Space – book reviews

Space – book reviews © Jason and Clare

Time to pick a book and drift gently off into space – whether it’s fiction, fantasy or fact, we’ve got something for everyone in this selection from children’s book expert, Anne Faundez.



Title: Alienography (PB)
Author: Chris Riddell
Publisher: Macmillan
Price: £14.99

Brilliantly creative, this wacky book on how to spot an alien is hard to beat for sheer exuberance in both text and pictures.

It starts with surreal descriptions of all sorts of fantastical intergalactic invaders – from the horticultural horrors known as Terrifids, who are terrified of cats’ pee, to the Flurrghs, who can turn peace-loving people into earmuffs. Along the way, we also learn about the goldfish-bowl emperors who force their subjects to tidy their bedrooms and the cosmopotami, who are obsessed with handing out parking offences. Yet, as the text makes clear, not all aliens are from evil empires: some are just plain good, bad or ugly. The book also offers emergency tips on escaping the invaders, enticing them towards a bistro so you don’t end up as a quick snack and who to call for professional help.

The text combines playful allusions to everyday culture with elaborate descriptions of the characters. It is perfectly matched by the weird and wonderful illustrations in which a cross-hatch style, attention to detail and brilliant colouring combine to create a host of boisterous, elongated figures with expressive facial features. The novelty elements – pull-out postcards, booklets and a card game – are further proof of the book’s inventiveness.

Bob and the Moontree Mystery

Bob and the Moontree Mystery

Title: Bob and the Moontree Mystery (HB)
Author: Simon Bartram
Publisher: Templar
Price: £12.99 each

Here’s the latest adventure involving the unflappable Moon expert, Bob, who always gets things so wrong. While tidying up the dark side of the Moon, Bob notices a strange beany-seedy thing jumping from crater to crater. Imagine his surprise when the beany-seedy thing turns into a gigantic tree that soon sprouts golden, pod-like berries. Instinctively, he knows he must do everything to protect this special tree, a task that becomes ever more urgent when the tourists arrive and then disaster – in the form of a moonquake – strikes. But Bob is puzzled. How did this strange pod-bearing tree come about – and why the moonquake? Is this all an unsolvable mystery, as he comes to believe? The boldly coloured pictures add zest and energy to every page while their detail provides clues as to just how flawed Bob’s assessment of events is. The comic storyline, alliterative text and endearing characters are sure to delight children of all ages.

Space, black holes and stuff

space black holes and stuff

Title: Space, black holes and stuff (PB)
Author: Glenn Murphy
Publisher: Macmillan in association with the Science Museum
Price: £5.99 each

There’s a mass of detailed yet accessible, sometimes humorous, information in this extensive 250-page book of continuous text. Divided into chapters, it takes a question and answer format, with questions asked by an imaginary inquisitive younger person. Each chapter begins with a large theme, which is then dissected through questions that clarify and follow on from the previous discussion. There are chapters on astronomy versus astrology, stars and planets, the solar system and space travel. Interspersed throughout the pages are black and white photos, diagrams, charts, fact boxes and even games including word searches, a Sudoku puzzle and a setting activity. The text is engrossing and conversational in style, with the many interrogative interruptions and interjections presented in slang and the simple speech patterns of a child.

One Small Step

one small step

Title: One Small Step (HB)
Author: Jerry Stone
Publisher: Templar
Price: £14.99 each

Presented through old photos and Moon-landing memorabilia, this book provides a fascinating account of the Apollo mission. It takes the form of a scrapbook put together by 12-year-old Mike from all the bits and pieces his grandpa collected when working at the Mission Control Center in Houston. From these scraps – newspaper clippings, official documents, coins, badges, pennants and even a menu – Mike assembles a complete record of events leading up to and beyond the first Moon landing in July 1969.

The scrapbook format works well and allows for numerous images per page, some of which are superimposed and removable, set at odd angles and tucked between other illustrative materials. Small booklets that open up into several pages of text, and gatefolds providing timelines, add further levels of interest. Yet for all the extra information, the book has an enticing uncluttered feel and the text, broken up into small chunks, is well written and engaging.

The Comic Strip History of Space

The Comic Strip History of Space

Title: The Comic Strip History of Space (PB)
Author: Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Price: £6.99 each

This hugely appealing small-format book is bursting with curious facts and humour, set out with amazing clarity. Ambitious in scope, it covers a range of topics, from the Big Bang theory and the formation of our solar system and planet Earth to the history of beliefs and space exploration. The lives and discoveries of scientific geniuses, among them Kepler, Galileo and Einstein, are also examined, as are plans for future developments in astronomy and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Each topic is set

out on a double-page spread through a series of frames that constantly vary in size and detail, so adding much to the liveliness of the pages. The cartoon-style illustrations are funny and informative, reinforced by the lucid text and witty speech bubbles.

More in this category: « Author interview – Peter Dixon

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