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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Space, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 170
1. The book or the movie? The Martian by Andy Weir or The Martian with Matt Damon?

The Martian by Andy Weir has a fabulous back story. Initially published chapter by chapter and made available for free on¬†the author’s website, readers soon fell in love with the story. First, they asked him to make it available as an ebook, so they could enjoy it on their e-readers rather than¬†having to read it […]

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2. How did life on earth begin?

News broke in July 2015 that the Rosetta mission‚Äôs Philae lander had discovered 16 ‚Äėcarbon and nitrogen-rich‚Äô organic compounds on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The news sparked renewed debates about whether the ‚Äėprebiotic‚Äô chemicals required for producing amino acids and nucleotides ‚Äď the essential building blocks of all life forms ‚Äď may have been delivered to Earth by cometary impacts.

The post How did life on earth begin? appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Pisces

"His head is made of stars, but not yet arranged into constellations." - Elias Canetti.

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4. Mars, Pluto… and beyond

The story of our Solar System is developing into one of the most absorbing ‚Äď and puzzling ‚Äď epics of contemporary science. At the heart of it lies one of the greatest questions of all ‚Äď just how special is our own planet, which teems with life and (this is the difficult bit) which has teemed with life continuously through most of its 4.5 billion year lifetime? Not all of the answers are to be found here on Earth.

The post Mars, Pluto… and beyond appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. NASA discovers water on Mars again: take it with a pinch of salt

The discovery of water on Mars has been claimed so often that I’d forgive anyone for being skeptical about the latest announcement. Frozen water, ice, has been proven on Mars in many places, there are lots of ancient canyons hundreds of kilometres long that must have been carved by rivers, and much smaller gullies that are evidently much younger.

The post NASA discovers water on Mars again: take it with a pinch of salt appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Harvest

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7. “Eyes on the Stars”

Published on Jan 27, 2013 by StoryCorps “On January 28, 1986, NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L ended in tragedy when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. On board was physicist Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African American to enter space. But first, he was a kid with big dreams in Lake City, South […]

The post “Eyes on the Stars” appeared first on Cathrin Hagey.

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8. Young Charlotte, Filmmaker

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viiva

by Frank Viva (MoMA Publications, 2015)

So this is a super cool book. It’s part MoMA history, part¬†this funky young visionary’s story. Look at her camera perched by her side! Her confident gaze directly into the reader’s eye! A nearly animated cover where the bittiest blocks of color almost blink!

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viiva

One of the things that I always look for in books for kids are stories that honor their realness. Their hopes and dreams and fears and feelings that sometimes grownups have forgotten all about. Charlotte always carries that slim smile, even when the nun tells her none of that. I’d imagine this isn’t the only place she’s heard that she might be a bit unusual.

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viiva

That’s because Charlotte prefers black and white to color, and when kids have a preference, it’s usually a pretty strong one. Kids don’t generally go around only sort of caring about something.

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viiva

And here’s a beautiful example of that. Charlotte’s safe world is black and white, a stark contrast to that of her parents. To the left of the gutter, a home, and to the right, something unfamiliar and loud.

But her parents know this and they understand.

On Friday nights they take her to see black and white movies. And Charlotte is happy.

And on Sundays, they go to the Museum of Modern Art. And Charlotte is happy.

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viiva

That’s where Charlotte meets Scarlett, an aficionado of black and white too, and how it clears away the clutter.¬†And that’s where Charlotte’s smile returns.

Here’s a kid, wholly in love with something that might seem unconventional. But she has parents who get it, a trip to an art museum that seals it, and a cat who is always willing to play a part.

So that’s what Charlotte does: makes a film in black and white. Scarlet calls it dazzling and genius, but the colorful people?

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viiva

Only that was their reaction at the beginning, before Young Charlotte, Filmmaker had finished telling her story.

Be sure to check out Young Frank, Architect as well. These two are a perfect pair.


PS: Over on Instagram, a bunch of us teamed up to share one book on a particular theme each month. This was Michelle‘s brilliant idea, and we’d love it if you followed along. Check out #littlelitbookseries! Janssen of Everyday Reading shared another favorite Frank Viva book as part of that series, which is the same one that I wrote about once upon a time for Design Mom!

