Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System – at a glance
The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Vivid, fun & not dumbed down.
Children’s book title: Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System.
Children’s author: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
Genre: Children’s nonfiction.
Illustrated by: Chelen Écija.
Published by: Buster Books.
Recommended for children aged: 8-12.
First published: Hardback September 2019.
This children’s book is ideal for: children who like to pore over lots of details and know everything there is to know about the solar system. This book is a must-have for topics about space, and perfect for school and classroom libraries in KS2.
Presented by your personal spaceship tour guide – renowned BBC ‘Sky at Night’ space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock – this book spirits the junior reader on a journey from Earth, into orbit, to the moon, around the sun, before hurling them on a galactic gravity slingshot trip past Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune to the edges of our known solar system. Quite a ride for children aged 8-12!
This impressive and weighty hardback is beautifully printed and features high contrast, colourful and eye-catching illustrations and graphics throughout. Every double page spread is different and bound to catch the attention of even the most book averse.
The words speak to children. Each new sightseeing stop is punctuated by a tour guide, followed up with everything you could possibly want to look at out of the window. Each new concept is chunked into short paragraphs and fact boxes.
A lot of care has been taken with the language and conversational, yet scientifically precise, style. There are anecdotes about dumping pee and losing a goo spreader; but also important scientific nuggets about instant crystallisation upon freezing and the potential dangers of space debris.
But – in our view – the greatest selling point of this book is that nothing is dumbed down. Yes, the book is very accessible and engaging, but it also treats the reader like an inquisitive scientist. There’s ample scope to research the concepts in this book more deeply, and look up facts to find even more detail.
Using Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System in the classroom
This book is perfect for using as a text for KS2 Space topics – especially in years 4-6. It’s packed with subtle cross-curricular links, including travel, environmentalism, recycling, conservation, geography, physics, philosophy and maths.
It also lends itself to use as an impetus for artwork and classroom displays. The one paragraph fact boxes on pastel backgrounds could be effectively replicated on classroom walls with sugar paper and children’s work.
As a text for literacy, this book has a vast array of possibilities. In terms of nonfiction writing, it is crammed with stylistic, typographic and infographic features which are ideal for teaching and modeling informational writing.
The first person autobiographical space tour could be stimulating as a starting point for autobiographical writing or as a presentational device for writing travel reports, instructions or explanations. There’s also a series of biographies of astronomers, physicists and astronauts.
And if you don’t teach topics, then there’s scope to use this book as a comparison to other diaries and personal guides, for example, Titanic accounts, Antarctic diaries, wilderness recounts – and now you have a space expedition journal.
Finally, in the ‘Ship’s Database’, there’s a chronology, glossary, index, travel planner, and two maths-related pages on numbers in space and counting objects in the solar system. Great for a cross-curricular lift-off.
A cleverly presented and engaging personal tour of the solar system, Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour runs Saturn-sized rings around other children’s space books. As well as a history of space and current scientific knowledge, this book is always trying to make children think and look to the future. Unlike so many modern science books, this one won’t date quickly.
It’s ideal for primary school libraries and the ‘Ship’s database’ section is a goldmine for KS2 topic teachers. Many thanks to Buster Books for a review copy.
If you like this book you might also like The Planets (DK) by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Planetarium by Raman Prinja, The Lost Book of Adventure by Teddy Keen The Skies Above My Eyes by Charlotte Guillain and Once Upon A Raindrop by James Carter.
Why not have a look at our suggested reading lists for children aged 3-16?
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