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Reading Without Walls: Stars, Planets, and Space

Explore the solar system through fiction and nonfiction books! We've selected a stellar collection of books that give young readers a chance to sample a wide range of genres — informational nonfiction, biography, poetry, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and folktales, fairy tales and myths — as well as different formats (audio books, graphic novels, and magazines).

This booklist supports the Reading Without Walls Challenge, a nationwide initiative launched by Gene Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

To expand learning around this topic, we also recommend these educational apps:

You may also want to encourage young readers to flex their writing muscles with these topic-related writing activities:

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

A Full Moon Is Rising

By: Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by: Julia Cairns
Genre: Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Around the world, people and other living things interact with and are affected by the full moon in fascinating ways. Come along on a whirlwind, poetic tour of Canada, Israel, Morocco, India, China, Australia, and more countries to discover an amazing collection of full moon celebrations, beliefs, customs, and facts.

Find the Constellations

By: H.A. Rey
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hans Augusto Rey, best known as the creator of a small monkey named Curious George, was an amateur astronomer as well. He created this easy-to-follow guide to the night sky so that young people could get to know the constellations visible from their own backyards. A conversational, open text with simple but informative illustrations is sure to entice and inspire young star gazers.

Laika

By: Nick Abadzis
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Laika was the abandoned puppy destined to become Earth's first space traveler. This is her journey. The author masterfully blends a graphic novel format with fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. An extensive bibliography of sources is appended.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer

By: Robert Burleigh
Illustrated by: Raul Colon
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Meet Henrietta Leavitt, a 19th century pioneer for women in science. From careful observations, Leavitt discovered that the brightness of a star determines its distance from Earth and her work helped us better understand the vastness of the universe. Warm colored pencil and watercolor illustrations by Colon create a contemplative mood. Back matter includes quotes about stars, a glossary, information about other female astronomers, and more.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

By: Brian Floca
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Relive the journey of the Apollo 11 where the first people stepped on the Moon's surface and saw Earth from a very different perspective. Eloquent language and illustrations combine to present this historical event in a unique, unforgettable way.

National Geographic Kids

By: National Geographic Society
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

It may be the amazing photography that catches your eye, but don’t forget to read the stories, too! This fresh and fast-paced magazine contains stories, games, and activities that introduce kids to animals, science, technology, archaeology, geography, and more. Just right for the curious reader!

Sardine in Outer Space

By: Emmanuel Guiber
Illustrated by: Joann Sfar
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Red-headed and tiny, Sardine is a space pirate who takes off on adventures with her pirate uncle and their friend in a spaceship named Huckleberry. Their madcap adventures are fast–paced and punchy, with grotesque details to appeal to a younger crowd, and sophisticated cultural references and puns that will appeal to older readers. The story is told in a graphic novel format.

The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale

By: Joseph Bruchac, Gayle Ross
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales, Myths and Legends
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Have you ever wondered how the Milky Way came to be? According to a Cherokee legend, it started when an old couple learned that their corn was being stolen by a Great Spirit dog. To get away, the spirit dog jumps into the sky, spilling the corn. And we can still see the results today in the night sky.

The Outer Space Mystery (Boxcar Children Mysteries)

By: Gertrude Chandler Warner
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The Boxcar Children — Jessie, Henry, Violet and Benny — are excited to attend a young astronomers’ convention! But when a student and his important discovery go missing, will the children be able to help?

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

By: Eleanor Cameron
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Don t miss the adventures of Chuck and David, two boys who travel to the alien planet Basidium in their homemade spaceship. This timeless series (in print since the 1950s) is a classic that is sure to be read over and over again.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

By: Grace Lin
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Minli embarks on a journey to change the luck of her family and their village. Traditional stories inspired by Chinese folklore combine with a rousing adventure for an altogether satisfying tale. Richly-hued illustrations decorate and enhance the handsome novel.

Zathura

By: Chris Van Allsburg
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

On the last page of the Caldecott-winning book Jumanji, young Danny Budwing is seen running after his brother, Walter, with a game tucked under his arm. Twenty years later, Chris Van Allsburg is ready to reveal what happens when Danny and Walter roll the dice. This time, the children face the challenges of space, time, and dimension as they read the new game cards. They journey to the planet Zathura and as ringed planets and spaceships swirl past the windows, the boys find their way to teamwork and even affection.

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Maria Salvadore
August 15, 2017

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables