Seven Wonders of Space Technology

June 15, 2011

Seven Wonders of Space Technology

By Fred Bortz

Twenty-first Century Books/Lerner, 2011

ISBN #978-0-7613-5453-6

Ages 10-14


“Astronomy is humanity’s oldest science. People have studies the night sky for thousands of years. Ancient monuments such as Stonehenge in England or Chichen Itza in Mexico were probably the great observatories of their time.”

Seven Wonders of Space Technology takes the reader on a journey through space and the technology that allowed science to get there and explore in a way the past civilizations only dreamed about. Bortz’s choices for the seven greatest space technologies stem from the popular seven wonders of the ancient world sort of lists. And he has some compelling reading in his lists.

His introduction begins with the great observatories following some background information about history, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the science of the observatories. The book continues with the International Space Station and how it came about. Satellites, the Moon with its Moon water, the Mars Rover, future study of the planets and beyond, and future technology are covered in the book. The information is fascinating and detailed, yet explained in a manner that anyone can read, learn, and enjoy.

The back matter is rich and varied. It includes a bibliography, further reading, a glossary, index, source notes, a timeline, and websites. This book is for the upper elementary grades and that hard to grab middle school age students. For reference or fun, this book makes the difficult subject of space technology accessible and interesting.


Write an explanation of the issue of water, space travel, and the Moon. Describe the problems and possible solutions to address this problem.

The NASA site

International Space Station site

National Science Standards: Earth in the solar system; abilities of technological design; understandings about science and technology

The Sun

July 1, 2010

The Sun

By Laura Hamilton Waxman

Lerner, 2010

Early Bird Astronomy series


Ages 7-10

“It’s a warm summer day. The sky is clear and blue. The Sun shines up above. It looks like a big, glowing ball. It lights up our days. It keeps our planet warm.”

In six chapters, this comprehensive book about the sun for young readers provides fascinating facts and up to date information about the sun and its influence on our Earth. The first page begins with words to look for, challenging the students to be a word detective and a hint to check the glossary. From stars to seasons to gravity-causing orbits, it explains the basic facts of beginning astronomy using short sentences but providing great detail but with simple language.

The final two chapters provide specifics about sun anatomy, early explorers, and the future of sun study. Waxman’s talent is evident in the depth and organization of the information that moves along in a narrative, readable style. The book includes a table of contents, glossary, index, and hints for parents.

The book is one in a series of Early Bird Astronomy books that includes the planets, our solar system, and galaxy. As a former science teacher whose first unit ever taught was the solar system, I’d love to have had this book.


Look up the Earth and its layers and then list physical characteristics of our planet. Create a chart comparing the physical features and organization of the Earth with those of the sun. Write a paragraph discussing what you learned.

This organizer can help set up the comparisons.

National Science Standard: the Earth in the solar system

Book provided by publisher

Visit Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia’s blog 5 Great Books.

Planet Hunter–Out of this World!

March 31, 2010

Planet Hunter

Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths

By Vicki Oransky Wittenstein

Boyds Mills Press, 2010

ISBN# 978-1590785928

Grades 5-8


“As the sun sets on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, golden light bathes the huge domes anchoring each end of a narrow white building. A halo of orange, pink, and magenta swirls overhead, while below, waves of clouds form a blanket so thick and wide that it looks like an ocean.”

At the first glance, this book’s lyrical text draws in the reader, curious to see what it might be about. From the first sentence, however, it grips the reader’s attention and before long, the information-dense text envelopes and carries you away into the far reaches of the universe.

Based on the work of astronomer Dr. Geoff Marcy and others in his field, the book explains how Dr. Marcy has discovered 180 out of the 400 planets found outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. Dr. Marcy’s work led him to a method for positively identifying exoplanets, in particular the smaller sized ones, and his goal is to identify an exoplanet that has similar characteristics to our Earth in the hopes of finding other living, intelligent life. The book begins with an explanation of the process in action, continues with Dr. Marcy’s developing interest and how he finally settled on a direction, and ends with a discussion of the facts and future of exoplanet study and the possibility of alien worlds.

Wittensteins’s text is filled with fascinating information that thoroughly explains complex scientific principles in an easy to understand way. I’ve never read a better explanation of the Doppler Effect (p. 20) for children and was amazed at the way Dr. Marcy came up with it to locate and track exoplanets. Diagrams and captions supplement the text and photos show more details, along with the activities of Dr. Marcy and his co-workers. A few illustrations are artist renderings, but stay true to the known facts.

The back matter holds an extensive list of more reading, web sites, a glossary, and index. Boyds Mills Press produces beautiful books that enlighten and inform the reader in a delightful way with a freedom that allows the books to reach readers in depth. This is my second Boyds Mills Press book in as many weeks and they are excellent.

 This book is reminiscent of The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner, an award winner last year. Wittenstein follows this astronomer and his research in a manner similar to Turner’s book.

Curious readers of any age can enjoy the information and budding astrophysicists in particular may be inspired. I look for this to win awards of some sort. This is Wittenstein’s first book and it’s a winner.

Activity 1

Look up more information about the 55 Cancri family of planets and on the requirements of life. Explain why the location of the planet in the habitable zone might be able to support life. Use pages 26, 27, and 34 to guide your search.

Information and animation link

more information

video rendering

Geoff Marcy’s home page has more information

videos of Dr. Marcy and his explanations

Check out Roberta’s blog and her fantastic ideas for science activities.

Read an interview with Vicki at Through the Tollbooth

For younger readers, try Kids Can Press’ Out of This World by Jacob Berkowitz.

National Science Standard: Earth in the solar system

Book donated by author.

