A clear night sky offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects to see — stars, constellations, bright planets, the moon’s various phases, and sometimes special events like a meteor shower. There are few things more spectacular than viewing the night sky on a clear evening, away from the city lights. While summer is the perfect time to go stargazing, if you can brave the cold, the sky is at its best on crisp, clear winter nights when there’s no humidity in the air. Not all the books in this post are about stars and the sky but are set with the night sky in the background.
The boy whose head was filled with stars, written by Isabelle Marinov, and illustrated by Deborah Marcero is the story of the life of Edwin Hubble, who as a boy was fascinated by the stars and overcame many obstacles to follow his dream of becoming an astronomer. Using the insights of great mathematicians and endlessly observing the sky, asking questions: How many stars are in the sky? How did the universe begin? Where did it come from? All his questions led to two remarkable discoveries – that there are more galaxies than our own, and that the universe is always expanding. Hubble’s message to all is to find peace in the vastness of the mystery surrounding us and to continue being curious. “We do not know why we are born into the world,” he said, “but we can try to find out what sort of world it is.” This visually striking biography of astronomer Edwin Hubble is genuinely inspiring for ages 7-12.
Anita Ganeri, award-winning author of non-fiction children’s books has published yet another remarkable book Through the Night Sky in 2020. There’s so much to this book, which can be enjoyed by children of all ages, some for just the pictures, and for older ones, the content. It is a beautifully illustrated collection of nonfiction stories featuring the many wonders that exist in the night sky from dusk to dawn. Tracking a colony of bats as they fly through the twilight to pollinate the flowers of the mysterious baobab tree, following a family into the wilderness to gaze at the constellations, watch whales swimming through chilly Arctic waters under the gentle glow of the Northern Lights, then chart the journey of a ship navigating by the stars. From fireflies and barn owls to eclipses and the moon phases – so much to learn – told in a short, condensed format that raises inquiries in a child’s mind. The illustrations come alive on the pages, transporting you to each place. Even the contents page has so much to offer in regards to illustrations – illustrations of various night scenes all made into one lovely panorama of the night sky. Celebrations of the “New Year,” how it is celebrated in various places around the world, the difference in time zones depending on where you are in the world are dealt with.
How the stars came to be written and illustrated by Poonam Mistry is considered to be a contemporary folktale! The daughter of a fisherman worries about her father when he is out in his boat at night but knows that the moon is there to light his way. But when the moon disappears for a few nights each month, she worries that her father would not find his way home from the sea in the deep darkness. The sun finds her sobbing one night, and taking pity on her he takes one of his rays and shatters it onto the ground, creating the stars and giving the girl the task of putting them into the dark night sky, so that her father will have light to come home safely. How stars came to be in the sky gives us a new folk tale and an imaginative way to look up at the night sky. With stunning collage illustrations using gold, copper, and silver bases on dark background Poonam Mistry has created magical illustrations, beautifully combining colour, shape, and pattern. A beautiful book, highly recommended for young children. Published 2020, ISBN-13: 978-1-84976-663-0
Vincent can’t sleep . . .
out, out, out he runs!
flying through the garden–marigold, geranium, blackberry, raspberry–
past the church with its tall steeple, down rolling hills and sandy paths meant for sheep,
He dives at last into the velvety, violet heath, snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky,
and looks up, up, up . . . to visit with the stars.
Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky is a children’s picture book (biography) written by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré. It centers on Vincent van Gogh’s lifelong insomnia which leads him to his masterwork The Starry Night. In this biography of the artist, children receive the essential facts related to Vincent Van Gogh, including his time in the hospital which is done without morbid detail. Rosenstock has used the phrase, Vincent can’t sleep throughout the text when she is about to write about a new detail of Vincent’s life. The text provides a real sense of the artist and his restless spirit, and the splendid, very appropriate art by Mary GrandPré makes this biography more appealing. Published in 2017 (ISBN13: 9781101937105)
* “The book offers diverse potential for different types of study, whether one is reading for information or for pleasure. Outstanding.” –School Library Journal, starred
Ada and the galaxies, published by the MIT Press in 2022, is the first children’s book by renowned physicist and best-selling author Alan Lightman in collaboration with Olga Pastuchiv and illustrated brilliantly and magically by Susanna Chapman. Ada, from New York is in Maine visiting her grandparents. She is eagerly waiting to see the stars which she cannot see at home and Ada’s grandfather, Poobah, says “it’ll be dark enough to see the stars”. But the weather says otherwise. Poobah teaches her about galaxies by showing her real pictures in books. They go over a book whose photos offer images of galaxies—“a lot of stars swarming around one another like bees”—from the Hubble telescope. Layering photographs taken from the Hubble telescope into charming and expressive art, illustrator Susanna Chapman zooms in on one child’s experiences and creates night skies that glitter and seawater that sparkles, and a final page in which brilliant stars reflect in the lenses of Ada’s and her grandfather’s glasses. An absolutely informative and stunning book for ages 4-10.
Tales of the Night Sky: Revealing the Mythologies and Folklore behind the Constellations by Robin Kerrod, (London: Quarto Pub., 2020), is a fun mix of science and folklore that shines fresh light on the mythological meaning and cultural significance of constellations. The author offers a modern approach to stargazing that reflects a growing interest in popular and accessible science through mindfulness. The stars and planets have been a constant source of fascination since the earliest times, and different cultures have tried to explain the existence of these heavenly bodies with a host of myths and legends. This book explains the folklore behind the names and shows how to locate the constellations in the night sky. Through a mix of both scientific fact and meditative insight, discover how the mysteries of the twinkly skies can connect us all more deeply to our inner selves.
An absolutely sweet story about a family walking through the night in order to see a beautiful sunrise. Two children awakened in the middle of the night by their parents are taken on an evening hike into the countryside. It describes all the things they see in the dark. Through the village, past the fields of sleeping cows, and into the woodland, they walk slowly, enjoying the peaceful night and the light of the stars above them. “We left the road, and the path/ climbed gently out of the valley./ A train sliced through the darkness,” A simple, quiet book with detailed illustrations would inspire older preschoolers and early elementary-aged children to go on a similar adventure to experience a memorable encounter with the natural world. Originally written in French by Marie Dorléans, the book has been translated by Polly Lawson into English in 2020
What stars are made of by Sarah Allen is a touching story of one girl’s love for her family. 12-year-old Libby Monroe absolutely loves her big sister Nonny who is pregnant. As much as she is thrilled she is also anxious as Nonny and her husband have money worries, plus the pregnancy isn’t going smoothly. Libby is determined that everything should be perfect for them. Born with a rare condition (Turner Syndrome), she wants no such challenges for this baby. So she makes a deal with the universe to safeguard her family’s happiness, in return for her entering a major STEM competition. If she’s successful, the stars will align to ensure the baby is born safely and the cash prize will offer financial security. Science whiz Libby Monroe shines when she selects Cecilia Payne, an astronomer who first determined “what stars are made of” the composition of stars, for an American History profile of someone excluded from the textbook. Supporting her on her journey is an equally kindly cast including her devoted sister, witty uncle, quietly proud parents, supporting teacher, and fascinating new friend at school. Sarah Allen, who herself has Turner’s syndrome, addresses this condition in her debut novel, including bullying and premature babies. A touching and inspiring story that will appeal to ages 9-14.