Review by Vanessa Solomon
Children love to learn from their surroundings, but how can they learn about places they can’t go? These two new Journey Through books are designed to give six to eight year old readers a chance to explore the body, or the solar system, two settings that children of this age are often excited to find out more about.
The text is written in a style that is engaging for readers developing their independence, clearly explaining plenty of memorable facts without being encyclopaedic. For example,
More than 25 spacecraft have journeyed to Mars, and seven have landed on the surface. Most of these landers looked for signs of life. They have not found any – yet.
For a child and adult reading these books together, there are many opportunities to start discussions: what would you pack for a 12 month return trip to Mars? What is the point of brushing your teeth?
My seven and nine year olds happily read both books and reported that they were interesting and had “new information” – not just the same as other books they have read about the body or space. The short length and ‘chapters’ (two page sections) mean the books can be completed in a single session, or the reader can dip in and out.
The bright and appealing illustrations support the text rather than being particularly informative. My one complaint about A Journey Through: Space was its failure to include any women in its illustrations. Astronomers, astronauts, stargazing adults and kids – not a woman or girl among them. Even a future, putative mission to Mars would be entirely man-powered, if you believe the illustrations. Such an oversight is surprising in an era when diversity is typically well represented in educational books.
This oversight being noted, these books would be great for curious children in early primary school (ages 5-8), particularly those developing their reading skills.
Vanessa Solomon PhD is a science communicator working at a medical research institute in Melbourne, Australia.