know these kinds of things. Home schoolers are always looking for this sort of information on innumerable different subjects. You’re in Boulder, jump on the library web site and use the “Ask a Librarian” feature.

  42. Kenny

    Two science fiction books for children, which first sparked my interest in astronomy when I was quite young:

    Adventures in the Solar System: Planetron and Me
    Adventures Beyond the Solar System: Planetron and Me

    Both are by Geoffrey Williams. Sadly, it appears that both are out of print, but are available for Kindle. The copies I enjoyed as a child came with delightful audio recordings of the text, that also appear to be available on Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Solar-System-Planetron-Me/dp/B000E97ZVO/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333663909&sr=1-6
    http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Beyond-Solar-System-Planetron/dp/B000E97ZVY

    There are free samples of the audio files; I highly recommend listening to them to see if they pique your interest. While the stories are science fiction (a transformer robot/spaceship takes a child on adventures in space), a clear goal of them is to teach actual science.

    I probably would have gone into science without these books growing up, but who knows? I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  43. Bruce

    My Place in Space, by Robin & Sally Hirst (published 1999, now out of print) — great for 5-10 year olds. Gets at the issue of scale. One my favorite books for our kids.

    http://www.amazon.com/My-Place-Space-Robin-Hirst/dp/1741754046/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1333664727&sr=8-2

  44. Lars Occhionero

    Well, “Gobsmacking Galaxy” by Kjartan Postkitt ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1407108344/murderousmaths ) is quite entertaining, and is quite great at explaining the extreme absolutes of space (e.g. by creating a “realistic” alien race for each planet in the solar system, on Neptune only composed of electromagnetic radiation, on Triton with a jacket…) I still use some of the analogies at my work at the Planetarium at Steno Museum and teaching in high-school…

  45. Brian K.

    There’s a series called Maurice on the Moon, written by my high school physics and astronomy instructor Daniel Barth. It’s directed at middle school age kids and aims to teach astronomy through story. Also, as a teacher, he wrote the books so they can be used in the classroom, providing additional resources and activities that connect the story to real science and astronomy.
    http://www.mauriceonthemoon.com/

  46. Another vote for H.A. Rey “THE STARS”. Several editions have been released with updated planetary tables. I wore the cover off this book when I was a kid. Highly recommended.

  47. Jacob

    For an older child, the fabric of the cosmos by brian greene. Just tear out the string theory chapters, far too complex for something not yet verified by observation.

  48. Somewhat OT: There is this song they sing in the Music Together class that both our boys have attended at times that goes like this:

    Great big stars
    Way over yonder
    Great big stars
    Way over yonder
    All around the world gonna shine, shine

    Now look, I’m fine with metaphorical, as in “Twinkle twinkle, little star” (stars are not little, nor are they “up above the world so high”, at least not per se, but it sure seems like those things are true, so fine). And I’m fine with literal, as in They Might Be Giants’ “The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas,” etc. But describing “big” stars as being “over yonder” seems a bit to be mixing the two in an unhealthy way. They look tiny, but we know they are big. But to then call them “way over yonder” seems rather an understatement. “Over yonder” is a good description of perhaps a few miles. A few THOUSAND LIGHT YEARS? I’m not calling that “yonder”, sorry.

  49. Len

    This is redundant, but I love, love, LOVE “The Stars” by H.A. Rey. It captured my imagination back in… 1974? or so, and I still find a way to make every planetarium program I own show the constellations using Rey’s outlines. Granted, you need good eyesight and dark skies to see some of the stars he used.

    I still have my personal copy from 1976, flipping through it now!

  50. Cindy

    James,

    I actually taught one of the girls who sings on the Music Together CD’s. She was in my physics and astronomy classes. Are you also in the Princeton area?

    Thanks for the book suggestions as my daughter’s birthday is at the end of the month.

  51. Actually, I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with fans of the H A Rey’s “The Stars”. That’s a good one, but his real masterwork for children is Find the Constellations. It’s written at a very basic level (much easier than “The Stars”), and has incredibly wonderful constellation outlines, diagrams, and quizzes. I learned the stars from that book at from maybe 7-9, and I still see them that way. It has a beauty and a depth unlike any other astronomy book for kids I’ve ever seen. And it’s great for adults, of course — fun and very non-intimidating. Try it!

