New York: Roaring Book Press, 2014
Wowie! Star Stuff is a fantastic biographical picture book about the one and only Carl Sagan. Our story begins, appropriately, in the Milky Way galaxy and in the first few pages we zero in on young Carl in his apartment in Brooklyn, NY. We follow Carl as his curiosity and, as luck would have it, the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, lead him to the world of science and space exploration. There is even a mention of Carl reading about stars in his local library – hurray!
As Carl grows up, he continues his education and becomes Dr. Carl Sagan. He goes on to make important contributions to science and space exploration, teach aspiring scientists, write books, and work on projects with NASA like Viking, Mariner, and Voyager. Then comes the television show, Cosmos, and the turtleneck-sporting Carl Sagan that becomes a household name.
Oddly, although Star Stuff hits the highlights of Sagan’s professional life, it does not metion the dates of his birth (1934) and death (1996), even in the end notes. On the bright side, it presents his life as a series of steps that could be followed by lots of young people who are curious like young Carl. The emphasis is on studying and working hard to make a career, rather than on any special talent he possessed, making a career in science feel attainable for any interested student.
This picture book is engaging with a variety of layout designs and spare, charming text. Plus it contains a very cool vertical foldout that shows young Carl’s imagination stretching from a library reading room to the sun. An author’s note, end notes and bibliography detail the solid sources that are the foundation of the book. Star Stuff is a must-have for any elementary school library!
Idaho Core Reading Standards for Informational Text: Grades K-2, Standards 1-10.
Dewey: 520.92 Interest Level: K-2
Awards and Reviews: Booklist; Kirkus starred; Publishers Weekly; School Library Journal starred.
Middle School readers might like: The Adventures of Sojourner: The Mission to Mars that Thrilled the Worldby Susi Trautmann Wunsch.
Young Adult readers might like: Carl Sagan by Gabrielle Borisovna.
Fiction Pairing: John Carter Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (one of Carl Sagan’s favorites as a boy).
Film: Andorfer, Gregory, et al., Malone, Adrian, et al. (1980, TV Mini-Series). Cosmos. USA: KCET & Carl Sagan Productions, 1980. Distributed by Public Broadcasting Service (TV) & Bright Vision Entertainment (DVD).
Film: Braga, Brannon, et al., Braga, Brannon & Ann Druyan (2014, TV Mini-Series). Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. USA: Cosmos Studios & Fuzzy Door Productions, et al., 2014. Distributed by Fox Network and National Geographic Channel (TV).
On the Web:
The Carl Sagan Portal at http://www.carlsagan.com/.
Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond through the Library of Congress athttp://www.loc.gov/collections/finding-our-place-in-the-cosmos-with-carl-sagan/about-this-collection/.