A noteworthy review of Our Galaxy and Beyond from Science Books and Films on June 1, 2005
This series of books is designed to introduce young readers to the wonders of the solar system, from the sun to each of the nine planets. Each title includes superb NASA photographs and other carefully selected illustrations. Numerous historical anecdotes are presented, as are up-to-date facts about what makes each planet different from the others. The authors try to describe facts about the planets in language that is easily understandable. For example, in describing how hot it is on Venus, instead of just saying that the temperature reaches 900 degrees Fahrenheit, it is also mentioned that this is twice as hot as a normal oven. Similarly, in describing the elevation of Olympus Mons on Mars, it is mentioned that this volcano is several times higher than Mt. Everest. The end of each book contains a section entitled ‘Did you know?’ which contains interesting facts about the planets. A glossary and a list of sources for further exploration also are included at the end of each book. There are some minor problems with these books, however. In the book on Venus, no mention is made of the Soviet Venera missions, which were the first to land on the planet and take dramatic photographs from the surface. In the volume on Neptune, an illustration of the god Neptune is given with a caption to the effect that most paintings of Neptune show him with a trident(p. 6), but the illustration shows a painting of Neptune without his trident. I would have liked to have seen more descriptions of the force of gravity on each planet and, in particular, how much a young person would weigh on each. Overall, these books do a good job of introducing the excitement and mystery of the planets to an elementary school student.
—Robert N. McCullough
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