  52. Michael Young

    Someone already mentioned it, but I need to ++ to National Geographic Picture Atlas of our Universe. While some of the information is quite a bit out of date, it’s still an excellent information source, and an inspiring read. I grew up with this book, still have it, and it’s one of the main reasons I became an astronomer. I got it when I was 8 and have loved it ever since. Also, it has the best cover ever made.

    http://www.amazon.com/National-Geographic-Picture-Atlas-Universe/dp/079222731X

  53. Levi in NY

    I still have my childhood edition of H.A. Rey’s “The Stars”. It’s just lovely. Glad to see I’m not alone in that opinion!

  54. Ashley

    My favourite astronomy book for kids is “A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky” by Michael Driscoll. It is a beautiful book with brilliant artistry; sure to capture a child’s interest and ensnare their imagination.

    http://www.amazon.com/Childs-Introduction-Night-Sky-Constellations–/dp/157912366X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333682610&sr=1-2

  55. Messier Tidy Upper

    I’d recommend almost anything by Isaac Asimov about astronomy given his clear and easy to read and entertaining style – its one of the things that got me hooked early on SF and science. Probably out of print & hard to find now but Asimov had a whole series of astronomy books specially written for young kids known as the Library of the Universe series (Collins Publishers, circa 1988.)

    There’s also by Isaac Asimov :

    I) Asimov on Astronomy, Coronet 1976 but many earlier editions.
    II) ‘Exploring the Earth & the Cosmos’ Crown publishers, 1982.
    III) Isaac Asimov’s Guide to to Earth & Space, Ballantine Books , 1991.

    Plus plenty more even though some of these are a bit out of date there’re still fascinating, informative and well written.

    Anything by Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke is also great too. :-)

  56. claire

    We haven’t read this yet, but looking at purchasing this series by Stephen Hawking and his daughter, “George and the Big Bang”

    http://www.lucyhawking.com/george–the-big-bang.html

  57. Oh & a few more Asimov non-fiction astronomical titles which I’d strongly recommend for everyone – kids and adults alike :

    I)‘Alpha Centauri the Nearest Star’,Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co, 1976.
    II) ‘The Tragedy of the Moon’, Coronet, 1975.
    III) ‘The Collapsing Universe – the Story of Black Holes’, Corgi, 1978.

    (Note that earlier print editions of most if not all of these exist.)

    Never guess who my favourite author was would you? ;-)

    I’m also a big fan of the writings of Carl Sagan, Patrick Moore and Ken Croswell – click on my name for a link to the books of the last one there who may not be familiar to y’all already – his Ten Worlds’ is a marvellous kids book that includes Eris and is pretty up to date. :-)

    Furthermore I’d recommend too the Time-Life Voyage thrugh the Universe series as beautifully illustrated , well written and very accessible and readable. Additionally for learning the constellations and main stars of each I’d advise folks young and old to check out Collins Guide to Stars and Planets by Ian Ridpath & Wil Tirion first published in 1984 but many later editions the latest (far as I know) being 2007.

  58. ellie

    I watched “Cosmos” when I was about 9 or 10. I loved it, and between that igniting my curiosity about what IS out there and Star Wars igniting my imagination about what COULD be out there – my fate was sealed and my interest in astronomy endures (and I have a career in biological sciences).

    The book of Cosmos was a bit advanced (for me) at that age, though. But I kept it and read it and used it as reference for many years.

  59. Messier Tidy Upper

    For a more advanced and comprehensive but still readable and introductory constellations exploration I’d suggest the excellent ‘Constellations’ by Lloyd Motz & Carol
    Nathanson, (Aurum Press, 1991.) which was inspirational and very useful reading when I was starting to learn astronomy and is still a good source today!

    There are just so many superb Patrick Moore books that deserve reading with his superluminously wonderfully illustrated ‘The New Challenge of the Stars’(Hutchinson, 1977.) – space art by David Hardy who is also co-listed as author one of the best despite its age.

