It’s getting chilly outside, which means more time spent indoors. In our house, that means reading more books. Yay, right?
Having kids home during winter break can be tough, especially when “boredom” hits and you can’t get them to even pick up a book. First Second’s Science Comics series is here to help save the day for bored or curious young readers, and quite possibly your sanity.
Solar System: Our Place in Space was our first book from the series. My 9-year-old, Orion, was drawn to it from the moment I picked it up from the post office. I let him look it over on the drive home, and by the time we got to the house, he was begging and pleading to have it. How do you say no to a child who’s begging to read?
A peek between the pages
Surprisingly, it only took him two days to get through it — because he absolutely could not put it down. Once I finally cracked it open myself, I understood his fascination; Solar System: Our Place in Space is damn beautiful.
Jon Chad’s illustrations are visually stunning. Not only are the planets and the cosmos in general represented beautifully, even objects like rovers and satellites appear with gorgeous detail and unexpected accuracy.
Chad’s wonderful artwork compliments Rosemary Mosco’s simple and oh-so-endearing storyline. The love of science and knowledge that both Chad and Mosco have is apparent in the amount of care they took in their work on this book.
Solar System begins with a young girl named Sara who is stuck at home in bed with a cold. Sara’s friend, Jill, pops in to help destroy the boredom by telling her a fun story about space.
The story allows us to enter an imaginary tale of travel from the Sun all the way to Neptune, and beyond. The imaginary spaceship is “manned” by their pets — a dog, a cat, a snake, and one paranoid little hamster — called the Space Pets.
The more enthusiastic Sara gets about space, the further out into the solar system they can travel, with a unique fuel called “enthusiplasma.” Every planet is explored and special attention is given to the special features of each.
Important historical figures like Galileo and Venetia Burney are mentioned, as well as valuable spacecraft like Cassini and the International Space Station. A captain’s report is provided for Sara after every “mission,” which provides an amazing planetary fact sheet containing information like the composition and size of each planet, and the origin of its name.
The character traits of the lazy cat or the terrified hamster make the Space Pet crew feel familiar and fun, and provide a comedic balance. This adorable way of presenting scientific information makes kids feel like they’re engaging, while almost forgetting that they’re learning.
The adult reader in me admittedly found the storyline super cheesy. That said, it was cheesy in the sweetest way, and I found myself still loving the Space Pets, despite the silliness of it all.
The comic book panel layout works well and is easy to follow, for the most part. It flows nicely, but there are times when the storyline feels underwhelming over too many panels. Occasionally it feels just the opposite, as if you’re being hit with a ton of knowledge bricks over the course of very few panels.
While it doesn’t ruin the experience of the book on the whole, it may sometimes require a re-read. My son didn’t mind at all, though. He loved Solar System: Our Place in Space so much that he asked for several of the other Science Comics books for Christmas.
The absolute best part of this book is that it takes massive ideas and turns them into something simple and understandable, even for a young reader. This book would probably do best for a child around the 4th grade.
The end is just the beginning
My favorite moment that came from this book involves the foreword by Phil Plait, astronomer and founder of Bad Astronomy. The foreword was whimsical and beautifully penned, but it was what my child took away from it that really made me pause. “It just made me feel good and welcome reading it,” Orion said, “as if I could find myself out there in the stars, not just here on our planet.” I was blown away by the way he was able to feel what Plait had written.
The detail and care taken in the creation of this book is what ultimately grabs the reader. There’s even a short afterword explaining that Sara and Jill were named after real life scientists Sara Seager, astrophysicist and planetary scientist, and Jill Tarter, astronomer and co-founder of SETI.
The addition of Pluto, comets, and things beyond our galaxy was a delight, as was the guide to meteor showers in the back. Anyone of any age can learn something from this book. Our whole family genuinely loved Solar System: Our Place in Space.
We can’t wait to look into the other Science Comics books. Orion is already asking to read it a second time and can’t wait until his little brother is able to read it, too. You can enjoy this book whether young or old, but any book that makes a child crave to read more is worth its weight in gold.