Let’s hear it for Science Kids! I’ve got a rhyming STEM/STEAM story that’s going to rock(et) storytimes!
Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket, by Sue Fleiss/Illustrated by Annabel Tempest,
(Feb. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542018036
Sadie Sprocket is a little girl with a big wish: she wants to go to Mars! She maps out the distance, puts together a crew of her most trustworthy stuffed toys, and gets to work building a rocket. They blast off from Earth and arrive at Mars, where they take pictures and gather samples, but when it’s time to head back to Earth, there’s a problem: can Sadie get herself and her friends back home? Lively rhyme and adorably bright and friendly, cartoony artwork make this an eye-catching readaloud. Sadie is a smart cookie who knows how to plan a mission and lay out the problem in order to solve it – just like our Kiddos learn at school. Facts about Mars and women in space make up the back matter, and make this a phenomenal choice for Women’s History Month in March, too. Pair with Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers series, Sol Regwan’s Geraldine series, and Ken Wilson Max’s Astro Girl. Consider adding some Mars picture books, like Brianna Caplan Sayres’s Night Night Curiosity, or Buzz Aldrin’s Welcome to Mars for Kids. Remind kids that nothing is out of reach by inviting them to create coffee filter planets after reading.
“Inspiring, adventurous fun for aspirational kids.” —Kirkus Reviews
Sue Fliess is the author of more than thirty children’s books, including Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins, illustrated by Mark Chambers; Shoes for Me!, A Dress for Me!, and Books for Me!, all illustrated by Mike Laughead; and Let’s Build, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. She lives with her family and their two dogs in northern Virginia, where they admire the moon, stars, and sometimes even planets from their backyard. Learn more about Sue at www.suefliess.com.
On Twitter: @SueFliess
Facebook: Sue Fliess Author
Pinterest: Sue Fliess
Annabel Tempest is the illustrator of a number of picture books and board books. She holds a degree in fashion and textiles and has worked as a freelance illustrator on everything from maps and packaging to greeting cards and children’s books. She lives in the beautiful Somerset countryside in the UK with her husband and a houseful of muddy boys and dogs. Learn more about Annabel at www.annabeltempest.com.
On Instagram: annabel.tempest
Red Rover: Curiosity on Mars, by Richard Ho/Illustrated by Katherine Roy, (Oct. 2019, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19833-4
I am in love with this sweet, factual story about the Curiosity Rover, the robotic rover currently exploring Mars after landing in the Gale Crater in August, 2012. The story is straightforward, yet gives life to the Curiosity by referring to it as the “little rover” and wondering about its habits. Is it looking for water because it’s thirsty? It may seem lonely, but it has friends that came before. The narrator is the planet Mars, who seems to be watching Curiosity and its predecessors with interest. Mars states, “They call me Mars. I am not like your world”, and notes that life is hard for Curiosity: there are sand storms; the air is thin and it’s cold; it’s very, very, red. Through it all, artwork depicts the scrappy Curiosity rover, undeterred from its mission: it collects, its observes, it records. Back matter includes an annotated sketch of the Curiosity; facts about Mars, and brief profiles of the previous orbiters, landers, and rovers that have explored the planet (and that are in progress). There’s a bibliography and websites for further reading.
The story gives the Curiosity a personality of sorts, and the artwork presents a breathtaking artist’s rendering of the Red Planet. The sandstorms are chaotic, and a foldout of the red landscape is just stunning: the Curiosity stands on a cliff, overlooking the barren, beautiful world. Red Rover is a nice introduction for younger readers to the world of space exploration. If you have Wall-E fans, introduce them to Red Rover.
If you have readers who want more on Mars, Kiddle has Curiosity Facts for Kids; NASA’s Space Place has the Mars rovers broken out into trading cards with stats; and NASA’s FunZone has coloring sheets.
Trish Trash #1: Rollergirl of Mars, by Jessica Abel (Nov. 2016, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781629916149
Recommended for ages 10+
About 200 years from now, Trish “Trash” Nupindju lives with her aunt and uncle on a Mars-based moisture farm. Mars is colonized, but settlers live and work under brutal conditions and live in abject poverty. Trish cuts school one day try out for the Novas, a hover derby team – think roller derby, but a little more off the ground – because she wants to become a star and leave this red rock already. She finds herself on the wrong side of hover diva Hanna Barbarian, but she lands a spot as team intern. Life’s starting to look up, until Trish discovers a weak and injured Martian, whom she takes in.
Rollergirl of Mars is the first in a new science fiction trilogy by Harvey Award-winning author Jessica Abel. It’s a promising beginning, but I’ve got a few questions; the biggest one being, does living on Mars age humans differently? Trish is supposed to be 7 1/2 years old, but looks and acts like a teenager. I hope this gets fleshed out in future issues. I love the idea of hover derby (I’ve mentioned being a frustrated derby girl when I’ve reviewed derby books here in the past), and the match in the first issue has energy that readers will enjoy. We’ve got a diva conflict setting up, and some family drama on the horizon, so there are quite a few elements set up here to move future narratives forward. I love the diversity reflected here, too. Give this to your Roller Girl readers who are ready for some more realistic, gritty art and storytelling, and talk this up with your teens. There’s a great Trish Trash section on Jessica Abel’s author page, too.
Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet, by Melvin Berger and Mary Kay Carson (Aug. 2015, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545839600
Recommended for ages 7-11
This updated edition of Discovering Mars features a new cover and updated information and discoveries about the Red Planet. Recognized as an exemplar text by the Common Core State Standards, this latest version of the book includes the Mars Curiosity Rover’s mission and detection of organic compounds on the planet, leading to increased discussions about whether or not Mars had the ability to sustain life at one point.
Other topics covered include early theories about Mars, including the ancient Romans, who named the blood-red planet after the god of war and the vocabulary mixup between English and Italian that had some people thinking that the dark lines visible on the planet’s surface were man-made waterways!
We’ve also got a history of NASA’s Mars research and the future wish list for further research and discovery on the planet. I’m thrilled with this updated edition of Discovering Mars – make sure you keep a copy handy in your home or school library, and give your kids money for this one at the next Scholastic Book Fair.