And thanks to Frank Viva for the images in this post!

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9. Pluto and Charon at last!

NASA’s New Horizons probe swept past Pluto and its moons at 17 km per second on 14 July. Even from the few close up images yet beamed back we can say that Pluto’s landscape is amazing. Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, is quite a sight too, and I’m glad that I delayed publication of my forthcoming Very Short Introduction to Moons so that I could include it.

The post Pluto and Charon at last! appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. On the Scene: SPACE 2015 brought good times, good comics

Special correspondent Christian Hoffer went to the SPACE indie comics expo in Columbus and got a lot of comics and met a lot of people. Here's his report.

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11. How are beasts of the stellar zoo born?

In the same way as a jungle harbours several species of birds and mammals, the stellar (or almost stellar) zoo also offers a variety of objects with different sizes, masses, temperatures, ages, and other physical properties. On the one hand, there are huge massive stars that easily overshadow one as the Sun. On the other, there are less graceful, but still very interesting inhabitants: small low-mass stars or objects that come out of the stellar classification. These last objects are called "brown dwarfs".

The post How are beasts of the stellar zoo born? appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Children’s Picture Book Author Inspired by Humans Landing on the Moon

In Space Boy and his Dog, Niko and his crew (Tag, his dog, and Radar, his trusty robot copilot) search for a lost cat on the moon.

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13. Space Cat Portraits

Today I drew people as Space Cats, as part of the Galactic Fete at Creation Space London.
I especially enjoyed drawing families - I asked them to do a space pose. 

I managed to forget my drawing pen, so I had to hack a writing pen by adding a pipette I happened to have in my brush roll as a reservoir for drawing ink. I also cut a nib from a beer can and used some correction fluid and a toothbrush for stars.

Well, that was fun.

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14. What makes Earth ‘just right’ for life?

Within a year, we have been able to see our solar system as never before. In November 2014, the Philae Probe of the Rosetta spacecraft landed on the halter-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In April 2015, the Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the largest of the asteroids, Ceres (590 miles in diameter), orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. And in July, the New Horizons mission made the first flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto, making it the most distant solar-system object to be visited. Other spacecraft continue to investigate other planets.

The post What makes Earth ‘just right’ for life? appeared first on OUPblog.

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15. Bears IN SPACE!


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16. #illustration #wip for #mograph #animation- Space themed!

#illustration #wip for #mograph #animation- Space themed!

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17. Food from out of this world

One day last week when the kids came in from school and I handed them this:


When they checked their emails they found these links waiting for them:

  • Nasa pages about eating in space.
  • The UK’s National Space Centre on what Astronauts eat in space, including a video of Commander Hadfield.
  • Videos about space food on the Science Channel.
  • Information about a (now closed) competition for schoolchildren to design a meal for British astronaut Tim Peake.
  • A video from the recent Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti about the food she likes in space (she returned to earth just earlier this month).
  • Having watched a few of these, I then undid the “airlock” into our kitchen and they found this:


    And the next hour was spent with M and J experimenting with recipes for meals we might be able to eat on the International Space Station. I (with hindsight: foolishly) promised I would eat anything they prepared for tea.


    The velcroed packets of dried and / or powdered food available to the space chefs included:

  • Powdered coffee
  • Instant hot chocolate
  • Powdered custard
  • Strawberry pudding powder (Angel Delight)
  • Instant porridge with golden syrup flavour
  • Dried milk
  • Cup-A-Soup powder
  • Instant pasta
  • Dried fried onion bits
  • Dried coconut chips
  • Dried banana slices
  • A tube of tomato pur√©e
  • A tube of garlic pur√©e
  • A tube of vegetarian pate
  • Freeze dried strawberries
  • Basically I went to the supermarket and just chose a selection of dried and/or powdered foodstuffs, and a few interesting things in tubes…. It was quite eye opening to see what’s available. Alsp, as I couldn’t simulate all aspects of the International Space Station, I provided them with hot and cold water on tap to mix into their ingredients if they wished to.

