J has long had a fascination with astronomy and studying planets. This year, it turns out that they are also studying planets a ton in school. So when I was offered a copy of Buzz Aldrin’s new book from National Geographic Kids called Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, I jumped at the chance to add it to our library. Then I was at the library yesterday and found the book You are the First Kid on Mars, by Patrick O’Brien. It is amazing that they are really taking it to the next level with these books and allowing people to truly consider what life would be like on another planet.
In Welcome to Mars, Buzz Aldrin challenges curious kids — who he refers to as “Generation Mars” — to think about the faraway red planet as a possible future home for humans (National Geographic Children’s Books, September 2015, ages 8-12). What will your new home look like? How will you get there? What will you eat for breakfast? Buzz is passionate about making traveling to and living on Mars a reality and encourages young scientists, engineers and astronauts to not just reach for the stars, but to join him on this journey to build a permanent home on Mars.
Aldrin manages to write the book in a way that is really accessible to young scientists. With bright graphics, hands-on science experiments, handy timelines and content that showcases the history of inter-planet travel as well as the future, this book is a must for kids who want to know more.
The first half of the book focuses on the history of space travel and knowledge. Aldrin of course has a large amount of experience with space travel, and he talks about what it is like to travel in space and the costs involved. Young scientists learn the history about how people have studied space over the years and how they managed to make maps of distant planets. Aldrin explains who major players were in Mars discoveries and how the various forms of exploration have happened.
The second half of the book becomes the “what it” portion. Aldrin discuss how long it would take to travel there, the difficulties of landing and the challenges to going back to Earth. Throughout this section, kids are also presented with the real life issues of what life on Mars entails, such as the need for space suits, but also talks about how to turn some of the challenges into benefits – like turning sunlight into electricity.
J has really enjoyed reading this book and brought it in to school when they were working on planets.
In Patrick O’Brien’s book, You are the First Kid on Mars, he takes a lot of the same information and puts it into a different package. While Aldrin’s book is a great resource for older kids who are able to read through a lot of details, O’Brien’s book shortens the information down to a really cool picture book.
In First Kid on Mars, you get to imagine yourself actually flying to Mars from a space station. It takes a really long time to get there, so the ship has rooms with everything you need and it spins to make it feel like you have gravity. Once you’ve landed, the book takes you through a wide variety of aspects of what life on Mars would be like and what kind of scientists would be doing work there. A big job is searching for Martian life, but not the little green men kind, more the kind of microscopic life that would require a microscope to see.
The book also touches on a number of aspects of the history of getting to Mars. For example, in the picture below, the Mars explorers find the remains of the Pathfinder named Soujourner Truth that landed on Mars in July 1997 and communicated information back to Earth until September 1997 when the batteries failed.
In beautiful pictures, that are often a rusty tint due to the dust you would find on Mars, you can imagine what life would be like. From the whirlwinds to greenhouses and the robots that help do a variety of jobs on the planet.
Both of these books are an excellent way to get kids excited by the notion of space travel and exploration. There are also a number of really wonderful quotes about science and imagination that encourage kids to use their imaginations and make the discoveries of the future.
This post is part of my contribution to the Kid Lit Frenzy Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge. We’ve really been getting into non-fiction books and I love challenging myself to write about them more frequently. Check out the link for some other truly amazing non-fiction picture books.