SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
K-Gr 3–McCarthy speaks directly to children who dream of someday “BLASTING into outer space, ” inviting them to experience astronaut school with four aspiring recruits. Painted in a cartoon style, the three men and one woman have large saucerlike eyes and off-center smiles. The book gives a very real picture of the arduous training required before going into space. Full-color spreads done in acrylics on gessoed paper show authentic facilities like a swimming pool, a jet, and the Vomit Comet (a plane ride that allows passengers to experience weightlessness). The text and illustrations are simply done, and their very sparseness highlights important stages in astronaut preparation. A space suit and toilet are shown against white backgrounds, and their parts are clearly labeled. The space-shuttle liftoff, painted vertically, and images of the smiling characters in space capture the excitement of this ultimate adventure. The author includes a page of fascinating facts as well as a list of places to visit. This appealing book is sure to find a wide audience.–Mary JeanSmith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
Books to take along to the final frontier
Scientists must have dreamed up the space program during fall, when the moon hangs low enough that it seems touchable. The vivid shooting star we saw last week looked like a giant sparkler popping against the black sky. Crisp autumn nights emphasize how vivid the stars and moon are that beckon to future astronauts, just like these space-themed books we found for astronaut wannabes.
ASTRONAUT HANDBOOK. By Meghan McCarthy. Random House. Ages 5-8. $16.99.
This picture book reminds us of the Mission: SPACE ride at Epcot, a ride Hannah loved and her mother did not. Astronaut Handbook takes the reader through all of the steps necessary to become an astronaut. For example, it explains the 12 layers of a spacesuit and even covers such details as using the toilet in space. It offers thorough explanations for kids dreaming of a career in space travel. And unlike on the ride at Disney, you do not even feel queasy while reading!
For some kids, only the facts will do. Meghan McCarthy excels at picture book nonfiction, and her Astronaut Handbook explains clearly and invitingly just how astronauts get trained, what they do, and what they wear. She’s even clear on the drawbacks: “It’s best to like small spaces.” Warm and well-detailed pictures demonstrate that the career is open to all regardless of gender or race. (5–8 years)