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See the Stars: Your First Guide to the Night Sky Hardcover – September 1, 2000
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-8-Specifically intended for fledgling star watchers living between latitudes 30 to 50 degrees North, this misguided effort uses labeled sky photographs to identify a dozen major constellations, one per month. Each full-page photo is accompanied by a simplified diagram, orientation instructions, a list of dates and times for best viewing, and a column or so of Croswell's engaging commentary on star names, colors and types, nebulae, black holes, and related topics. "Bo tes is supposed to look like a herdsman, but if you can see a herdsman here, you are a better astronomer than I am." The author closes with a clever identification guide to any neighboring planets that might wander into the picture, plus a chart of the 25 brightest stars. Twelve of those stars are either not mentioned in the text or are in the southern celestial hemisphere and generally below the horizon for most of the book's prospective audience. In addition, the whole one-per-month scheme imposes a rigid superficiality on the book, and there are logistical problems inherent in trying to hold black photographs up to nighttime skies for comparison. Fortunately, there are plenty of more practical guides available, from Gary Mechler's Night Sky (Scholastic, 1999) to H. A. Rey's classic The Stars (Houghton, 1973).
John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4-8. Astronomy enthusiasts will appreciate this well-designed guide to viewing star patterns. Croswell devotes a double-page spread to each of 12 constellations, one for each month. The right-hand page is divided lengthwise into two columns. The first column contains text describing the constellation and providing other related information. The second column has a black-and-white diagram of the constellation, and a "Where and When to Look" box that suggests the best month (and sometimes dates of that month), direction (overhead, northeast, etc.), and approximate time for viewing. The left-hand side of the spread is an actual photograph of the night sky, with each star in the featured constellation labeled. Croswell notes that a telescope isn't necessary, but recommends viewers use binoculars and a red flashlight. Younger students may need the help of an adult or older sibling. Lauren Peterson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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See the Stars by Ken Croswell, however, is exactly what its cover, flaps, and publicity material claim it to be, and then some more. It is a "how-to" book aimed at readers over eight which really does get them outside, looking up, and finding the constellations described.
Twelve double-page spreads feature a constellation for each month of the year. On the right page is a "where and when to look" box, a line drawing, and a description of the star pattern; opposite is a large and stunning celestial photo of the constellation in question. Extra information worked into the text means that by the end of the book you've not only learnt twelve constellations in detail but also about stellar temperatures and colours, double stars, the zodiac, the Milky Way, and the planets.
The choice of constellations is no surprise: Croswell has picked the best and brightest star patterns in the sky. All twelve are ideal for readers between latitudes 30 and 50 degrees north. The beauty of the book is that Croswell has restricted himself to just the twelve, giving the reader a feeling of real achievement on seeing these constellations.
A whole year would have been needed to test and review this book thoroughly but two months was the maximum allowed by the Editors. So, with only a Cub Scout Astronomy Badge between them, my 10 and 12 year olds tested it out. They found their way around the book and then the sky with ease. Yet they weren't the first to do this. As Croswell wrote the book, his instructions were field-tested by his non-astronomical editor, then the editor's colleagues, friends, and various offspring. This thorough and rare testing of the text and its subsequent tweaking before publication has really paid off.
Croswell has a friendly, easy style which is already familiar to American readerships. He has introduced children to astronomy through articles and radio scripts written just for them, has authored three books for adults, and is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers. See the Stars has a "no frills" approach to its subject and provides simple, straightforward help. The book looks a touch old-fashioned next to the UK design-led factual books produced for children in the past ten years. But for a book that really works, choose this one.