Elem. – Stella, Star Explorer

Miller, Kelly Leigh. Stella, Star Explorer. Simon & Schuster, 2022. Unpaged. $18.99. 978-1-534-49767-2. Grades PK-2.

Stella is fascinated with space and sick of Earth. She builds a rocket and takes her dog Luna on a voyage of discovery. They meet two aliens who need help finding the planet just right for them. Stella the expert steps right in, acting as a real estate agent of space. She shows the two aliens each planet (skipping Earth), noting a special feature of each (Neptune is more than five times colder than the North Pole; Jupiter has seventy-nine moons; Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system; although Mercury is closest to the sun). When the only planet left is Earth, Stella grudgingly introduces them. The aliens ask Stella to show them everything about Earth, and in doing so, she realizes that if every planet is special, why wouldn’t Earth be? Seeing her planet through the aliens’ eyes gives Stella a new appreciation for Earth, so that it becomes her favorite planet.

THOUGHTS: This is a clever way to learn about the planets and, like Stella, learn to appreciate Earth. This could be a great opener for learning about the planets and for caring for the Earth.  

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises

Slade, Suzanne. Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises. Peachtree Atlanta. 978-1-682-63188-1. 51 p. $19.99. Grades K-3. 

Sand dunes, craters, volcanoes, canyons, lava flows, cliffs, and ice are only some of the amazing landforms covering the surface of Mars. In this oversize book, each double page spread consists of a full-page landform photo that is complemented by large-scale descriptive text and a smaller, more detailed caption. One spread features “sandy, windswept dunes” and describes how Mars’s winds blow the sand into mesmerizing ripple and wave patterns. Another highlights the “stark slopes” of an impact crater formed by an asteroid or meteorite collision. The full-color images in the book were taken with NASA’s HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera. The camera was launched into space in 2005 and has been sending images back to Earth ever since. Detailed backmatter include sections titled “Launching the Mission to Mars,” “HiRISE: The Spectacular Space Camera,” “More About Mars,” and “Highlights of the Exploration of Mars.” 

THOUGHTS: This title is reminiscent of April Pulley Sayre’s books which present brief and poetic nonfiction tidbits complemented by beautiful full-page photographs. Although there is not enough information in this title to support research reports, students will be drawn in by the breathtaking photos of the Red Planet. It also will be useful as an introduction to science units about the solar system and outer space. 

523.43 Planets          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Picture Book Science

Perdew, Laura. Picture Book Science. Nomad Press, 2021. $8.96 ea. $116.48 set of 13. 29 p. K-3.

The Earth: One-of-a-Kind Planet. 978-1-619-30984-5.
The Moon: Small-but-Mighty Neighbor. 978-1-619-30988-3.
The Stars: A Gazillion Suns. 978-1-619-30988-3.
The Sun: Shining Star of the Solar System. 978-1-619-30992-0.

Endearing alien narrators tell the story of the sun, moon, Earth, and stars. The narrators discuss how they were all formed and how they are all related. Hands-on activities and glossaries are included in the end matter of each book, giving readers even more opportunities for learning. These informative, easy-to-follow narratives of our solar system are a solid addition to any elementary science collection.

THOUGHTS: I personally received and reviewed The Moon: Small-but-Mighty Neighbor, but there are actually four new releases in the Picture Book Science series (listed above). Additionally, there are 9 other previously published books in the series on topics such as energy, animal adaptations, and more. I especially like how these books bring scientific topics down to a level easily understood by elementary schoolers, and I appreciate the extension activities included in the books.

523 Solar System          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Mars! Earthlings Welcome (Series NF)

McAnulty, Stacy. Mars! Earthlings Welcome. Henry Holt and Company, 2021. 978-1-250-25688-1. $18.99. 40 p. Grades Pre K-2.

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years. 2017. 978-1-250-10808-1.
Sun! One in a Billion. 2018. 978-1-250-19932-4.
Moon! Earth’s Best Friend. 2019. 978-1-250-19934-8.
Ocean! Waves for All. 2020. 978-1-250-10809-8.

The fifth book in the “Our Universe” series is about Mars. This nonfiction read, disguised as a fiction book, is a fun and informational read for those that love the solar system and the planets. All of the books in this series are told from the perspective of the subject, so in this case Mars is the author of this book, with the help of McAnulty (of course!). This book is attractively illustrated and reads like a fiction picture book but is filled with informational text. This series is terrific for those reluctant non-fiction readers.

THOUGHTS: I LOVE this series! Sun! One in a Billion was a PA Young Reader’s Choice Award selection this past year, and the students loved it. They really enjoyed reading all of the books in this series. Lovers of books about space will enjoy these books, but they will also appeal to all readers.

523.43 Mars          Krista Fitzpatrick, PSLA Member