A good book about space can feed a kid's obsession or inspire a brand new interest in exploring the wonders of the universe. If you're hoping for a holiday gift, you're in the right place: Here are Space.com writers' and editors' suggestions of great books about space exploration and space science for kids.
Here we take a look at books for a slightly older generation — mostly for 10 and up — that can help inspire them.
Dogs in space
In the updated edition of "Max Goes to Jupiter" (Big Kid Science, 2018), written by Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider and Erica Ellingson and illustrated by Michael Carroll, the grandpuppy of the original Max from "Max Goes to the Moon" (Big Kid Science, originally published 2003, updated in 2013) and "Max Goes to Mars" (Big Kid Science, originally published 2006, updated in 2015) steps into his namesake's space boots, both literally and figuratively.
Tori, the little girl from the moon and Mars books, is all grown up and leading the first manned mission to the king of the planets as its chief scientist. And little Max, who grew up listening to stories of his grandpa's galactic adventures, is going along for the ride. While he's a bigger scamp than his forebear was, his playful instincts ultimately stand the crew in good stead. Max, just like in the original 2008 edition of the book, is a good boy.
The "big kid boxes," sidebars that present behind-the-scenes concepts that the story introduces, have been revised to accommodate findings from NASA's Juno mission in 2016. But the book overall is set to give kids of any age an appreciation of science and exploration.
A spaceman's tale
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. He has since retired from the astronaut corps and now he dedicates his time to helping young women and minorities get involved in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) so they can realize and live up to their full potential.
This young readers' version of Melvin's book is adapted to be a shorter and easier read than the adult book. It 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.
Pioneering woman in space
Sally Ride is celebrated as the first American woman to fly in space, and she made her mark later in life as a science writer and STEM popularizer before her death at 61 — but before that, she was a young tennis star and a college student aiming to be a professor. This kids' photobiography, written by Ride's long-term partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, brings all those eras into vivid focus with extensive photographs and tidbits placed through an engaging narrative of her life.
Aspiring astronauts and young space fans will enjoy the look into Ride's personality and growth as well as the space travel facts and figures, and for adults too this book offers a rare look at the famously private astronaut's life from someone who knew her better than anyone.
Making a home on the red planet
Kids can hop aboard the first expedition to Mars in this new book by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, written with author, physicist and former NASA flight controller Marianne Dyson. Aldrin's tale about a trip on the "Aldrin Cycler" spaceship to Mars covers the history of Mars exploration, the steps needed to get there and the process of building out from the first tentative toehold to a permanent colony on the planet.
It's full of countless specific details — exactly what the first explorers will and won't need to bring along, the best and most entertaining modes of transportation once there and exactly why the first habitats will be round and bubble-like, to name a (very) few. The book is also peppered with hands-on activities to demonstrate aspects of the journey and the planet's conditions. This book is not Aldrin's first proposing a mission to Mars, but this one is carefully calibrated to get young, curious children excited about the prospect.
Dogs in space stations
How many children's books can you honestly say have been to space? Jeffrey Bennett's tale (Get it? It's about a dog) about a dog called Max and his adventures to the International Space Station is not only an accurate look at what life in space is like — it actually joined the station's library in 2014 as part of the Story Time from Space project.
With illustrations by famed space artist Michael Carroll, "Max Goes to the Space Station" takes the titular pooch on a voyage to the station by way of NASA's Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center, with readers learning all sorts of fun facts about spaceships, the space station and life in weightlessness on the way. Max even helps the station crew through an emergency. The book is great for kids of all ages, and includes "Big Kid Boxes" on the science of space for older kids age 8 and up.
Time paradoxes and quantum uncertainty
"A User's Guide to the Universe" may be one of the most entertaining science books I've ever read. Overflowing with jokes, cartoons and a general sense of silliness, the book is a 5th- or 6th-grade-appropriate introduction to fascinating topics like time travel, life on other planets and the Big Bang.
Hitting that oh-so-hard-to-reach sweet spot between entertaining and educational, the book offers up a surprising amount of science and never condescends to its audience. It's the perfect book for kids who are curious about big questions, but I'm betting it will also serve as a great resource for adults who want a fun and easy introduction to the science of the universe.