    And here are the final dishes they prepared for me:


    Clockwise from top left: Golden syrup porridge and custard, pate and tomato paste tortilla with crunchy banana bits, hot chocolate strawberry pudding and tomato and garlic stew. (!!)

    The girls loved measuring out and mixing up the ingredients, but most of all they loved making me squirm as I attempted to eat what they had made.

    Do I love my children? Perhaps a funny thing to ask in the middle of a post about space travel, but it was a question I had to repeatedly put to myself as I ate their four course meal….


    I do love my children, but eating their food was a challenge. There’s no other polite way of phrasing it… I don’t think I’m cut out to be an astronaut.

    But at least once I’d had plenty of water to drink and brushed my teeth several times to get rid of the flavours, we had books to put us all to rights again.


    100 Facts Space Travel by Sue Becklake, 100 Facts Stars and Galaxies by Clive Gifford and 100 Facts Solar System by Ian Graham recently arrived in our home and have been the spark for many curious conversations since then. “Mum, did you know that there’s an exoplanet which might be just one GIANT diamond, 4000 kilometres wide?”, “Mum, mum, mum, can I watch this film about a mission to Jupiter’s moon called Europa?”, “Mum, did you know you have to tie yourself to the toilet in space?!”….

    An excerpt from 100 facts Space Travel

    An excerpt from 100 facts Space Travel

    Each book groups facts around sub-themes. For example, in the book about space travel there are collections of facts to do with spacesuits, space tourists, and even space travel in books and films whilst in the book about stars and galaxies there are facts groups around themes such as the birth of a star, black holes, and the search for extraterrestrial life. A wide variety of images are used to illustrate the facts – photos, drawings, comic strips and even images of historic documents and artefacts, helping to create a collage or pin-board feel to the books. Peppered throughout the pages are mini-quizzes and the occasional practical activity, such as using a balloon to illustrate the expansion of the universe.

    An excerpt from 100 Facts Solar System

    An excerpt from 100 Facts Solar System

    Perfectly pitched to appeal to my 7 and 10 year old, these are great books for dipping in and out of. The short snippets of information make it easy to read “just one more”, and the range of information included plenty of facts which my kids were delighted by and hadn’t come across before, even though we’ve quite a few space books at home. These books would also, no doubt, work really well in primary schools.

    An excerpt from 100 Facts Stars and Galaxies

    An excerpt from 100 Facts Stars and Galaxies

    Whilst we experimented with our space food we listened to:

  • This BBC Radio programme about the sound of space.
  • This collection of space sounds from NASA. What’s really cool about these recordings is that you can use them yourself, for example in your own storytelling or film-making.
  • Space Girl’s Song by Peggy Seeger

  • Other activities you could enjoy alongside the three space books from Miles Kelly include:

  • Making your own planets
  • Creating your own spacesuits
  • Building up your own constellation with LEDs
  • spaceactivities

    What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve eaten recently? Would you travel into space if you could?

    Disclosure: I received free review copies of the books which inspired our space food odyssey from their publisher.

    If you’d like to receive all my posts from this blog please sign up by inputting your email address in the box below:

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    18. Space Dog by Mini Grey: Out of this world playfulness!

    spacedogcoverOut in the depths of the Spooniverse Space Dog is getting read to return home following a long mission sorting out planetary problems in the Dairy Quadrant. Just as he starts to unwind a distress call comes through on his Laser Display Screen. Without a moment’s hesitation our super hero, Space Dog, jumps to and rescues the occupant of a flying saucer drowning in an thick ocean of cream on a nearby planet. But what’s this?

    It turns out he’s saved his sworn enemy: Astrocat.


    Will they be able to put aside their differences as another cry for help comes in over the space ship tannoy? Will teamwork triumph as they face terror together?

    Space Dog by Mini Grey is an anarchic, adrenalin-packed adventure of The Highest Order. Utterly and joyously playful, wildly and lavishly imaginative, this dynamic and delightful journey exploring space and friendship is sublime.

