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The Picture Book Buzz

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Growing up on Star Trek and Star Wars, I always wondered if there was life on other planets. And agreed with Carl Sagan (and Jodi Foster's character in Contact) that if there isn't other life, then there is an awful lot of wasted space.

It's exciting when scientists find new planets, discover new facts about old favorites, and maybe, just possibly, find a planet that could support "life." But will that "life" be what we are used to, or something so amazing and fantastical that we can't even imagine it? Check out the science and the creative aspects of our search for life in space.

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet

Author: Curtis Manley

Illustrator: Jessica Lanan

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (2019)

Ages: 5-9



Space, science, planetary discovery, STEM, and imagination.


Do you wonder if humans are the only beings who wonder if they are alone in the universe?

Our sun is a star. In the night sky are all kinds of stars, and orbiting those stars are planets like the ones in our own solar system. Could those planets have life like we do on Earth?

Planet Earth is not too big, not too small, not too hot, and not too cold. It's just right. Our very own Goldilocks planet . . . .

Follow a young girl as she explores these questions in this gorgeous book about the wondrous search for another Goldilocks planet.

Opening Lines:

When you look toward the stars,

do you wonder if anyone is looking back?

Is Earth the only planet with intelligent life?

Is it the only planet with life at all?

What I Love about this book:

From the moment you pick up this nonfiction book, you're in for a treat. One that will require many reads to enjoy the multiple stories woven throughout. Be sure to check out the detailed timeline on the end pages and the hidden treasure on the front cover.

Curtis Manley masterfully draws the reader through an examination of why Earth is such a perfect planet for us (a Goldilocks planet) and our search for other planets that might also support life.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2019. Image © Jessica Lanan, 2019.

The book is loaded with space history and facts about the universe and the various devices we've built to explore it. It includes great back matter and further resources, including links to clubs, that will excite the budding scientist/astronaut and delight teachers.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2019. Image © Jessica Lanan, 2019.

But far from being a dry recitation of facts, it includes beautiful prose ("All stars twinkle, but some stars also seem to wink at us - as if saying, 'I know a secret'.") swirled throughout the scientific explanations. Additionally, the text combines with the vibrant and exciting illustrations to entice even reluctant readers to dive into the question of what (or who) exists in space.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2019. Image © Jessica Lanan, 2019.

Then, as icing on the cake, Jessica Lanan accompanies all of this with a visual narrative of an excited, curious, and enthralled young girl visiting a planetarium with her family. Her discoveries lead us to the question - "What might that life be like?" I adored Jessica's depictions of what the young girl might imagine life on other planets could look like.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2019. Image © Jessica Lanan, 2019.

In the end, we're left with the girl's musing about what we should do if we ever do discover life on another planet. This book is a real treat for anyone interested in space, science, and the discovery of distant planets and alien life. A perfect addition to any library, classroom, or home STEM collection.

Craft Note:

As a matter of craft, this is an excellent mentor text for evaluating the 50-50 relationship of text and illustration. The text never mentions a little girl or her family. Though there is a distinct difference in the young voice at the beginning and the end (which Jessica attributes to the little girl) and the more adult narration explaining the science through the middle. But the story of the family exploring a planetarium was created and explored entirely in the illustrations. Curtis's masterful text left so much room Jessica to create new worlds and explore ways to make the science fun and relatable. It's a wonderful example of making nonfiction fun.


- draw or describe what you think life on another planet might look like;

- how will we get there? Draw, describe, or create your own space ship; or

- check out NASA activities for grades K-12 on finding planets

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

If you missed it, check out Curtis Manley's interview on Monday (here) and Jessica Lanan's interview Tuesday (here).

If you are in the area, join Curtis Manley for the book launch:

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet

Brick & Mortar Books 7430 164th Avenue Northeast Redmond, WA 98052


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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