Since the early sci-fi shows like Star Trek and Lost in Space, readers have CRAVED all things outer-space. That is why National Geographic’s latest picture book, StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson, is sure to be a hit this summer.
The gravitational pull begins with the amazing cover — planets, spaceships, stars and color all swirling around a semi-smiling, semi-astonished Neil deGrasse Tyson and promising an out-of-this-world experience. And that just what the reader gets. First, Mr. Tyson explains that StarTalk is a podcast where “science and society link arms and do-si-do in a spirited square dance of laughter and shared discovery.” The book is a type of composite of all the conversations (thus far) that have occurred on the show.
Beginning intuitively with “Space” and what’s out there, readers learn what type of personality one must have to live in cramped quarters with other astronauts over long periods of time. They learn what the early space stations looked like, and they learn that living in zero gravity would result in their growing a few more inches before they return to earth. They even learn how Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura of Star Trek fame) changed the face of NASA by inspiring African Americans and other people of color to believe they could be astronauts, too.
Readers learn what it’s like to use the bathroom in space, how studying the Antarctica helps NASA understand more about space, and why some foods make it onto the astronauts’ menu and some don’t. There are sections on wormholes and what it’s like to be “spaghetti-fied” if you get trapped in one; why Jupiter is considered the solar system’s vaccuum cleaner; and whether it will ever be possible to catch a ride on a comet or asteroid and travel to the stars.
The book answers awesome questions, like where the Earth’s heavy metals come from, how Earth gets its water, and whether World War III will be all about water. There are discussions on storms, what causes severe weather, how the Greenhouse Effect works, whether prehistoric sunsets were red (GREAT QUESTION!), and much, much more.
This is a fast-paced and ambitious book about the world around us and our place in it and impact on it. The book does not target a specific age, but based on the vocabulary, it should do well with readers from middle grade to high school. Of course, the early elementary ages will enjoy the images even if they cannot follow the vocabulary.
Use this book for…well, everything! Jump-start conversations about space, colonizing new planets, stars, black holes, conservation, lifelong learning and more.