    Another of my all-time faves by Patrick Moore is ‘Brilliant Stars’ (David Bateman Publshers 1996) which would also work well for kids – perhaps slightly older than ten~ish though it depends on the individual one.

    David H. Levy’s Skywatching’ (Ken Fin Books,1995) is another text that I’d highly recommend for everyone regardless of age covering the baiscs of everything astronomical.

    The illustrations of our solar systems evolution from formation to white dwarf Sun stage in the ‘Solar System’ (Time-Life,1985) were memorably breath taking and imagination evoking.

    So many books, so many memories – how long have you got? ;-)

  60. Jenn

    National Geographic Picture Atlas of our Universe – I read that one until the pages fell out. I bought it for my kids, and was surprised by how out of date it is. Still, the pictures are gorgeous, and it is a fun read for kids and adults. We should start a campaign to get National Geographic to do a new edition.

  61. Lisa Crow

    When I was an instructor at Space Camp (best job ever, btw), one of the greatest books I found for younger kids was “Do Your Ears Pop in Space” by Astronaut Mike Mullane. The kids were always fascinated by the things they found out, and many of the parents were too!
    http://www.mikemullane.com/DoYourEarsPopInSpace.htm

  62. Ian Ridpath’s “Exploring Stars and Planets.” Phillips put this new edition out last year. It’s aimed at the 10-14 year range, but I’ve recommended it for bright 8-year-olds and even for some parents.

    I get a number of people asking about astronomy books for kids, and this is my first choice. It’s clearly written and the page layouts are attractive and interesting. Unlike many astronomy books I’ve read – for adults or children – it has been carefully researched with the latest data, edited and proofread. (If there’s a mistake in it, I didn’t see it and I have an eagle eye for them. Except in my own work, of course.)

  63. Prfesser

    “Stars” by Herbert Zim is good for young readers. I read it so often that its depictions of the constellations — the lines it draws between stars — are the ones that come to mind when I look at the sky.

  64. RyanH

    “365 Starry Nights” by Chet Raymo. It’s been around forever but I bought (or was given) this book when i was a teenager and today at 38 STILL use it and the lessons it taught me (like how to approximate measuring angular degrees). It’s extremely kid-friendly, informative, and super-easy to read. I highly recommend it.

    I can also recommend “First Space Encyclopedia (DK First Reference)” by DK Publishing. It’s a beginner’s book of astronomy and thus rather superficial in its information, but my son got this book when he was about 5 and loves it. It has good photographs and lots of short, easy-to-read blurbs about space that are good for short attention spans. It’s a hefty book, too, which impresses the kids because they feel like they’re reading something “grown up”.

  65. blair

    Although its not a book, I obtained for my daughter a cd/dvd called “Here Comes Science” produced by “They Might Be Giants”. This is a nice set of songs about science in general including titles such as:

    My Brother the Ape
    Meet The Elements
    What is a shooting star?
    How Many Planets?
    Why Does the Sun Shine?
    Why does the sun REALLY Shine?

    This is more geared at children around the age of 4-6, though very educational. Its avbailable from Disneymusic.com and also have free podcasts for kids at tmbg.com

  66. Chelsea

    Another vote for Terrence Dickinson’s books. If the kid is 12 or over I recommend NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. If a kid is 10 or over and shows some keen interest in astronomy or any other science hand her or him adult books, don’t try to “dumb it down” or you’ll tick the kid off. We don’t want to discourage the bright youngun’s from Higher L’arnin’. In grade 4 I was tested in reading/comprehension, results were at a grade 11 level, yet every time I asked for something either the information wasn’t available or some condescending teacher or librarian talked down to me and handed me some numbnutz book I didn’t want. Ruined my interest in many science subjects. Spend time with the kid and find out how much they can comprehend. Be patient, the growing mind is leaping in all directions, and with the bombardment of today’s media and entertainment and lack of direction and discipline in schools their attention span and concentration has probably not be trained and shot all to hell.

