13 Planets by David A. Aguiler

71418837Lynn: Most of us grew up blissfully secure in our tidy 9-planet solar system.  Then, voila, Pluto was no longer a planet and suddenly the entire 523.2 section was obsolete.  Fortunately, David Aguilar, Director of Science Information at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is stepping up with 13 Planets:  The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic 2011).   An extensive revision of a previous title, this handsome book clearly explains the new classification of our sun’s orbiting bodies into 8 classic planets and 5 dwarf planets.  Aguilar discusses each of those bodies as well as comets, the asteroid belt and many of the planetary moons.  His lively text is filled with fascinating details that just beg to be shared.  For example, did you know that scientists think that Saturn, which has a 98 degree tilt to its axis, was hit by something really really big early in its history and knocked over on its side!  Stunning full-page computer art illustrations accompany each section as well as photographs taken from telescopes.  I especially like the spacious uncluttered page layout, which allows readers to focus easily on each element.

I read this during a car trip recently and ended up reading nearly the entire book aloud to my husband.  The focus group and I have been working our way through it since then and they have been fascinated.  They have managed the text easily especially as a glossary at the back helped with the technical vocabulary.  The boys can’t wait to build “the solar system in a grocery bag” a suggested activity, which demonstrates the solar system at accurate scale.  Guess what we’ll be doing at spring break?

Cindy: I’ve been confused since 2006 (some would say much longer than that), since Pluto was demoted. I was lucky to remember the order of the 9 planets without throwing four more in the mix. I’m an English major, remember. If I weren’t planning to be on a beach during spring break, I would come over and do the solar system in a grocery bag project with the focus group. The seven year olds could teach me a lot. I, too, read parts of this aloud to a car of adults on a car trip last weekend. We all learned a lot. The English major in me enjoyed the mythology corner on each page, telling where the planet got its name, and what its symbol represents. For instance, “Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and springtime. The symbol for her bright shining planet is the hand mirror. Friday is her day of the week.”

I am intrigued by Haumea (the 11th planet from the sun) that is shaped like an egg…called a “cosmic football” it tumbles “end over end like a football kicked for a field goal” Watch it tumble here. Books like this remind me of just how awesome scientists are, and as important, I appreciate that there are talented authors who can explain their work to folks like me…and to our youth. Can someone give me an acronym to use to memorize the new planet line-up though? I’d be over the moon if you could.

nonfiction_mondayFind more wonderful nonfiction books at Picture Book of the Day for Nonfiction Monday.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "13 Planets by David A. Aguiler"

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  1. Anyone like me, who has weeded out all the older inaccurate planet books, will welcome this new, up-to-date addition to the planets shelf!

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