    Grey’s witty language, from the hilarious exclamations made by Space Dog (“Thundering milkswamps!”, “Shivering Stilton!”) to the deliciously outlandish names of rare alien life forms (the Cruets of West Cutlery, the Fruitons of Crumble Major) has had us all giggling time and again, even on the 15th reading of Space Dog. Her pacing is timed to perfection, with dramatic stretches interspersed with moments of great relief and humour, drawing readers, listeners, grown-ups, children ever more closely in to Grey’s fantastic, phenomenal universe Spooniverse.


    Grey’s illustrations are equally packed with panache. From the detailing given to brand labels and packaging (whether on space food or game boxes) to her powerful use of suggestion (look out for what is almost missing off the page on the spread immediately before Space Dog and Astrocat land on Cheesoid 12, or the shadow redolent with threat as they turn to leave the Cheesy planet), Grey’s illustrations richly illuminate the world she has built to share with us, giving enormous pleasure every time they are returned to.


    Although there are echoes of super hero comic strips and silent movies with their intertitles, dramatic soundtracks and expressive emotions theatrically mimed, Mini Grey’s visual and verbal style is truly unique. Spirited and inventive, Space Dog is an outstanding book and fortunately you can find it right here right now in our very own universe.


    Every single page turn of Space Dog was met with “Mummy, can we do that??!!”, whether it was making a planet out of cereal packets, coming up with a recipe for supper based on the Spaghetti Entity in the Pastaroid Belt, designing our own version of Dogopoly, rustling up Astrocat’s cake, making spewing tomato ketchup volcanoes, or playing with fondue. In the end we settled for making spaceships for the characters in the book, and flying them over our patio.


    Using this fantastic tutorial from one of my favourite library blogs as a starting point, we created spaceships using paperplates, plastic cups and stickers. Where Pop Goes the Page used toilet cardboard rolls, we used yoghurt pots instead, and aliens were replaced by Space Dog and other astonauts cut out from print-offs of these drawing pages created by Mini Grey.


    We dressed up as astronauts ourselves, making space suits from disposable painting overalls, decorated with electrical tape and completed with control panels from cardboard.


    Once appropriately attired we were ready to launch our space ships. Unlike Pop Goes the Page we used nylon bead thread rather than wire to make a zip line, partly because this is what we had to hand, but also because it’s extremely smooth and there are no issues with kinking. One end was tied to the bathroom window, the other to the end of the washing line in the garden.


    Soon spaceships were zooming all over our patio…

    Later we turned our hand to making hats for a fruit and vegetable parade, inspired by the hat competition which Space Dog has to judge:



    We used origami hat tutorials to come up with these millinery masterpieces, including this army cap and samurai helmet with plenty more hat ideas here.

    Whilst making our spaceships and competition-winning hats we listened to:

  • The bilingual song Los Planetas by Nathalia
  • Cheese Please by Chris Stapleton – essential listening for any cheese lover :-)
  • Sputniks and Mutniks by Ray Anderson & The Home Folks. I discovered this thanks to this interesting NPR article, Sputniks in Space.

    Other activities you could try inspired by Space Dog include:

  • Making space ships big enough for kids (and their grownups?) to fit in. A large cardboard box, a roll of tin foil and some plastic lids or moulded plastic from biscuit boxes is all you need to get you started. (Here’s one we made earlier).
  • Playing with your food. Mini is just so inventive when it comes to playing with food, but if you want even more ideas, you could take a look at Carl Warner’s A World of Food or The Art of Clean Up by Ursus Wehrli. Both of these books are massive hits with my kids.
  • Reading the extraordinary graphic novel Laika by Nick Abadzis. This is more for us grown ups than the kids (though my 10 year old has read it) but I can’t resist recommending it whilst I’ve got a chance.
  • Would you like to go into space if you had the chance?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Space Dog by the book’s publisher.

