As a contributing blogger on STEMTuesday feature of the From the Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog, I helped create a middle grade booklist which Sue Heavenrich (Archimedes Notebook) and I "hope will inspire our next generation of Space Explorers!" (See "STEMTuesday - Planets and Space" Booklist post today on https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/stem-tuesday/.)
As I was looking for these middle grade books, I ran across some great space picture books as well. So, I decided to create a complementary STEM picture book post. I hope you have the time to explore both lists.
A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky by Michael Driscoll, illustrated by Meredith Hamilton - Combining comic-like illustrations with stunning photographs, this book explores the solar system, universe, role of astronauts and astronomers, and ways kids can interact with the night sky. It includes a "star finder," as well as great sidebars with definitions, sky gazing hints, biographies, and activities and a time timeline of space history.
National Geographic Readers: Night Sky by Stephanie Warren Drimmer - As expected, this book is full of stunning photographs. It combines appropriate, engaging text with little question/answer and definition sidebars to create a great introduction to the planets, moons, and the constellations they make in the sky.
Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Jessica Lanan - Employing beautiful prose and amazing illustrations, this book explores the space history and facts about the universe, our search for other habitable planets, 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. (Full review here.)
Pluto Gets The Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller - Although this is actually an informational fiction, since in true Adam Rex's style the planets are anthropomorphized, it is a great introduction for younger readers about our solar system, planets, and the "down-grading" of Pluto. For all the humor, it is chocked full of space facts.
Heart on Pluto by Karl Jones, Illustrated by Andrew J Ross - This gorgeous book is another informational fiction, because the narrator is the space probe New Horizons. But it contains a wonderful, concise introduction to Nasa's exploration of space and the mission to Pluto in particular. In addition to science nuggets within the illustrations, it includes some fun facts about Pluto in the text and a short back matter section.
The Space Adventurer's Guide: Your Passport to the Coolest Things To See and Do in the Universe by Peter McMahon, illustrated by Josh Holinaty - Slightly older. But the comic illustrations and the tongue-and-cheek delivery of the science around becoming a "Space Tour Insider" and travelling in an orbiting space yacht or vacationing on the moon, comets, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, make this a fun way to learn about the nature of the planets and potential space travel.
Ultimate Space Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Galactic Fun by Carolyn DeCristofano - Combining stunning photographs and "Space Travel Attractions" with concise text, 5 Cool Facts to Record, digital extension possibilities, diagrams, maps, and star charts, this book is a wonderfully visual and exciting way to learn about the universe. It also includes a section on "Exoplanets and the possibility of Life-Forms."
If this post sparks an interest in astronauts, the moon, and or the moon landing, I gathered a collections of great books in a 2019 post The Picture Book Buzz - Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (here). It also includes a peek at the picture book biography, The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney.