Beyond The Sky You and the Universe
Dara Ó Briain Scholastic £12.99 HB
“So you want to go into space?” asks the first page of this very readable book by Dara Ó Briain, a name familiar to viewers of Stargazing Live. The response – “What? Are You Mad? Why?” – explains in no uncertain terms why this would, in general, be a very bad idea, in a rather humorous and at times hilarious style that runs right through the book.
The humour is matched graphically by striking changes in font that also stretch from cover to cover – a visual style that is well aimed at this book’s target age group of junior schoolchildren. For the ‘traditionalists’, rest assured that the readability doesn’t actually suffer, and the emphasis definitely adds something.
Ó Briain writes in a comedic tone, like he speaks, and I found myself reading with the lilt of his Irish accent. The analogies and jokes are just right for the target age group, and the cartoons and diagrams are clear and nicely drawn.
After explaining why human spaceflight is so tricky, the book discusses all the other ways in which we can explore space with telescopes and robotic spacecraft. There are a couple of pages in the middle about how to become an astronaut (involving wolves and whistles from aeroplane life jackets). Despite the fact that such books take a while to write, it’s bang up to date, including the prediction of Planet Nine, the discovery of TRAPPIST-1 and the recent demise of Cassini. There’s a fun and exciting adventure through the history of astronomy, the Solar System, black holes, and the local (and not so local) Universe. The book even covers the beginning and end of the Universe in a fairly straightforward (though still amusing) way, and does so without detracting from the scientific accuracy, as I would expect from someone with a physics degree. This book will appeal hugely to younger readers, and finishes with what feels like a heartfelt plea for more astronauts, rocket scientists, stargazers, engineers, roboticists and astronomers – all nicely included in the catch-all category of “explorers”.
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Don’t let the illustrations fool you; this kids’ book offers serious science