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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | outer space

When a Prince Needs a Mechanic

by Vicki Palmquist

Interstellar CinderellaWith a deft story and otherworldly art, Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt bring us Interstellar Cinderella, a fresh and welcome take on the familiar fairy tale with a bit of Androcles and the Lion and The Jetsons thrown into the mix.

In this version, Cinderella loves fixing anything mechanical. She has her own set of special tools, all carefully drawn and named on the endpapers for the kids who love identifying things. Her companion is a robot mouse, small and seemingly insignificant but he saves the day when the wicked stepmother tries to keep the Prince from seeing Cinderella.

The illustrator used “gouache, brush and ink, graphite, rubylith, and digital process” to create a world that is readily identifiable as being set in the future, with touches of Arabian Nights and supercool spaceships, which Cinderella dreams of fixing when they break down.

When her fairy godrobot (don’t you think she’s a nod to Rosie on The Jetsons?) gives her a brand new spacesuit and a power gem to join the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, the Prince’s spaceship springs a leak and Cinderella is there to fix it.

I took a “Powderpuff Mechanics” class when I was in college (I didn’t name the class, folks), and I was mighty proud to be able to work on my own car. I know the thrill of fixing a leak and figuring out how to get better performance out of an engine, so Cinderella is my kind of gal.

I’m especially fond of the way this book ends. No spoilers here. Let’s just say that this isn’t your grandmother’s Cinderella story. In a rhyming picture book, the author creates a heroine who is talented and wise. The book sparkles and crackles with the power of the stars. Highly recommended.

Interstellar Cinderella, written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt, Chronicle Books, 2015



Literary Madeleine: Grasping at Stars

by Vicki Palmquist

How many children, over how many years, have learned from their parents to identify the stars that make up the Big Dipper? Can you see them standing outside, pointing to the stars in the dark sky, tracing the make-believe line that draws a saucepan in the heavens?

The Stars and Find the ConstellationsMy mother told me some of the stories she knew about the constellations, about the Great Bear and Orion and Andromeda. When her supply of knowledge (and interest) were exhausted, she bought me Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey (yes, the author of the Curious George books).

When I wanted to know more, she bought me The Stars: a New Way to See Them, also by H.A. Rey.

Besides creating books for children, the jacket flap says Mr. Rey’s interests “extended from biology and languages (he was fluent in four and acquainted with half a dozen more) to history and, of course, astronomy.” Thank goodness! He awakened that interest in me and I’m pretty sure dozens and dozens and hundreds of other children. (And adults, go ahead, admit it.)

In Find the Constellations, which is updated through 2016, you’ll find explanations that combine facts, and stories, and science. Anything less would not be satisfying. Better yet, the man could draw, and his illustrations are lighthearted but scientifically sound. When he draws a “Sky View” as though we were privileged to be inside the USA’s best planetarium, we can see seasonal depictions of the way the stars appear in the sky, and the way they might appear in our brain, finding the constellations. There are charts and maps and tips for stargazing.

Finding the Stars

In The Stars, we find a book for older children and adults. There are constellation charts with viewing notes:

CRAB (CANCER): Faintest of all constellations in the zodiac. Its main attraction is the so-called BEEHIVE, a small hazy spot [marked by a cross on the chart], just visible without glasses under best conditions. Glasses reveal a cluster of many faint stars.

Finding the ConstellationsThese are infographics at their best, long before we began using that term. The Calendar Charts show where the stars will be in the sky on a certain day, at a certain time. There are even latitudinal charts so people in different parts of the country can more accurately observe the stars.

The second half of the books includes more wonders, including how stars die, the celestial clock, how the earth wobbles on its axis, and how constellations have moved through the ages. When the right child finds this book, there is an astronomer in the making, whether as a profession or as a hobby.

Wait! There’s more! If you buy the hardcover of The Stars, you will find that the dust jacket unfolds to a large poster of a General Chart of the Sky. I had this hanging on my bedroom wall throughout my childhood. Is it any wonder I love reading science fiction? Check these books out of the library for your curious child. When you find yourself considering a telescope, it’s time to buy them for your own library.



Bookstorm: Lowriders in Space

Bookstorm: Lowriders in Space

In this Bookstorm™:

Lowriders in SpaceLowriders in Space

written by Cathy Camper
illustrated by Raul the Third
published by Chronicle Books, 2014

“Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team’s favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.”

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book, Lowriders in Space. You’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities.

Car Mechanics. An assortment of books offering details and infographics about how cars work and how to build a car, suitable from primary to middle school.

Drawing Cars. A lot of learning takes place when you draw a car. A reader thinks deeply about how the car works, how the parts inter-relate, and you are tempted to look up the details to verify that you’re getting it right.  

Graphic Novels. There’s a rich history of space exploration and science fiction in graphic novels. We include a few stellar (ahem) examples that are sure to intrigue your readers. 

Lowriders. The lowrider culture and the artistic, mechanically-inventive cars are an intrinsic part of life in some parts of the US. You’ll find websites and books that explain more.  

Novels. Science fiction for young readers isn’t plentiful, but there are excellent books in this genre. Our recommendations include a classic and several new books. 

Outer Space. For some readers, the facts about outer space are paramount. Books with an overview, sticker books, up-to-date books about what we currently understand … these will interest those truth-seekers.

Picture Books. Cars and stars are favorite subjects for picture book authors and illustrators. You’ll want to discuss some of these in your classroom and offer suggestions for others as books for independent reading.

Science. Studying the skies is a lifetime of work for many scientists, and their fields of endeavor are broad and touch upon other areas of science. Their discoveries change lives. From books looking at the constellations to those answering science questions, we recommend a few gems to get you thinking.

Women Changing the World. Dolores Huerta, Sonia Sotomayor, Rad American Women A-Z … Lupe Impala is inspirational. She will naturally lead to questions about other women who have set their sites on the stars.

Techniques for using each book:



Space Taxi

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer, illus by Elise Gravel Little, Brown Books for Young Readers What a hoot! When eight-year-old Archie Morningstar gets up early in the morning for his first Take Your Kid to Work Day, he never imagines that his taxi-driving dad in their rickety cab is actually […]