Three Children’s Books about Space and Aliens

Image showing the cover of the book You Will Go to the Moon. A boy is depicted looking at the Moon through a telescope.

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:

  1. Blast off in a rocket,
  2. 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.
  3. Board a moon ship and travel to the moon while watching Earth TV stations.
  4. 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.

Image of the cover of the book Max Goes to Mars. It depicts a dog in a space suit on Mars.

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.

Image of the cover of the book Visit to Another Planet. It depicts a human family driving a car down a street on an alien world.

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.

Bonus Photo:

Photo of my father driving his car through the redwoods as seen by my camera held outside the passenger window pointed through the windshield at him while revealing the full curvature of the window as the brightness of light sifting through the trees reflects upon the glass.

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.

Comments

9 Responses to “Three Children’s Books about Space and Aliens”

  1. kym says:

    Max goes to the Moon is one of my favorite stories for my boy. I learned some great stuff myself and Malachi loves the illustrations. I should get the other two.

    August 26th, 2009 at 8:56 am

  2. Jen says:

    I have an issue with what you said about kids not all being able to read in first grade. The push for academics for children age 5 and younger is relatively new. The research does not support your position- few children are actually ready to really read when they are 5. And starting a little later gives kids time to mature and be ready for school- in Finland, where test scores are routinely higher than in the US, children do not start to learn to read in a classroom setting until they are 7. Additionally, but pushing kids beyond what id developmentally appropriate in terms of reading, you may inadvertently force a child to skip crucial steps, such as learning to read fluently by reading something that is “easy” for them. I am a parent who reads to my children; my three year old is close to learning to read. But she is learning organically and not because we are pushing her at all.

    August 26th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

  3. Dani says:

    Our favorite book about space currently is Mars needs Moms. Granted it has nothing about “real” space but I love Berkeley Breathed and it has prompted some very interesting conversations with our 3.5 year old. Where is Mars? how far away? how we could get to it? and ultimately a long drawn out conversation concerning NASA and competing space programs.
    Of course the real reason I love it? The boy snuggles with me when we read it and who knows how much longer I’ll have that.

    August 26th, 2009 at 7:39 pm

  4. noreen says:

    I remember reading a book as a kid, maybe 3rd grade or so, that took place in the future, the 1980s (when I read the book) and it was about two kids who lived on Mars. Now I want to find that book

    August 27th, 2009 at 12:34 am

  5. Angelique says:

    Eh, some kids are ready to read much earlier than 5 or 7. My son basically taught himself by three. We just read a lot to him. Every child is different, but I think early reading has a lot to do with how much reading a child is exposed to. Curiosity is a great motivator.

    August 27th, 2009 at 7:29 am

  6. AJ says:

    What can I say Jen? My daughter began reading when she was 3-years and 4-months-old. Today, writing words is a big part of her pretend play, particularly signs and fill-in forms. Yesterday she composed a rhyming song. She now makes sense of symbols she sees sitting bored as I drive down the road.

    This week is her first week in kindergarten and she enjoyed being able to read the same name tags the teacher was using to learn student names.

    And yes, each child is different. I expect my son will learn to read at a much older age. If you know of research that indicates what I’m doing is harmful, I’ll gladly read it.

    As for other countries, there are so many variables involved between different cultures that I don’t weigh that factor much. Can kids begin reading at age 7 and be academically fine? Sure. Does that make reading at 3 or 4 bad? I don’t think so.

    In California, the content standards for kindergarten state, “Students know about letters, words and sounds. They apply this knowledge to read simple sentences.” So, that’s what they’re being taught at age 5. Her English teacher (she’s in an English/Spanish immersion school) has books in her classroom up to a third grade reading level. Granted, we saw a perk of language immersion as providing an extra challenge for her because being above average on reading could make her bored in class.

    August 27th, 2009 at 8:23 am

  7. Nadia says:

    I am guessing your daughter has mostly learned to read from being read to, and being really familiar with books, and therein lies the real problem. I’ve tutored kids as old as 8 or 9 who not only couldn’t read, but weren’t familiar with books the way you expect a pre-reader to be (recognising there are words on the page, waiting until I finished reading them a sentence to turn the page, and the like). I think reading to kids and getting them involved in a culture of learning is what’s really important, but learning to read and enthusiasm to learn naturally follow.

    August 30th, 2009 at 2:04 am

  8. anjii says:

    AJ, I pretty much agree with Jen here. It’s not that kids shouldn’t be taught at home, it’s that they shouldn’t be pushed, and expected to perform past their personal readiness. I think the biggest issue with what you said is the implication that most kids SHOULD be reading before grade 1.

    I was reading at 2 1/2, not because I was pushed, (and I’m NOT saying you pushed Little Miss… she was obviously ready and interested). I was reading at that age because I wanted to, and I asked my mom to teach me, so she did. My first son was HIGHLY advanced verbally, and devoured books, so I had visions of him following in my footsteps. At 4 1/2, he occasionally mentions that he wants to learn to read, but when I try to sit down with our early readers, he gets bored and frustrated quickly. At this point, he’d really rather just be read to, so that’s what I do. My concern is that if I push him too hard, I’ll take the joy out of it for him, which is the biggest killer of childhood reading, in my opinion. Of course, I continue to talk about the phonics of letters and words in the real world, and sneak in a few readers here and there, but right now, I’m just doing what he wants most, which is reading to him often. I also have much lower expectations for my younger son, whose language skills are much more normal (they were actually slightly delayed, due to his preemie/IUGR status, and hearing/fluid issues for awhile, but he’s caught up now). But he’s also better at figuring a lot of stuff out than Wyatt was, and has more persistance, so maybe he’ll surprise me and be reading at 3 :)

    Anyways, I’ve rambled, but my point is, the best thing parents can do is to feed and encourage any interest in reading (and other things), but not to place expectations on them and make it a “chore”.

    August 30th, 2009 at 8:49 am

  9. Charles says:

    I think she meant “sheer” joy.

    November 29th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

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