Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Beyond the Solar System Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More; A History with 21 Activities by Mary Kay Carson


Humans have gazed into the night sky for thousands of years and wondered, What are those twinkling lights? Though the sun, moon, and planets moved across the background of stars, the stars themselves appeared immovable, forever fixed in constellations. Only when astronomers began taking a closer look did anyone realize what a fascinating, ever-changing universe lies beyond our solar system—red giant and white dwarf stars, spiral galaxies, wispy nebulae, black holes, and much more.
            In Beyond the Solar System, author Mary Kay Carson traces the evolution of humankind’s astronomical knowledge, from the realization that we are not at the center of the universe to recent telescopic proof of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. In addition to its engaging history, this book contains 21 hands-on projects to further explore the subjects discussed. Readers will build a three-dimensional representation of the constellation Orion, model the warping of space-time caused by a black hole, see how the universe expands using an inflating balloon, and construct a reflecting telescope out of a makeup mirror and a magnifying glass. Beyond the Solar System also includes minibiographies of famous astronomers, a time line of major scientific discoveries, a suggested reading list, a glossary of technical terms, and a list of websites for further exploration.

I've always found space to be a fascinating topic, so I thought I would give this book a try.

In Beyond the Solar System, kids can learn about space and the history of space exploration. There are also activities they can try, such as locating the North Star using the Big Dipper as a reference point.

Since this book was listed as children's nonfiction, and there were activities for children to do, I expected the coverage and the language to be simple. I was surprised to see that it was actually very comprehensive. The language and the text-heaviness of the book might be more suited to older kids, such as middle schoolers and maybe even high school students.

That said, I thought that the book's topics were very interesting and it talked about a lot of things that those with only a casual knowledge of astronomy might not be aware of. Younger kids may get bored easily, though, unless they are very interested in astronomy.

Thanks to NetGalley and Chicago Review Press for the e-ARC. Publication date of Beyond the Solar System Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More; A History with 21 Activities is on June 1, 2013.


  1. It's comprehensive.
  2. The activities are fun and can mostly be done by kids on their own.
  3. The layout and pictures prevent the book from becoming monotonous.


  1. There's a lot of text to read through.

This deep curiosity was what made Einstein one of the greatest scientists of all time.

  1. Your child likes astronomy.
  2. You are an astronomy buff.
  3. You like trivia.




Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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