One of the simple joys of summer is looking up and finding the familiar pattern of the Big Dipper in the night sky. Stargazing can bring you a moment of serenity, a sense of wonder, and an appreciation for the cosmos. That feeling has been perfectly captured in these inspiring books for children and teens. Each features a character who studies the heavens and discovers their own unique place in the universe.
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng.(Grades 5-7)
Alex, a space-obsessed eleven-year old, dreams of building a rocket and launching his iPod into space. He takes his dog, Carl Sagan, and leaves home to attend a rocket festival in another state. But as the journey unfolds, it becomes clear that Alex’s desire to leave home is based on more than a love of rocket science. He is essentially alone in the world, until he meets a group of fellow travelers who help find hope for the future. (Also available as an audiobook)
We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly (Gr 4-6)
It’s 1986, a few weeks before NASA’s Challenger launch. Excitement is building about the mission, which will include a female teacher as part of the crew. Twelve-year-old Bird dreams of joining NASA and commanding a space shuttle. She loves science. Her siblings couldn’t be more different. Her twin, Fitch, has anger issues and spends his afternoons at the arcade.Their older brother, Cash, fails seventh grade and is dropped from the basketball team. At home, their parents fight constantly, belittling each other and the children, unaware of the damage their words are inflicting. When tragedy strikes, the siblings are surprised to find hope in an unlikely place – each other. (Also available as an audiobook)
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (Gr 8-12)
An asteroid is hurtling toward earth, threatening to destroy life as we know it. Yuri Strelnikov, a 17-year-old Russian physics genius, arrives in the U.S. to help avert global disaster. Unfortunately, his fellow scientists don’t take him seriously because of his age. Yuri is frustrated and alone until he meets Dovie Collum, an artistic high-school student who helps him think outside the box and gives him a reason to defy his superiors in a last minute attempt to save the world.
The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King. (Gr 5-7)
Liberty creates star maps. She has a passion for astronomy. It’s something she inherited from her father. But increasingly she’s worried that she may have inherited something else from him: mental illness. Liberty’s dad moved out months ago and hasn’t talked to her since. Now her little sister refuses to go outside and her mom is acting like everything is fine. Things are no better at school, where she is plagued by bullies and her friend group rejects her. Liberty finds comfort in talking to a meteorite she found shortly after her life began to spin out of control, but soon realizes that she needs to talk to someone other than a rock. Will she be able to map a new course for herself and her family? (Also available as an audiobook in Hoopla)
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass (gr 4-6)
Ally loves science and astronomy. Bree dreams of becoming a model. Jack is a loner. They have nothing in common, except they are all unhappy about changes taking place in their lives. In a story told from alternating perspectives, an unlikely friendship unfolds as the trio meets to witness a rare solar eclipse.
The Center of the Universe by Ria Voros (gr 9-12)
Grace, an aspiring astrophysicist, has nothing in common with her celebrity mother. The two of them can’t seem to communicate. But when her mother disappears, Grace learns things about her mother’s past that make her question whether she really knew her at all. Was her mother abducted, or did she just leave?
-Karen deWilde, Teen Librarian