Best Space Books for Kids: 2017 Summer Reading List
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Summer is a perfect time to learn about space. Even if family vacations don't include stops at a NASA center or an air and space museum, kids can gaze at the stars deep into the night without worrying about the cold, and they can spend long, lazy days reading about the final frontier.
Here are a few of Space.com's favorite space books for children and young adults. The following list is just a sampling, of course; to learn about many other great titles, check out our best kids books page and reviews by the National Space Society and the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla.
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'CatStronauts' (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017; ages 7-10)
Blast off on a space adventure with the most adorable space travelers in the cosmos: the CatStronauts! Drew Brockington's graphic novel series tells the story of some incredible spacefaring felines — Major Meowser, Pom Pom, Blanket and Waffles — as they venture to the moon, Mars and beyond. In "Mission Moon," the gang solves a global energy crisis by building a solar power plant on the moon. In the second book, "Race to Mars," they blast off again in an attempt to beat the CosmoCats to the Red Planet.
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Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery" (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013; ages 6 and up)
In "Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery," authors Margaret A. Weitekamp and David DeVorkin take young readers on a guided tour from astronomer Clyde Tombaugh's historic sighting of Pluto in 1930 to the planet's reclassification to a dwarf planet in 2006, with artist Diane Kidd's entertaining illustrations leading the way. How did Pluto get its name? It's in there. What exactly is a planet? This book has it covered. Even NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which visits Pluto in 2015, makes a cameo.
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'Looking Up!: The Science of Stargazing (Simon Spotlight, 2017; ages 6-8)
For first through third graders who are curious about the night sky, Joe Rao's fact-filled early-reader chapter book will satisfy basic questions about the sun and the moon, the stars, the planets, comets and meteors in an engaging, age-appropriate manner. Plus, get ready for the 2017 total solar eclipse in August with a whole section on the best way to view the rare celestial event.BUY "Looking Up!" >>
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'Chasing Space' (Amistad, 2017; ages 8-12)This astronaut's memoir tells a truly inspiring story of how one unsuspecting football player from a small town in rural Virginia wound up flying in the Space Shuttle Atlantis on missions to the International Space Station. Leland Melvin started his career playing professional football in the NFL, but when an injury prevented him from playing, he went to school to become an engineer. It wasn't until a recruiter from NASA grabbed his arm at a career fair that Melvin realized he could be an astronaut. This young readers' version of Leland Melvin's book includes 16 pages of color photographs and three do-it-yourself experiments for kids to learn how to build small rockets and study the chemistry of candy.
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'Dinosaur Rocket!' (Nosy Crow, 2015; age range 3-6)
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'The Darkest Dark' (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016; ages 4-8)
Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has flown three space missions, commanded the International Space Station and traveled the world speaking about what it's like to fly in space. But before that, he was a young child afraid of the dark while dreaming of exploring the moon. The story of his struggle with that fear is gorgeously illustrated by Terry and Eric Fan, who tuck little, menacing aliens into the shadows young Chris's bedroom, and an about-the-author page at the end describes his path to becoming an astronaut for readers who might share that dream.
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'Little Kids' First Big Book of Space' (National Geographic Children's Books, 2012; ages 4-8)
This book, by Catherine Hughes and David Aguilar, is a great way to introduce young children to Earth, the solar system and beyond. It features gorgeous images — both photographs and illustrations — and explains tough concepts (such as black holes) in simple, easy-to-understand text. There are also some great tips at the back of the book about how to spark or further kids' interest in space science and exploration.
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'Mousetronaut: Based on a (Partially) True Story' (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2012; ages 4-8)
This endearing book, written by former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and illustrated by C.F. Payne, tells the tale of Meteor, a tiny mouse who saves the day when things go south on a space shuttle mission. (Kelly actually flew with mice during a 2001 flight of the shuttle Endeavour, which explains the book's full title.) Kelly and Payne's follow-up, "Mousetronaut Goes to Mars," is also worth a read.
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'Max Goes to the Moon: A Science Adventure with Max the Dog' (Big Kid Science, 2003; ages 7-12)
In this book, which was written by Jeffrey Bennett and illustrated by Alan Okamoto, Max the dog and a girl named Tori go to the moon, and their journey inspires the people of the world to build a lunar colony. "Max Goes to the Moon" is engaging, beautifully illustrated and packed with scientifically accurate facts; it won the 2013 Science Communication Award from the American Institute of Physics.
Max the dog has had other space adventures; "Max Goes to the Space Station," "Max Goes to Mars" and "Max Goes to Jupiter" are all worth a read as well.
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'Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet' (National Geographic Children's Books, 2015; ages 8-12)
Former Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is passionate about putting boots on Mars, and he lays out his vision of Red Planet colonization in this book, which was co-written with Marianne Dyson. "Welcome to Mars" also walks readers through a history of Mars exploration and discusses the planet's evolution and environment. It's a fascinating read that young space fans will snap up.
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'The Wrong Wrights: Secret Smithsonian Adventures' (Smithsonian Books, 2016; ages 9-12)
In this graphic novel, by Steve Hockensmith, Chris Kientz and Lee Nielsen, the most famous airplanes and spacecraft in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum are mysteriously replaced by balloons and blimps, and four middle-schoolers travel back in time to figure out (and fix) what went wrong. "The Wrong Wrights" delivers a lot of aviation and aerospace knowledge, and it's also a fun and fast read.
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'Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space' (Roaring Brook Press, 2015; ages 12 and up)
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman ever to fly to space. This book, by Ride's longtime partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, provides a fascinating inside look at the life of the famously private astronaut, who died in 2012 at age 61. It may well inspire a new generation of trailblazing spaceflyers.
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'Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void' (W. W. Norton & Co., 2010; ages 14 and up)
"Packing for Mars," by acclaimed science writer Mary Roach, answers the most pressing questions most of us have about spaceflight — for example, how do astronauts go to the bathroom in microgravity? There's no other book quite like this one, which examines the psychological and physiological effects of human space exploration in a very entertaining way.
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