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The Lives of Stars Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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This handsomely designed, large-format volume features spectacular images of stars, nebulae, and galaxies on glossy pages. Most of the pictures are digitally enhanced, space-telescope images, while a few are clearly labeled as artists’ conceptions. The author of See the Stars (2000) and Ten Worlds (2006), as well as several books for adults, astronomer Croswell here presents a great deal of information about stars and how they change over time. Topics include “The Birthplace of Stars,” “Red Giants,” “Double Stars,” and “Extrasolar Planets.” Though no sources are listed, an index and a detailed glossary are appended. The book’s intended audience is puzzling, since it sometimes seems to address young children (“Some stars are blue. Some stars are white. Some stars, like the Sun, are yellow”), while at other times both the reading level and the concepts are a good deal more challenging (“Most interstellar hydrogen gas is made of separate hydrogen atoms. Each hydrogen atom has one proton, a particle with positive electric charge”). Still, an inviting presentation that will get kids turning pages. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan
Top customer reviews
The book, however, is on the scanty side. It should have more information for the price.
The book is wonderfully well organized, from its table of contents, through its index, and much of what the book covers is stated on the first page which begins: "On a dark night, you can see thousands of stars. All these stars belong to our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Without stars, you could not live. Before the Earth was born, stars made the oxygen you breathe, the calcium in your bones and the iron in your blood." Wow! Who knew?
Each chapter discusses, in great detail, but in simple, comprehensible terms, topics such as how stars are born, what they are made of, the types of stars, the life cycle of stars, and the relationship between how hot a star is and how brightly it will shine. The author explains light years, radio waves, types of hydrogen atoms, the density of matter in space, and more. You will meet brown dwarfs, red giants, white dwarfs and black holes. You will hear all about nebulae and supernovas. You will learn all about the origin of the elements, and extrasolar planets, and the possibility of life in space.
And guess what? It won't hurt a bit! Every time you want to close the book and escape, you are drawn back in by some irresistible fact that you just can't ignore, and you take the bait and read on, aided by the abundant, spectacular, enhanced, large, glossy photos of such resplendent marvels as the Cat's Eye nebula, the Crab pulsar, the constellation Orion or an artist's rendition of the black hole Cygnus X-1, the first black hole ever discovered in 1971, from which nothing can escape - not even light.
In short, The Lives of Stars is a page turner from start to finish, not to be missed.
Highly recommended for grades 5 and up and anyone else who ever looked up in wonder at the night sky.
Probably the most interesting part of the text is how Croswell uses analogies for comparison to explain about stars in a way understandable to the reader. He uses these analogies liberally throughout the text. For example, in the very first section he describes the method of determining the distance the star is located from earth. This concept of parallax uses the red shift of the star or the movement away from earth as comparison. This is a difficult concept for the reader to grasp but Croswell simply describes this concept as likened to looking out your window and then moving to the right and noting the movement of the object of reference (like a tree) outside the house. He says that this is like observing that the movement of the object closer to the house will appear to move more than a distant object. This is exactly the same technique of parallax used to determine star distance from earth.
I especially appreciate Croswell's added glossary and index at the end of the text. This allows the book to be used as an excellent reference for reports or classroom use. I would most certainly add this little text to my classroom library if I taught about space science. I believe students of all ages can benefit from reading or referencing this little book.