This is the next in an ongoing series of topic related posts which are aimed at helping educators and/or parents to find books which are suitable accompaniments to their topic based projects in school.
I tend to steer away from recommending non-fiction works, as these are much easier for you to search on using Amazon or other book sites, given that the majority of non fiction topic books will have key words in the title. It’s not so easy with works of fiction.
I will indicate where I have read the book in question. If I do not mention it, I have not read it, and I would advise you to read all the books in question before you give them to children just to double check they are fit for purpose.
If you have any recommendations I have missed, please feel free to drop them in the comments box below the post.
The recommendations below are, in the main for Key Stage One children or younger. I have indicated where I think a book might work for a higher age group.
Toys in Space by Mini Grey – A children’s picture book, suitable for Key Stage One children, earl years and pre school children about a group of toys who get left outside in the dark overnight. It is the first time they have been out in the dark and they are scared. One of the dolls tells them a story to keep them occupied until morning. This is a great book with a lot of humour both for the children and adults who read it to them.
Voyage to the Bunny Planet by Rosemary Wells – These are classic picture books in America, but not so well known here in the UK. They seem to be rather more to do with taking time out to be a child and let your imagination take over, rather than about space exploration, but I shall stick them in here anyway.
Here in Space by David Milgrim – A rather twee picture book aimed really at the pre school market. Possibly useful in early years but no higher up the school. Cutesy animals and a small boy prance around in space in a lovely way.
Space Boy by Leo Landry – A story about Nicolas, who cannot get any peace at home, so he just pops into his rocket and goes to the moon to get some quiet time. This is beautifully illustrated, and really good at telling a story from a child’s point of view. Children will empathise, parents will be gently amused.
Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort – This is a hugely popular picture book about aliens who cannot get enough of wearing pants. The aliens are absolutely adorable, and it’s great fun trying to spot as many as possible on every page, as they crop up in the most unlikely places. The rhyming story is very silly but hugely effective and kids love this book. It is perfect for early years, pre school and Key Stage 1 children.
Aliens in Underpants Save the World by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort – This is the sequel to the highly successful Aliens Love Underpants and is pretty much exactly the same as its predecessor. Can one get enough of pictures of cute, tubby aliens wearing elasticated y fronts? Apparently not.
Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly – written by a real astronaut, Mark Kelly, this story is inspired by the journey he took into space with a cage full of mice who were to be used for scientific experiments. Don’t worry, the story is nice and the illustrations are gorgeous, and there is no vivisection involved.
Space Race by Malorie Blackman – A Corgi Pups published story by our current Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman. Corgi Pups is an imprint created specifically for newly confident children’s readers. This would be fine in KS1 upper stage, or in Early years as a story read by the teacher. It might make a good guided reading book for higher in the school. It tells the simple story of Lizzie and Jake who race each other to Pluto and back.
How to Catch A Star by Oliver Jeffers – A beautifully drawn and whimsical picture book about a boy who loves the stars so much he tries to catch and keep them. Oliver Jeffer’s books always seem so slight and simple, but they are actually rather emotionally deep, and children seem drawn to and respond to the simplicity of them, giving you a way in to talk about quite complex topics with them. Highly recommended. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers – A gorgeous picture book by the author of Lost and Found and How To Catch A Star. A boy discovers a plane in his cupboard one night when he should be in bed asleep. He goes on a magical journey to the moon, where he meets a friend in the shape of a martian who has crash landed his plane on the moon. The boy wants to help him, and flies home to get his tool kit. Will he get back in time to help his new friend? Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram – A fabulously entertaining picture book about a man called Bob. Bob’s job is to go to the moon every day, welcome day trippers, keep it clean and tidy and then come home. Bob does not believe in aliens, and one of the joys of the book is toggling between Bob’s hum drum job and the wonderful collection of aliens that crop up on every page and which Bob simply cannot see. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
Bob’s Best Friend by Simon Bartram – A Sequel to Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram, in which Bob is lonely and finds himself a dog to keep him company, except that the dog is not exactly as he seems. Another funny, well written book which will keep adults and children hugely entertained. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
Bob and the Moon Tree by Simon Bartram – Further adventures of Bob in picture book form. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
Bob and The Disappearing Moon – The Adventures of Bob and Barry by Simon Bartram – These are short, chapter led books by Simon Bartram, author of the picture books Man on the Moon, etc, about Bob and his adventures on the moon. These make a perfect bridging book between picture books and fully fledged novels. These would be suitable for children aged 7-9, particularly newly confident child readers, or as guided reading material in class.
