Mae Among The Stars (Roda Ahmed)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mae Among The Stars, written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington, a story inspired by real-life astronaut Mae Jemison’s early years.

When her parents ask her what she wants to do when she grows up, Mae says something odd: “I want to see the Earth”. When they point out that Earth is all around her, Mae clarifies that she wants to see the Earth from space. Her parents stress that such a goal will require hard work and dedication, but if she dreams it and believes it, anything is possible. Mae begins to research astronautics on her own time, and even constructs an astronaut costume. But when she goes to school and shares her dream in class, her fellow students and even her teacher laugh at her, with the woman even suggesting she look into being a nurse instead – something more suited to “someone like” Mae. Devastated, Mae returns home and tells her mother about what happened, but her parents encourage her not to let others define her destiny. Reinvigorated, Mae promises to wave to her parents from space one day – a promise she keeps.

Fabulous! Mae’s early interest in space travel is winningly adapted into a storybook-style narrative, and it works so well here. It both simplifies Mae’s aspirations and struggles for the youngest readers while still allowing them to connect to and be inspired by Mae. The climactic scene at school is heartbreaking – while some children may not, adults will immediately understand that the others’ humiliation of Mae is entirely race- and gender-motivated, and a stark reminder of how hard women of color had to struggle to break barriers – and still do. It creates a subtle yet deeply inspiring lesson for children of color: don’t let the prejudices of others limit your dreams. The art is beautiful, using color and a running celestial theme that ties in with Mae and her passion for space. The length is good, and JJ and I both loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Hey-Ho, To Mars We’ll Go!: A Space-Age Version Of “The Farmer In The Dell” (Susan Lendroth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hey-Ho, To Mars We’ll Go!: A Space-Age Version Of “The Farmer In The Dell”, written by Susan Lendroth and illustrated by Bob Kolar. This delightful take on the classic nursery rhyme teaches readers about what it would take to explore the next great destination in space travel, Mars.

Using the familiar cadence of “The Farmer In The Dell”, the text takes us through a theoretical journey to the red planet, beginning with the vehicles it would require, the planning and logistics that would need to be done, and the supplies that would need to be brought. It then follows our intrepid quartet of young astronauts along their journey, explaining their gear, food, sleeping arrangements, and everyday life through the long zero-gravity journey to Mars.

What a lovely surprise this was! I had expected a fun, imaginary interplanetary journey, which the story provides, but was so tickled to find that most of the content was grounded in the real science of astronautics! In addition to the rhyming quartet each page presents, there is also a paragraph explaining things like how a vessel large enough to travel to Mars would need to be built, how astronauts could grow plants for food in space, how an astronaut takes a shower, and so on. Most of these facts were new to me as well as JJ, and made for a fascinating and fun read! The bright, cheerful illustrations of the little astronauts and their journey are visually engaging while being informative, and we LOVED the detail of the text slowing being rotated when the story enters zero-gravity, adding an interactive element that JJ went wild for. The length was great, and it was a perfect balance of learning and fun – great for future astronauts and fans of STEM. Enthusiastically Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Space Boy And The Snow Monster (Dian Curtis Regan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Space Boy And The Snow Monster, written by Dian Curtis Regan and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, the rip-roaring adventure of a motley crew of space explorers.

Niko the Space Boy is off on an adventure with his trusty crew – his robot copilot, Radar, and his loyal Space Dog, Tag. They’re set to blast off when suddenly Radar goes missing, and the trail leads to the Ice Planet home of the fearsome Space Monster, who just so happens to look and sound a lot like Niko’s sister, Posh. Niko will have to keep his wits about him as he battles duplicitous snow bunnies and rampaging snowmen to rescue his copilot – and hopefully all in time for lunch!

This one was mostly fun for us. The fast-paced story was laid out and written with a sci-fi serial vibe and peppered with just the right amount of the charming absurdity of a child’s imagination. The art had some clever visual gags that will make it fun for readers to look back and spot the subtle jokes hidden among the action-packed illustrations. The length was good too, so my only complaint was the use of color: in the mostly winter-white palette, JJ seemed to have trouble distinguishing between white backgrounds, white rabbits, white villains, a white spaceship and a silver-white robot. Older children might not have this issue, but it definitely seemed like she was having trouble engaging with the art. Still, this was a fun ride that older bookworms would enjoy, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved. 

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.) 

Life On Mars (Jon Agee)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Life On Mars by Jon Agee, a charmingly funny story about a lonely astronaut searching for life on a distant planet.

An astronaut arrives in a spaceship with a box of cupcakes and a dream: to find life on Mars. He searches the barren planet for any sign of habitation, but he only sees rocks and dirt. Discouraged, he decides to set off toward home – but he finds he is lost! How will the astronaut get home? And where have the cupcakes gone? And what is that orange shadow that seems to be lurking around, just out of sight…? 

This was a very cute, very amusing story. The main joke is a visual one: as the astronaut wanders, a hulking gargantuan of an alien remains in full view of the reader, but just out of sight of the intrepid explorer. It makes for a great interactive element for little readers, who can point out the Martian and laugh at the astronaut’s folly. The illustrations are simple yet adorable, and fit the tone of the story perfectly. The length is just right, and JJ had a lot of fun with this one. A great pick to read aloud, and this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

The Darkest Dark (Chris Hadfield & Kate Fillion)

Hello, friends! Today, we read The Darkest Dark, written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, and illustrated by The Fan Brothers, a story based on Hadfield’s childhood fear of the dark, and how overcoming it changed his life.

Little Chris is an astronaut. Each day, he explores the vast cosmos in his cardboard rocketship; each night he won’t get out of the bath because he is busy battling aliens. But even brave astronaut Chris is scared of something: the dark. He doesn’t like sleeping in his room; it’s far too dark, and that’s when the spookiest aliens come out of hiding. His parents try everything to help, but Chris is too scared. But one night, he and everyone on his small island gather around to watch a man land on the moon for the first time. Chris is astonished. He sees that space is the darkest dark of all, but it doesn’t scare him. Seeing those astronauts jumping on the moon, Chris decides to brave the dark, because he wants to explore every corner of it. He learns the dark doesn’t just hide the scary things, it hides the wondrous things, too. 

This book was a lot of things in one, which is great. First, it’s a book about overcoming fears, specifically of the dark and sleeping alone, something that almost every little one goes through at some point. I love that this fear is alleviated by encouraging one’s curiosity to explore the unknown of the dark rather than fear it. It’s also a wonderful slice of life during a seminal moment in American history, and a true story of what inspired a real-life astronaut, both of which are educational and encouraging for young minds. Lastly, the Fan Brothers supply their gorgeously enchanting art, bringing to life the weird, wonderful, and epic creatures a child’s imagination can conjure. This is a very cool book, and we highly recommend it! Baby Bookworm approved!