My fascination with outer space is well-documented. I had star charts on my childhood bedroom walls. But this book would have enthralled me … in fact, it still does.
The illustrations by engraver and printmaker Chris Wormell are detailed in a way that aids understanding. Scale is a tough concept for our comprehension but this book tackles that with infographics that give a sense of how enormous our universe is.
Arranged as though one is walking through a museum, the various galleries house similar topics. In the Solar System gallery, there are separate two-page spreads for each planet, the moon, the dwarf planets (poor Pluto), comets and asteroids, and the exoplanets. The information is short but juicy. Do you know what an exoplanet is?
For example, on the Mercury pages, there are three paragraphs of highly intriguing information, an explanation of what we’re looking at in the illustration (a cross-section of Mercury’s interior and what the surface of the planet looks like). We learn that “despite these fierce daytime temperatures, there are pockets of water ice at Mercury’s north pole, where the planet has deep craters permanently shielded from the sun’s heat.” Irresistible. How did the water get there? The text supplies the answer.
The other galleries include the Sun, the night sky, the stars, galaxies, and the Universe. We’ve moved from close scale to enormous spaces. The illustrations for stellar births and black holes are outstanding. And that’s choosing from among some beautiful depictions of the mysteries of space.
Raman Prinja brings his extensive knowledge as a professor of astrophysics at University College London to the text. I admire the way this duo has tackled something so vast and made knowledge about space seem to be within our grasp. They will certainly propel readers to learn more.
If you have a Star Wars, Star Trek, Expanse, or sci-fi fan in your home or school, they will absorb this book. A science geek will be thrilled. A child with questions about the night sky will love having the answers. Written at a level that a determined fourth grader can comprehend, it’s appropriate for any child or adult who wants to understand the reality behind the stories they’re drawn to watch and read.
curated by Chris Wormell and Raman Prinja
Big Picture Press, Candlewick Press, 2018