Grade 4-6–This introduction to one of astronomy's most active and exciting pursuits combines a simplified account of the clever techniques scientists use to infer the existence of planets orbiting other stars with a gallery of dramatic, if speculative, painted views of what those planets and their suns might look like. Halpern describes the size, orbit, and atmosphere of several recent discoveries, and closes with a reference to the Kepler spacecraft that, when it's launched a few years from now, will really jump-start the search for extrasolar planets. Considering how little is known about these planets, Cook's full-bleed, color art adds more visual interest than hard information, and the distinction between fact and fiction is drawn with reasonable clarity. Halpern and Cook use different but equally effective approaches to kindle that sense of wonder in readers not yet ready for more extensive treatments of the topic, such as Ron Miller's Extrasolar Planets (21st Century Bks., 2002).–John Peters, New York Public Library
Gr. 3-6. In 1995 the wobble of a distant star led astronomers to deduce the existence of a planet beyond our solar system. Presenting the story of extrasolar planets in a relatively short, clearly written text, Halpern discusses how scientists identify and study these planets and in what ways they resemble those already known. Made with computers, colored pencils, and acrylics, Cook's striking artwork creates clear images of our own solar system and richly colored, imaginative scenes of worlds never seen. The last page includes a brief glossary and index as well as two suggested Web sites. A good addition to astronomy collections, this is an intriguing topic about which little has been published for children. Carolyn Phelan
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