    Beyond books, take a look at The Great Courses DVD sets, Our Night Sky is an excellent all-around basis for astronomy the whole family should watch. I am now chewing my way through the much larger Understanding the Universe/An Introduction to Astronomy. Very enjoyable and informative.

  67. Tom

    Put my vote in for any oversized coffee table book. I think the one my parents had when I was little was what others have referenced as the Nat Geo Atlas, though I remember it only by the more prominently bolded section of the title “Our Universe”. In terms of content, I’ve found most kids I’ve talked to in outreaches just LOVE to absorb up basic facts, almost like baseball card stats for the cosmos. It doesn’t matter what I’ve talked about for the past half an hour, they just want to rattle off the radius of Jupiter or how many moons Saturn has. And the large book format with huge pictures just makes the subject matter seem more impressive as well to a young mind.

  68. Digitalaxis

    When I was that age (well, bit younger, honestly) I was reading The Magic Schoolbus series; they had one about the planets. I will forever remember a little asterisk with a note by it on the Pluto page that informed me that until 1999, Pluto was closer to the Sun than Neptune. None of my teachers knew that; it was a very novel feeling, and I credit it with me wanting to find out all the OTHER things about space I didn’t yet know.

    The asterisk is actually not in the book at all, by the way. I don’t know where I learned about Pluto’s eccentric orbit, but it wasn’t actually there. And yet, the memory is vivid. Who knows?

  69. Stacy in Austin

    Yet another vote for H.A. Rey’s book. It’s versions of the constellations make them a lot easier to find and remember, and it does a smashing job of describing things like Moon phases, why you see different stars at different latitudes, precession of the equinoxes, and other concepts that some adults I know don’t have a good handle on.

    ‘Cosmos’, in book or video form- and now available on Netflix! I can’t wait for NDT’s new ‘Cosmos’ to come out.

  70. Phil

    When I was that age I practically destroyed my copies of “Exploring the Night Sky” &
    “Exploring the Sky by Day” by Terence Dickinson because I read it so much. Thinking back I would imagine that some of the material in Night Sky would be out of date, but I am sure Sky by Day would still be a great book.

  71. Jaffy

    For UK readers I highly recommend the annual Philip’s Stargazing series, each year it tells you the main events in the night sky, 64 pages laid out in a monthly format with star charts, planets on view, major constellations, meteor showers etc. I get it most years from WH Smiths. This year’s is no longer on the Philip’s book site;
    http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk/books/reference/astronomy/ It’s on Amazon at over twice the RRP! http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/1849071756/ref=dp_olp_0?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&condition=all
    I’ve got the “Philip’s Observer’s Handbook Meteors”, which is very good, so I’m sure their other titles are equally good.

  72. Mary

    There are some marvelous books on tape. Some that may be above the reading level of children are not above their c omprehension level.
    Carl Sagan’s Pale blue Dot is a delight to listen to. However, the version I have has some chapters read by someone else. I found this annoying. I wanted to hear only Carl Sagan’s voice.
    Dawkins has some books on tape, also as do many others.
    Books on tape are good for those who can not read while in a moving vehicle (me). So, if on a bus, I can still enjoy my books. Books on tape are also great for those whose comprehension and insights outshine their ability to actually read the words.

    I have “George’s Secret Key to the Universe” by Lucy and Stephen Hawking. It is a marvelous book. Some children may find it long. However, the words used are well within a 10 year old’s range. Sometimes, with longer books, I would read the occassional chapter to my children. That helped keep move along through the book.

    Stephen Hawking and his daughter wrote a number of children’s books. There are English and French versions. Hard and soft cover are available.

    George’s Secret Key to the Universe
    George and the Big Bang
    George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt

    George’s Secret Key to the Universe is available on CD. I am not sure if the others are.

    For details see
    http://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/187-2359401-0726407?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lucy+and+stephen+hawking&x=9&y=24

    These books are written for children. However, they are not just for children. They would be great for anyone looking for an easily read, scientifically correct book. Reading them may help adults explain some scientific concepts to children in ways they will understand.

