- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2008

By Jamie Simon, age 11

Sunrise Valley Elementary School, Reston

Written by David A. Aguilar, “11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System” sheds new light on the darkness of the universe beyond our proportionally small planet.

Beautiful photography stimulates the imagination and stirs the brain. Our sun’s little chunk of space holds wonders rivaling the Cheshire Cat and the Seven Dwarfs. From the Galilean moons to the phases of Venus, this book is a stockpile of the knowledge gathered for centuries, from the time man first set his sights on the sky.

Despite the way science-fiction movies portray the asteroid belt, asteroids larger than a speck of dust are usually more than 1.25 million miles away from each other. Many astronomers claim that with a diameter of 975 miles, Ceres of the asteroid belt far surpasses the guidelines for a planet and that it, too, should sing the music of the spheres.

Unlike its rocky neighbors, Ceres has a definite spherical shape. It appears much like our own moon, gray and pockmarked with craters. This deserted wasteland, oddly enough, is named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, fruits and vegetables.

Everything that you might want to know is in this book. Turn to the section on Saturn and you will find four pages full of vast knowledge ranging from the thickness of the rings to a hexagonal storm on the North Pole. Turn to the section on Earth and find that our planet has more to it than appearance. Artwork dispels misconceptions about the seasons while putting our planet into a new perspective, something that most people don’t see very often: a waxing crescent Earth. On the meteorite page, a beautiful dusk time lapse captures shooting stars. The visuals, which include paintings created by Mr. Aguilar, are arguably the best aspect of the book.

Mr. Aguilar writes: “Eris is the coldest and most distant planet in our solar system, with an orbit that is more oval than round. Larger than Pluto and made of rock and ice, this dwarf planet travels with its moon Dysnomia through an area called the Kuiper belt and 10 billion miles past it.” These words alone give the feel of the desolate world that has not yet drunk from the cup of life. The art vividly portrayed throughout the book comes to a zenith with the closure of the journey through space. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this composition is worth as much as the surreal reality it so well encapsulates.

On the typical four-star rating system, I would give four stars, five if allowed. Every aspect of the book is showered in the planetary magic that makes our sky so pretty. The sheer awe inspired by looking up has been taken and put into words. Mr. Aguilar has done a great job with this book. I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

From the fire of the sun, setting the sky and the soul ablaze, to the blood of Mars, with the silent battle cry of the heavens, to the regal appeal of Jupiter, ruling the cosmos from his nomadic throne, to Saturn’s quiet beauty, with a golden coat and sunlight rings, to Uranus’ melancholy expression, adding personality to every one of the celestial celebrations, this book has everything for everybody. You’re never out of knowledge with this book on your shelf.

RATING: ****

BOOK: “11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System”

AUTHOR:David A. Aguilar

PUBLISHER: National Geographic Society, 2008, hardcover, 47 pages

READING LEVEL: Ages 8 through 12

PRICE: $16.95

INFORMATION: www.nationalgeographic.com




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