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    19. Time as a representation in physics

    A previous blog post, Patterns in Physics, discussed alternative ‚Äúrepresentations‚ÄĚ in physics as akin to languages; an underlying quantum reality described in either a position or a momentum representation. Both are equally capable of a complete description, the underlying reality itself residing in a complex space with the very concepts of position/momentum or wave/particle only relevant in a ‚Äúclassical limit‚ÄĚ. The history of physics has progressively separated such incidentals of our description from what is essential to the physics itself. We will consider this for time itself here.

    Thus, consider the simple instance of the motion of a ball from being struck by a bat (A) to being caught later at a catcher’s hand (B). The specific values given for the locations of A and B or the associated time instants are immediately seen as dependent on each person in the stadium being free to choose the origin of his or her coordinate system. Even the direction of motion, whether from left to right or vice versa, is of no significance to the physics, merely dependent on which side of the stadium one is sitting.

    All spectators sitting in the stands and using their own ‚Äúframe of reference‚ÄĚ will, however, agree on the distance of separation in space and time of A and B. But, after Einstein, we have come to recognize that these are themselves frame dependent. Already in Galilean and Newtonian relativity for mechanical motion, it was recognized that all frames travelling with uniform velocity, called ‚Äúinertial frames‚ÄĚ, are equivalent for physics so that besides the seated spectators, a rider in a blimp moving overhead with uniform velocity in a straight line, say along the horizontal direction of the ball, is an equally valid observer of the physics.

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, in extending the equivalence of all inertial frames also to electromagnetic phenomena, recognized that the spatial separation between A and B or, even more surprisingly to classical intuition, the time interval between them are different in different inertial frames. All will agree on the basics of the motion, that ball and bat were coincident at A and ball and catcher’s hand at B. But one seated in the stands and one on the blimp will differ on the time of travel or the distance travelled.

    Even on something simpler, and already in Galilean relativity, observers will differ on the shape of the trajectory of the ball between A and B, all seeing parabolas but of varying ‚Äútightness‚ÄĚ. In particular, for an observer on the blimp travelling with the same horizontal velocity as that of the ball as seen by the seated, the parabola degenerates into a straight up and down motion, the ball moving purely vertically as the stadium itself and bat and catcher slide by underneath so that one or the other is coincident with the ball when at ground level.

    Hourglass, photo by Erik Fitzpatrick, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

    There is no ‚Äútrajectory of the ball‚Äôs motion‚ÄĚ without specifying as seen by which observer/inertial frame. There is a motion, but to say that the ball simultaneously executes many parabolic trajectories would be considered as foolishly profligate when that is simply because there are many observers. Every observer does see a trajectory, but asking for ‚Äúthe real trajectory‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúWhat did the ball really do?‚ÄĚ, is seen as an invalid, or incomplete, question without asking ‚Äúas seen by whom‚ÄĚ. Yet what seems so obvious here is the mistake behind posing as quantum mysteries and then proposing as solutions whole worlds and multiple universes(!). What is lost sight of is the distinction between the essential physics of the underlying world and our description of it.

    The same simple problem illustrates another feature, that physics works equally well in a local time-dependent or a global, time-independent description. This is already true in classical physics in what is called the Lagrangian formulation. Focusing on the essential aspects of the motion, namely the end points A and B, a single quantity called the action in which time is integrated over (later, in quantum field theory, a Lagrangian density with both space and time integrated over) is considered over all possible paths between A and B. Among all these, the classical motion is the one for which the action takes an extreme (technically, stationary) value. This stationary principle, a global statement over all space and time and paths, turns out to be exactly equivalent to the local Newtonian description from one instant to another at all times in between A and B.

    There are many sophisticated aspects and advantages of the Lagrangian picture, including its natural accommodation of¬†¬† basic conservation laws of energy, momentum and angular momentum. But, for our purpose here, it is enough to note that such stationary formulations are possible elsewhere and throughout physics. Quantum scattering phenomena, where it seems natural to think in terms of elapsed time during the collisional process, can be described instead in a ‚Äústationary state‚ÄĚ picture (fixed energy and standing waves), with phase shifts (of the wave function) that depend on energy, all experimental observables such as scattering cross-sections expressed in terms of them.

