Guide to the Galaxy
Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd
I had high hopes when I chose to review the Dorling Kindersley Space Encyclopedia, and I was not disappointed. It contains beautiful photos, has an excellent layout and the wonderful facts we have all come to expect from DK.
The content about space is good, from sections on the solar system, to speculation as to whether aliens exist, and how to become a stargazer.
Packed full of fantastic high-quality photographs, each page jumps out at you. Under the heading Become An Expert, children are directed towards other sections in the book giving more information about the page they have been looking at. There is also Wired But True: amazing facts that children will love absorbing and retelling to their friends.
This space book goes beyond the normal pages on the solar system and the moon that too often teachers are forced to show their class.
I was amazed at the amount of facts crammed into this 127-page book. It is perfect for any key stage 2 child researching space.
I also thought it would be great for teachers needing to brush up on their own space knowledge. All in all, a valuable educational resource that I would recommend, not only to teachers, but also to children and the school library. Well worth buying for anyone's bookshelf.
50 Years in Space: What we thought then, what we know now
David A Hardy, Patrick Moore
Artists' and Photographers' Press Ltd
As an educational resource, the value of this book is questionable as it seems to be aimed at reading ages of between 13 and 16.
So it's more a book for the gifted and talented, or ASA2 level students.
The majority of it, however, is given over to the various bodies in the solar system, which is more relevant to KS3 than KS4, although the latter now seems to contain more about the minor bodies than it used to.
The artwork is brilliant and some of the ideas are imaginative and inspirational. It is the sort of book that I can see many pupils from top sets enjoying reading, and in a few cases I'm sure that it could influence choices for post-16 education.
I can also see it being used by the art and ICT departments with reference to the images contained in it.
As a book for the literate adult reader, it's good coffee table material. Scientifically, it is interesting and has the depth to keep an astrophysicist reading (depending on their age, they will either give a wry smile, or a chuckle of superiority), as well as having the breadth to engage anyone with an interest in general science.
You can sample some parts of the book at: www.infinityplus.co.uknonfictionfutures50years.htm.
Ian Collier is a former physics teacher
Science Essentials Physics: The Solar System and Beyond
This visually superior 46-page book would be useful for KS3 (early secondary age) introduction and consolidation, and for foundation level KS4. It would also work as an interesting reference reader for KS2 (upper primary).
It will appeal to pupils keen to read around the subject of space and astronomy, and it would be useful as an accessible, yet complete, revision guide for KS4.
The chapters cover planet Earth (inside and out, clearly explaining days and seasons as well as earthquakes), gravity, moons and satellites (including tides, our moon's phases, shooting stars and comets), the Sun, and the solar system (with Pluto as a planet). It includes a chapter on how we observe the universe, and some theories on formation - plus a little about aliens.
Would I purchase this book? Yes, if I had a small science reference library, or was a primary or secondary librarian (one or two copies); probably not if I were looking for a whole-class textbook, or if I were a home educator.
What would I suggest to improve the book? It is a complete stand-alone text, and does that job well. However, the exercises and further references are sparse and seem to have been added as an afterthought: the book doesn't encourage the pupil to go off and delve further into the subject.
The photographs are excellent, but mostly from Nasa (and, I suspect, available on the internet).
Three stars for general use; four stars for purchasing for the school library or for a library.
Dom Knowles teaches science and maths at Briteschool, the online school. His location is everywhere there is internet access.