    My copy has a great chapter explaining what we know about Black Holes. There is also a Bonus section—Q&A with Lucy and Stephen Hawking and a Curriculum Guide. This section is great for teachers or home schoolong parents. It has Pre-reading Activities, Discussion Questions, Activities with Research and Experiment, and Questions for Further Thought.

  73. When I was growing up in the 70s my Dad gave me this book which kickstarted my interest in astronomy (and which I still have). Called I Spy In The Night Sky, it was just one out a whole range of subjects under the I Spy banner. Like its stablemates, the book introduces kids to aspects of the subject – in this case constellations, planets, meteors and -ites, etc – gives age-appropriate yet quite detailed info about those aspects and challenges them to spot certain amounts of each, checking them off and earning points as they go. There used to be a facility for sending off a completed book in exchange for badges, but that probably doesn’t happen anymore.

    Regardless, any parent of younger kids, say 5-10, could do a lot worse; and the best thing is you can pick them up for next to nothing (while stocks last) here:

    http://www.amazon.com/I-Spy-Night-Sky-Pb-Michelin/dp/1856710114/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333774980&sr=8-1

    or for people like me in the U of K, here:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spy-In-The-Night-Sky/dp/1856710114

    For everyone else, I can wholeheartedly recommend anything by the esteemed Sir Patrick Moore. After all, to many people over here, he is astronomy!

  74. Kyra

    As a preschool teacher, here are a couple I (as well as my three year old) can recommend for that age group:

    “Skippy John Jones: Lost in Spice”, by Judy Schachner, ages 3+. Not terrible “acurate” but the kids love the rhyming language and illustration.
    http://www.amazon.com/Skippyjon-Jones-Lost-Spice-Schachner/dp/0525479651

    “Ron’s Big Mission” by Rose Blue and Corrie Naden, ages 4+. I love this book becaused it is based on the life of astronaut Ron Mcnair, and tells the fictional story of his “first big mission” to get a library card. It encourages a love of reading, science, and supports diversity! Its great!

  75. Angela Pacheco

    “Nightwatch” by Terrence Dickerson is phenomenal. I think that probably 12-adult. I use it all of the time in my high school astronomy class.

  76. Christopher

    I know it’s not scientifically accurate, but for younger children the pictures in The Little Prince really sparked an interest in space for me 30+ years ago.

  77. hape

    It has been mentioned before, but definitely Cosmos and Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. Especially Cosmos is also a wonderful introduction to science in general, which was the most fascinating part for me.

  78. Baz00000

    Just bought “Stargazing for Beginners”, – ‘a practical guide to Astronomy’ says the blurb on the front cover.
    ISBN: 978 1 4053 6195 8
    see http://www.dk.com
    seems good for an aging teen!!

  79. Gene

    It would need to be paired up with the Orbiter simulator but Go Play in Space would be a good book along with the sim for teaching basic Newtonian flight concepts. I would say ages 13-14 and up: http://www.amcsorley.dsl.pipex.com/play_in_space.htm

  80. Basher Basics Astronomy- I’m 10 and last year they were a hit at my school-even the people who HATE science!!!!!

  81. I second My Place in Space – I had it as a child and loved it.

  82. Scooter

    I would recommend The Magic of Reality to anyone interested in getting started on learning about the world we live in:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-Reality-Whats-Really/dp/1439192812/

  83. Justin

    Ancient Astronomy by Jim Evans. I took the class and it was fun, you learn to do astronomy as the Greeks did it. An easy read and with fun labs to actually do astronomy without modern tools.

  84. Nigel Depledge

    What really hooked me, from about the age of 11, was the Illustrated Reference Book of the Universe (Ed. James Mitchell).

    It has everything – the sun, moon, comets, planets, celestial mechanics, stars and stellar evolution (including H-R diagrams), galaxies, clusters, nebulae, the expanding unverse, telescopes, the EM spectrum, star maps and a seasonal star guide.

    The only thing is, it’s sure to be a bit out of date now – it was published before Voyager 2 had reached Neptune and before Hubble was launched. Boy, if that could be updated with what we know now, and with images from Hubble, Voyager 2, Cassini, Galileo etc., that would be something special indeed.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »