Are We Alone in the Universe? A Picture-Book Explanation of the Search for Exoplanets

Lynn: Is there other life in the universe? People have been looking up at the night sky and asking this question for thousands of years. Today, scientists are actively engaged in finding answers to this intriguing puzzle and making exciting discoveries at an extraordinary pace. Curtis Manley explores this fascinating subject in Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet (2019), a new picture book for curious youngsters who may also be wondering if anyone out there is looking back.

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet by Curtis ManleyIn clear, easy-to-understand language, the book introduces the concept of exoplanets and explains the surprising number of factors necessary for life as we know it to exist. Such requirements include a “habitable zone” with a temperature conducive to liquid water, a size allowing a molten core that creates a magnetic field, and a thick layer of atmosphere. Dubbed a “Goldilocks” planet by scientists, such a planet would need all these things to be “just right” for supporting life. The book also does an admirable job of reviewing some of the newest developments in technology and astronomy and a few of the most recent discoveries.

The outstanding clarity of the writing is admirably assisted by Jessica Lanan’s luminous illustrations. These paintings do a brilliant job of extending and expanding the text, as not only do the pictures provide helpful depictions of the various concepts, telescopes, and new technologies under discussion, they also provide a wordless concurrent story chronicling a young girl’s trip to a planetarium with her family. Alternating the use of large two-page spreads with interestingly placed panels and touches of humor, this is an enticing visual treat.

Add in a short history of exoplanet theory and searches, plus well-placed questions to spark thought and discussion, and you have one terrific nonfiction book that is perfectly pitched for young readers AND older ones eager to learn about this question for the (ahem) ages.


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.

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