    “The concept of time has vexed humans for centuries, whether layman, physicist or philosopher”

    No explicit invocation of time is necessary although if desired so-called time delays can be calculated as derivatives of the phase shifts with respect to energy. This is because energy and time are quantum-mechanical conjugates, their product having dimensions of action, and Planck‚Äôs quantum constant with these same dimensions exists as a fundamental constant of our Universe. Indeed, had physicists encountered quantum physics first, time and energy need never have been invoked as distinct entities, one regarded as just Planck‚Äôs constant times the derivative (‚Äúgradient‚ÄĚ in physics and mathematics parlance) of the other. Equally, position and momentum would have been regarded as Planck‚Äôs constant times the gradient in the other.

    The concept of time has vexed humans for centuries, whether layman, physicist or philosopher. But, making a distinction between representations and an underlying essence suggests that space and time are not necessary for physics. Together with all the other concepts and words we perforce have to use, including particle, wave, and position, they are all from a classical limit with which we try to describe and understand what is actually a quantum world. As long as that is kept clearly in mind, many mysteries and paradoxes are dispelled, seen as artifacts of our pushing our models and language too far and ‚Äúidentifying‚ÄĚ them with the underlying reality that is in principle out of reach.

    The post Time as a representation in physics appeared first on OUPblog.

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    20. Sebastian and the Balloon

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    by Philip Stead (Roaring Book Press, 2014)

    This boy. This book.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. SteadSebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    We know Philip Stead can tell a story. Even his¬†Number Five Bus¬†interview series (with wife and creative partner¬†Erin¬†and ‘potentially interesting interactions with fellow book people’) is like a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a blanket.

    Here’s what I love about this book.

    That the copyright page tells us the art was¬†made with¬†pastels, oil paints, and pressed charcoal. Those things make your hands dirty and rub all the story off with it. There’s a feeling of grit there that I can’t quite figure out, but somehow these drawings feel loose and messy and full of both turbulence and elegance. The color is both rich and muted, deep¬†and spare.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    This red bird, that shows up on every single page. A constant companion to Sebastian’s wandering. A comfort.Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    That Philip Stead varies his compositions throughout, so that sometimes you are intimate with this cast, and sometimes you are pulling back for a wide shot of their world. That sometimes you are bobbing along with them and that sometimes you are floating free. That you feel the magnitude of this balloon trip, that you go with the wind too.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    This leafless tree that gets the lumpiest-in-my-throat moment¬†when it returns in glorious color. It was hard not to show you what I mean, but if you haven’t seen this part, then see this part. I won’t wreck the magic.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    That the closest Sebastian comes to a smile is in sharing pickle sandwiches with his friends.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    The way this milky gray fog is drawn. Moody and slightly scary and a barrier between the reader and the page. You can’t warn them about the pop because they couldn’t hear you through its thickness. They have to endure the danger.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    That each character’s face is solemn and expressionless, but full of understanding. For each other, for pressing on, for seeing something. The tension there is the curiosity and the hope that they are finding comfort in their journey.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    These sisters. Because.


    This ramshackle roller coaster. Both “the most perfect roller coaster they would ever see” and chipped and faded and bent and broken and overrun with pigeons. And the pigeons, for where they go next.

    Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

    That Sebastian thought to bring a boat and a ball of yarn.

    And that I have a love/hate relationship with Caldecott speculation, but that big moon and patchwork balloon would look especially nice with a third round thing on the cover.


    P.S. ‚Äď Did I tell you about my spin on the Let’s Get Busy podcast with Matthew Winner and Kelly Light? That’s here if you want a listen. This¬†book love guilt thing is no joke, because I keep thinking of other 2014 favorites that didn’t make our list, like this one. Huge thanks to book people for making great things. Don’t slow down. Also, here’s a¬†super conversation between Philip and Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. More art! Not to miss.

