“Mom, I want to be an astronaut just like you!”. Such a line could be a great lead-in to an emotional and technical discussion. For parents and educators less experienced, it could present a real dilemma. Space travel and rocket science have been the fiefdom of nerds and calculator fiends. However, Lonnie Jones Schorer in her book ‘Kids to Space – A Space Traveler’s Guide’ removes the concern. After all, children do ask the darndest questions. But no matter what, they should always get the best possible answer.
The idea of the ‘Kids to Space’ book is great. This is to include children in humanity’s progress off planet. After all, it will be our children who have the honour and distinction of setting steps on other planets. However, to include children, the challenges and rewards must be shown to them at the level of understanding and comprehension. By involving children earlier on, there’s a much greater likelihood of them contributing at a later date. But involving them when they are young means having them ask questions, lots of them. It also means having appropriate answers. This is the idea of the book, to capture the children’s questions and provide responses suitable to them.
Smith’s approach to putting this idea on paper is simple yet effective. She sent forth a call for children to ask space related questions. Next she collated these into themes. Last, she sets the themes into chapters. In each chapter, the question is readily apparent as each is distinguished by a bold face font. The answer appears immediately after. The questions are from children, simple, carefree, yet heartfelt. Examples are, “Is it possible to take a bath in zero-gravity?” or “Can we have toys in space?”. Presumably there might have been some slight editing to ensure spelling and the basics of grammar, but the questions look like they came fresh out of a child’s mouth. Because of this, children will have no problem in identifying with them. As well, the themes will help parents and teachers find sections appropriate to the child’s interest or the curriculum being taught. Thus, this book makes for a great resource.
Though some of the questions may seem obvious to most adults, Smith has still gone to the experts to get their input. This comes in handy when answering questions such as “Is hyperspace possible?”. No answers are frivolous nor presumptive. Often they begin with a yes or no, which of course, a child expects and needs. Where the questions are one line, the answers are equally short, being no more than about 3 short paragraphs, but often shorter. As well, with the experts’ names assigned to the chapters and a short reference section at the chapter’s tail end, there are clues to getting more information.
The book’s themes start from an original perspective. Planning to go to space leads into space hotels, fish and insects, and spaceports. Visiting and living in space includes fuel, airlocks, and the perspective of time. Visiting and living in space bring the more routine but still fascinating topics like odours, births and sovereignty. After these, the later portion of the book covers standard astronomy fair in standard order. These themes include the solar system, asteroids, black holes and robots. With this, there is much to assist in the delivery of space-related primary school course curriculum. Actually, given the question/answer format with the themes aimed to the curious youth, this book would make for a great teacher’s aid.
Also, a CD is attached to the back of the book. On it is a slide show of children’s drawing. A musical accompaniment fills the air as one great artwork follows another. The artists’ ages span a range of 6 to 16. Because of this, there’s a good chance that children who watch the show will identify with the subject and realize that their own space images are appropriate and relevant.
I expect that few and far between are the septuagenarians who will travel into space. It will be our children who enjoy this thrill. But children need confidence that space can be in their future and that their ideas are realistic. Lonnie Jones Schorer in her book Kids to Space – A Space Traveler’s Guide provides an excellent resource to establish or inflame a young one’s confidence and get them working on making today’s space dreams into tomorrow’s reality.
Review by Mark Mortimer