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The Picture Book Buzz

Astronaut Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I have admired and followed astronauts since I was little. When my kids were small, they too were enamored by and determined to be astronauts. We had the great pleasure to meet an astronaut during a school visit and explore Kennedy Space Station when the space station was still being constructed and the crawler was operating. We've also participated in numerous activities and summer space camps at the Museum of Flight, in Washington, over the years.

With an environmental lawyer, who loved sailing, and an ecologist in the family, it is not surprising that many vacations involved snorkeling/diving trips. We even got to explore a Caribbean reef in a submarine. This book encapsulates, explores, and expands on both interests. I wish this book had existed earlier. But I think it will still be a hit this Christmas.

Astronaut Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact

Author: Jennifer Swanson

Publisher: National

Geographic Kids (2018)

Ages: 8 and up



Space & Ocean exploration, STEM, discovery, compare/contrast, history


Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don't think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics--such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas--readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

Opening Lines:

Deep space and the deep sea. You might not think they go together. They are two very different places. One is high above the Earth. The other stretches miles deep down below. One is a huge, empty vacuum, and the other is filled with water. Yet deep space and the deep sea are actually similar in many ways, too.

Exploring deep space and the deep ocean isn't exactly a walk in the park. Neither place is warm and cozy. In fact, in both place, humans need to bring their own oxygen tanks just to survive.

What I love about this book:

What an excellent format to present and examine the mysteries, challenges, adventures, dangers, and remarkable scientists involved in space and sea explorations. Everything from training and living habitats, to the isolation and dangers involved. Using photos, illustrations, explorer's notebook images to accompany a mixture of both detailed and summarized entries, Jennifer Swanson and National Geographic created a book with wide appeal.

While this might arguably be considered a middle grade book, as it is organized in chapters, the pictures and concise text will make this book appealing to all ages, even younger elementary kids. This is one of those books that will grow with a child, providing new discoveries and treasures each year. For example (in the below image), the illustrations of the space station and sea habitat will appeal to young children - who focus on how these scientists sleep, eat, and use the restroom when in space (and in the ocean). While the text provides increasing levels of information, including personal comments from the numerous astronauts and aquanauts, for older readers.

In many instances, it brings the science directly to a child's experience or ability.

The book also evaluates why we explore these two environments, the history of these explorations, and what we have learned and how many discoveries have changed our lives. It also looks at how studying each environment teaches something about the other. Overall this is an amazing book.


- the book itself includes experiments on "Sink or Float," "Docking the ISS," and "Designing Your Own Spacesuit," and links to "Explore the Extremes," "Space Suits Through the Years," and " NOAA Ocean Explorer for Kids";

- learn about the solar system and make your own model;

- visit a local aquarium/zoo and learn about ocean environments; or

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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