Alien Tea on the Planet Zum Zee by Tony Mitton – Tony Mitton has a bright, colourful illustrative style (much like the Aliens Love Underpants books), and delights in rhyming and word play in his simple, picture book stories. Wonderful to read aloud. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
Laura’s Star by Klaus Baumgart – A gentle picture book story about Laura who finds a broken star on the pavement. She takes it home to mend it, and makes a friend for life. There are a whole series of books about Laura and her adventures with the magic star, as well as a film. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.
There’s No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe – This is part of the Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat learning library. Not as much fun, in my opinion as the original books, but if you like Seussisms, it can be a good way to introduce children to finding out about space. Suitable for KS1 and Early Years.
Coyote and the Sky: How the Sun, Moon and Stars Began by Emmett ‘Schkeme’ Garcia – This is a modern retelling of a classic native American Indian creation myth. The illustrations add to the richly magical quality of the tale and it is an interesting way to bring mythology and creation stories into a space theme. This story is suitable for all ages, but the concepts may make it more suitable for older children at the top end of KS1 or even into KS2 depending on how you were going to use the story in school.
Letters from an Alien School Boy by Ros Asquith – Flowkwee is an alien boy who has been sent on a mission to help his father. He has to disguise himself as a human school boy and infiltrate the planet earth. The book consists of the letters he sends home to his best friend, explaining all the bizarre things humans do. This is the first in a fairly prolific series, all of which are available on Amazon. There are a few black and white pictures in the books, but they are mainly text based. As such they are really suitable for upper KS1 and KS2. Reviews recommend it for children aged six and up. There are quite a few reviews from children saying how funny they found it. It might work well as a guided reading book.
The Planet Gods by Jacqueline Mitton – A gloriously illustrated picture book which takes each of the major planets in turn and explains the mythological stories behind their naming and creation. It also contains lots of facts about the planets and solar system. My younger children found this book too challenging. They loved the pictures, but were bored by the text. As such I would say it is suitable for upper KS1 and KS2 in school.
Zoo in the Sky by Jacqueline Mitton – As above, a beautifully illustrated picture book which tells the stories of the animal shaped constellations, alongside facts about the stars we see in the sky today.
Once Upon a Starry Night by Jacqueline Mitton – As above, a gorgeous picture book which has a mix of mythological stories about the heavens, and facts as we understand them today.
Dr. Xargles Book of Earthlets by Jeanne Willis – this is a wonderfully funny picture book with classic illustrations by Tony Ross. This is the first in what has turned out to be a whole series of Dr. Xargle books. The premise is simple. Dr. Xargle is an alien teacher, training his alien students on what to expect when they eventually go to earth. It is funny because Dr. Xargle’s way of seeing earth and our own understanding of how we are as humans are so far apart that it leaves plenty of opportunities for belly laughs throughout. I would recommend this to top level KS1 children if you are using it in school, as younger children often don’t get the joke.
Whatever Next? by Jill Murphy – This is a classic children’s picture book in which little bear is left to play by himself with a large cardboard box, a colander and a heap of imagination. He finds himself whooshing up the chimney into the stars, and picnicking on the moon before he comes back down to earth, considerably sootier than when he took off. Suitable for KS1, early years and pre school children.