Barefoot Books Solar System (Review)
Updated: Nov 20
Interest Level: Ages 8 - 12
Author: Anne Jankéliowitch
Illustrator: Annabelle Buxton
Publisher: Barefoot Books, 2019
Retail: $19.99, Hardcover
Summary: An illustrated exploration of our solar system that makes complex concepts about astronomy, physics and chemistry understandable to children. Large format hardcover includes fold-out pages, lift-the-flap facts, and a pull-out glow-in-the-dark poster.
There are many, many books about space and astronomy for children on the market. Most are illustrated with color photographs and filled with a dizzying array of information and they all start to look alike after awhile. When I saw that Barefoot Books was creating a solar system book with color illustrations instead of photos, I wondered if it would be able to hold its own.
I need not have worried. It turns out that you don't need super realistic artwork or photographs to teach children' basic concepts about space. In fact, I have to grudgingly admit that the stylized illustrations complement the text quite well. They focus attention on each concept as it is discussed, and help the reader visualize phenomena that cannot be easily photographed. Annabelle Buxton's illustrations also quite beautiful.
There is a surprisingly large amount of information contained in the 52 pages of the Barefoot Books Solar System. In addition to page spreads for each planet (two for earth + one for the moon) and for the inner asteroid belt and the Kuiper Belt, there are sections devoted to the origins of the universe, the work of astronomers and famous space voyages. I particularly liked the illustration showing the difference between a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse and a planet transit. At the end of the book is an explanation of units of measurement used in in space research as well as a thorough glossary.
This book was written by subject matter expert (SME) and engineer Anne Jankeliowitch of the Arthus-Bertrand GoodPlanet Foundation in consultation with Dr. Carie Cardamone, the Associate Director for STEM and Professional Schools at Tufts University in Massachusetts. As far as I can tell as an archaeologist, it is up-to-date. But don't take my word for it.... When I was displaying this book at an event in Tucson, Arizona, a faculty member from the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium at the University of Arizona picked it up and read through it. His verdict? "I should have my students read this." He was completely serious.
I have a teeny, tiny bone to pick with the endpapers that include a cute little alien in a spacecraft, but that kind of embellishment is signature for Barefoot Books. I don't care for mixing fantasy with non-fiction. If that doesn't bother you too much, you can't really miss with this book, either as a gift or an addition to your library.