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    21. Night Sky Watcher (and drawing with the light of stars)

    Winter nights are undeniably great for cosy reading on the sofa, but they’re also often ideal for star gazing with kids. Early darkness, not long after getting home from school, combined with frosty, clear nights means that we’re able to look up at the moon, stars and planets long before bedtime. There’s nothing like a bit of awe and wonder before your fishfingers for supper, we’ve discovered.

    nightskywatcherNight Sky Watcher by Raman Prinja is the latest astronomy book we’ve been using to aid our journeys through the night sky. It’s chock full of practical advice, not only on how to find constellations and planets when you tilt your head up to the darkness above, but also how to make your star gazing fun and easy.

    Night Sky Watcher has separate sections on observing stars, planets and “unusual sights” such as satellites, meteor showers and eclipses. Richly illustrated with astronomical photos, short boxes and bubbles deliver bite-sized parcels of facts and viewing advice, supplemented by activity ideas ranging from joining up stars to form your own constellation to acting out planetary orbits with friends. I love the book’s emphasis on going out there and doing astronomy, not just reading about it.

    One aspect which has worked especially well for us is the star spotting guide; constellations are presented in their stellar context, with Prinja showing us how once we’ve found one set of stars we can use that constellation to navigate to another. “Star-hopping” has been a big hit and has really extended the girls’ previous experience and understanding of looking up at the celestial sky.


    The book’s design is rather clever; it comes in a silver edged zipper pouch, which immediately suggests adventurous astronaut gear. The book isn’t “just” a book, it’s part of your night sky watching equipment designed for taking outside and using in situ. The book’s interior feels equally modern and slick with “astrofacts” appearing every few pages on an iPad/tablet screen and glossy paper adding to the sheen and sparkle of the astronomical photos.

    Before heading into the dark to look for stars the girls and I boosted our star-pattern recognition skills but making our own bag of indoor magnetic stars which we could move around on the fridge and radiators to form the constellations we’d be looking for once we got outside.

    We used:

  • LEDs
  • CR2032 3V lithium batteries
  • Black electrical tape
  • Small magnets
  • starsstep


    Once we had a handful of glowing “stars” we set about making the constellations we wanted to look for in the night sky. Alongside Night Sky Watcher we also used this constellation crib sheet to help us place our stars in the right patterns on a radiator in a dark room.




    Can you tell which constellation this is meant to be?  It's the central part of Orion, featuring the belt, Betelgeuse (top left) and Rigel (bottom right).

    Can you tell which constellation this is meant to be?
    It’s the central part of Orion, featuring the belt, Betelgeuse (top left) and Rigel (bottom right).

    Once we’d made a few constellations the girls got another idea. Recalling the time we “scribbled” with light (using a long shutter release on my camera), M and J wanted to draw the constellations in the air; in Night Sky Watcher (as in standard practice when learning about constellations), the stars are “joined up” by lines to give the constellation’s outline, and it was these outlines that the girls wanted to try and draw.


    Can you recognise this constellation?! It’s meant to be Cassiopeia…

    Drawing the constellations wasn’t as easy as using the light magnets to lay out the right patterns and soon our “drawing with the light of stars” became rather free-form.


    Whilst making our magnetic stars we listened to:

  • Comet 67P clicking, humming, singing?
  • This playlist from the BBC: Music to watch stars by, part of Stargazing Live.
  • Full Moon, Full Moon by Papa Crow – a big hit this one with us all.

  • Other activities which might go well with reading Night Sky Watcher include:

  • Creating constellation candle holders, using this tutorial from Design Sponge
  • Setting up a google alert for news about space exploration. If your child (or you) wants to keep informed about the latest news regarding spaces research and discoveries, you can set up an alert to send you a news digest at a frequency to suit you. Go to https://www.google.co.uk/alerts and type in the terms you’re interested in eg “space”, “exploration”, “lunar”, “comet”. “astronaut” etc. You can then choose to receive notification (via email) of relevant news items, as it happens, once a day or once a week.
  • Building your own starry night visible whatever the weather. There are no instructions with this image, but I love the idea of filling a small courtyard with this sort of installation art.
  • Being inspired by this newly released image of the Andromeda galaxy (the most detailed image to date) to create your own star filled horizon using the splattering of paint. KokokoKIDS does this for falling snow (scroll down a little to the scene with the row of houses), but if you did it on black paper I think it could look like a star filled night instead.
  • Using marshmallows and toothpick instead of LEDs to make constellations, inspired by Edventures with Kids.
  • Other space books we’ve enjoyed recently are How to be a Space Explorer written by Mark Brakea nd illustrated by Emma Jones and Space Exploration: A Three-Dimensional Expanding Pocket Guide by John Holcroft. What space books have you recently discovered?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Night Sky Watcher by the publisher.