Nonfiction Monday Round-Up and My End of Year Books

December 21, 2009


When I took December off, I forgot about my time for Nonfiction Monday. So I’m back! Welcome to SimplyScience. Put your information and link in the comments and I’ll update them throughout the day.   

From Abby (the) Librarian, The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson.

Robin at The Book Nosher has a new National Geographic book: live, laugh, celebrate.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil has Dragonflies of North America by Kathy Biggs

In Need of Chocolate has Paleo Sharks

Wild About Nature reviews About Penguins: A Guide for Children

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian reviews Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco

Amanda at A Patchwork of Books has reviewed lots of picture book biographies 

Wendie’s Wanderings looked outside her window and decided that 20 inches of snow was the order of the day and so is offering Snowflake Bentley

Lost Between the Pages has Emily Post’s Table Manners for Kids

Check It Out has Redwoods by Jason Chin

Bookends Blog has a fabulous pair of poetry/animal camouflage books: Where in the Wild and Where Else in the Wild


Frosty Treeless Land

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Jeff Yesh

Picture Window Books, 2009

This fact filled book explained tundras in detail with excellent, reader-friendly text and supplied additional, fun information in sidebar Fun Facts. One in the series of Amazing Science—Ecosystems, it’s fun to read. Carefully labeled illustrations highlight the digital art. Tundra facts appear in the back matter. It includes a glossary, index, and further reading section.


Create a food chain for the tundra.

National Science Standard: organisms and environments

Book sent by publisher

Box Jellyfish

Killer Tentacles

By Natalie Lunis

Bearport Publishing, 2010

The deadly difference between box jellyfish and regular jellyfish are detailed in this book. The book begins with a girl being stung and explains the treatment, then goes on to discuss these tropical invertebrates. One in the series Afraid of the Water, this book contains fascinating photos and one of the stings is sure to be remembered. It includes a glossary, index, and further reading section.


Create a chart comparing the differences in box jellyfish and regular jellyfish. Don’t forget to include habitat, eyes, swimming, tentacle placement, and lots of other differences.

National Science standard: organims and environment

Book donated by publisher

Let’s Look at Snails

By Laura Hamilton Waxman

Lerner Publications, 2010

Lightning Bolt Books

Bold, bright photos mix with big text to describe snails and how they live. Labels point out specific facts and the book has additional fun facts and a snail diagram in the back matter. It includes a glossary, index, and further reading section.


Look up snails to find out all of the places snails live. Make a chart to show these habitats.

 National Science standard: organisms and their environment, life cycle

Book donated by publisher

Out of This World

The Amazing Search for an Alien Earth

By Jacob Berkowitz

Kids Can Press, 2009

This text dense book about the hunt to find an alien Earth that supports life as we know it begins as fiction, but is filled with facts. Sidebars provide additional information. It will appeal to the budding astronomer who can distinguish fact from fiction. Some of the ideas provide food for thought and this could be a fun book for the right reader.


Find out more about exoplanets.

National Science standard: objects in the sky

Book donated by publisher

Many thanks to the publishers who contributed their books. The blog has been a pleasure and I’ll be able to include my two new science books in the blog in the coming year!

Out of this World

July 29, 2009


G is for Galaxy

An Out of This World Alphabet

By Janis Cambell and Cathy Collison

Illustrated by Alan Stacy

Sleeping Bear Press, 2005

ISBN #158536-255-7

NF picture book

“Y is for Year—the time it takes to go’round the sun. For every planet, the measure is a different one.”

G is for Galaxy is an outer space themed alphabet book in the Sleeping Bear Press series. A simple rhyme sets up the letter for the younger readers and a fact-filled sidebar provides additional information for the older ones. A variety of choices for the letters’ spreads covers the footprints on the moon to the variety of galaxies to the changes in Pluto’s status. Accurate, detailed illustrations add to the book’s overall appealing design and allows the reader feel the excitement and awe of space through the art.

The first edition named Pluto as the last planet, the recognized status at the time. Now in its third edition, the changes in status are addressed. I contacted Stacy for the latest update and he sent me the changed version (I have the first edition).

“P is for Pluto — a dwarf planet so small that some people say it’s just like a tiny ice ball.

Until 2006 Pluto was classified as the ninth planet in our solar system. The International Astronomical Union, a worldwide group of astronomers, voted to reclassify Pluto from a planet to a new class, called dwarf planet. Among the main reasons Pluto does not qualify as a true planet anymore is because its orbit crosses the orbital path of Neptune. Originally, scientists thought it was a much larger planet. Most scientists agree with the new classification, and say it will lead to more exploration of the edge of the solar system where Pluto lies. This is an area called the Kuiper Belt. Look for more space news of other dwarf planets in the future.”

Stacy added in his reply: There are plenty of other objects out there, among them five dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Makemake, Haumea (which also has moons!) and Eris. They’re not sure now if Charon is Pluto’s moon or is yet another dwarf planet that may actually be larger than Pluto. David Boston told me that the British astronomer who came up with the notion of demoting Pluto gets hate mail on a regular basis from schoolchildren!

Activity 1

Choose a subject from your current science study and have your students create their own science alphabet book. Add illustrations to complete the text.

Activity 2

Research other trans-Neptunian objects to learn more.

Look at these fascinating trans-Neptunian objects photos.

Visit Alan Stacy for more.

Another excellent space book: Moonshot by Brian Floca

I first saw this book at the Killeen Book Festival–Take 190 West—last spring and knew it was a winner! I enjoyed meeting Brian Floca and he’s a great guy, as well as talented.

Other books illustrated by Alan Stacy:

Alaskan Night Before Christmas by Tricia Brown

Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet by Chet Williamson

 Texas Zeke and the Longhorn by David Davis

 L is for Lone Star by Carol Crane





Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Hardcover)) by Brian Floca


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