Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
Three Children’s Books about Space and Aliens
1. You Will Go to the Moon by Mae and Ira Freeman was published in 1959, ten years before the first moon landing. It is a shear joy to consume as it forecasts the wonderful, technological world of tomorrow.
In future times, families will:
- Blast off in a rocket,
- Dock with a space station (shaped much like the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey) where you watch movies and have fun in artificial gravity.
- Board a moon ship and travel to the moon while watching Earth TV stations.
- Bounce around the moon in awesomely retro sci-fi space suits, ride in moon cars and live in moon houses.
The book was re-released in 1971 to reflect the realities of the Apollo space program. I’ve not see the revised book, but I suspect it wrecked a generation of young imaginative minds.
For younger kids, the 1959 version presents a world of wonder. For older kids, it’s an educational example of hope for the future vs. economic reality.
Find a copy of the 1959 version at Abebooks.com. I may enjoy the book more than my daughter; I’m in love with the illustrations. Check out the whole book on Flickr or several images in an Etsy gallery.
2. A Science Adventure with Max the Dog by Jeffrey Bennett. This is actually a 3-book series and I own the middle one.
From those titles you can tell this is a world-of-tomorrow series, except it’s grounded with a good dose of reality. In his Mars adventure, Max is brought to the red planet to use his heightened sense of smell to sniff out signs of life.
What’s cool is that this is a science story, supported by additional factual information in the margins (sort of like authentic Magic School Bus books, but presented in a clean fashion. Oh, and by “authentic” I mean the early bus books authored by Joanna Cole, before Scholastic and PBS got involved and dumbed it all down).
For a kid not interested in the mechanics of space and other worlds, the Max series is a boring forced-education and a waste of your money. Let’s be clear. The book is actually intended for 9- to 12-year-olds. But if you’ve got an enthusiastic kid, you might be able to read it to your 4-year-old like I have, and approach any difficult concepts as opportunities to teach.
An aside: I recently learned that plenty of kids enter first grade not knowing how to read. Holy cow! They should be entering kindergarten with basic literacy skills. At some point parents have to take responsibility and stop dumbing their kids down to the point of not providing any home-based education whatsoever.
You can buy the Max books via the Amazon links above, or for $10 more buy all three autographed direct from the author.
3. Visit to Another Planet by Jean-Philippe Delhomme. This is a neat book for the imagination. It’s billed for 2nd to 4th graders, but it strikes me as readable to 4- and 5-year-olds.
The story follows a family taking a vacation on an alien world in a future where friendly contact with these advanced-as-us aliens is routine. Their planet looks a lot like Earth with busy streets, buildings, farms and so forth.
But there are differences. Dad hates driving a car with a joystick. Milk and hot dogs are green. And the music on the radio sounds like Swedish rock. (Hey, what’s so bad about Movits!?)
The story is spot-on for spurring the imagination of our family because a few months ago my daughter began pretending our car is a space ship. Meaning, a drive to the grocery store is an adventure on an alien planet. Or, we are aliens driving around Earth trying not to give away our secret identity.
The story ends on a funny note. As the family is waiting to return home, they look for a vacation memento in the spaceport’s souvenir shop. The thing to know is that the aliens have big trumpet-like funnel-shaped noses. What keepsake does the family buy? Big green plastic strap-on funnel noses.
It’s funny, and a bit racist on an intergalactic scale.
That’s my father driving us back from the Intergalactic Flying Saucer Trials last weekend. I don’t advise hanging an expensive camera out your passenger window while your vehicle is traveling at 65 mph, mostly because you will incur the wrath of your spouse. But come on, look at that photo. Total Moon Car. You can even see the shiny clean spot on the air dome created by water jets that Grandpa activated after Grandma complained about too much Moon dust cluttering up the view.