    3 Comments on Night Sky Watcher (and drawing with the light of stars), last added: 1/29/2015
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    22. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos - a review

    Sisson, Stephanie Roth. 2014. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos. New York: Roaring Brook.

    In simple text augmented by word bubbles, thought bubbles, and sketches, Stephanie Roth Sisson gives us the highlights of Carl Sagan's life‚ÄĒbut more importantly, she offers a sense of his wondrous enthusiasm for the cosmos,

    It gave Carl goose bumps to think about what he had learned about the stars, planets, and the beginnings of life.  He wanted everyone to understand so that they could feel like a part of the stars as he did.
    So he went on television.

    This is the first book that Stephanie Roth Sisson has both written and illustrated.  The fact that she is enthralled with her subject is apparent in the artwork. Painted cartoon images (often in panels with word bubbles), depict a happy Sagan, wide-eyed and curious.  While some pages are like panel comics, others are full-bleed, double spreads depicting the vastness of the darkened skies, dotted by planets or stars.  One foldout opens vertically, reminding us of our infinitesimal existence in the cosmos.  We are so small, yet we are reminded,

    The Earth and every living thing are made of star stuff.
    Star Stuff is a 2015 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Honor book for "outstanding nonfiction for children."

    Substantial back matter includes Author's Note, Notes, Bibliography and Sources, Special Thanks, and Source Notes.

    Preview the first eight pages of Star Stuff on the publisher's website.

    Carl Sagan graduated from Rahway High School in Rahway, NJ.  As far as I can tell, he's not mentioned anywhere on the school's website. Pity.

    It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
    See all of today's STEM-related posts at the STEM Friday blog.

    0 Comments on Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos - a review as of 2/13/2015 8:51:00 AM
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    23. Camilo Bejarano has a super awesome project: create your own...

    Camilo Bejarano has a super awesome project: create your own planet! Check out Betamori on Le Supernova:http://lesupernova.com/betamori-2/

    Betamori was discovered in the Beta Tolis star cluster after one of Earth’s vessels veered off course attracted by the beautiful triangle clusters surrounding the planet. At first Betamorians welcomed the humans with their kind demeanour, but eventually kept the crew as pets. It is not recommended as a planet to visit unless you mind sleeping on the floor.

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    24. In

    In by Nikki McClure

    by Nikki McClure (Abrams, 2015)

    In by Nikki McClure

    This is one of those books where the cover convinces you that you’ll love it. It’s both bright and cozy. Spare and warm.

    A¬†teensy giraffe¬†peeks out of this boy’s hiding spot and you can see its¬†smiling face, but only eager¬†anticipation in this boy’s eyes.


    In by Nikki McClureIn by Nikki McClure

    This is my kind of kid. It looks like a grownup is over his shoulder, offering an open door and a pair of shoes. But he’s got a tower of bricks, a colander kingdom, and the very best pair of pajamas.

    In is best.

    Until out is.

    In by Nikki McClureIn by Nikki McClure

    In by Nikki McClure

    And when out is cold and wet, in you go.

    In by Nikki McClure

    Nikki McClure’s paper cuts are intricate and exquisite, but they are also all-embracing. Not common artwork, but a reminder of¬†the universal comforts of childhood and play and home.

    A stark black and vibrant yellow are perfect patches of color to explore these opposing wishes. They balance, they tug, and they leave enough room for us to journey with him. By day and until nightfall.

    In and out.

    A perfect choice to celebrate curiosity, imagination, and the way we explore our world.

    Another Nikki McClure favorite is here!




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    25. I'm A Rocketman

    0 Comments on I'm A Rocketman as of 4/26/2015 1:19:00 PM
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