The Planet Gods is a tremendous, beautifully written, stunningly illustrated introduction to the solar system. Each of the planets (plus three so-called dwarf planets) in our night sky is given its own two page spread, with a short biography (written in the first person each time, so I suppose I should say autobiography ;-)) and a glorious illustration of the planet and the Greek god associated with it.
The planet biographies are immediately engaging for being written in the first person, but they are also poetic and imaginative. For example, Saturn’s entry begins thus:
What a glorious array of rings and moons surrounds me! I preside over a wealth of plenty, as Saturn the god did in the Golden Age when he reigned. My rings are shoals of countless scurrying moonlets, casting a multicoloured girdle about my belly. Braiding and streaming, clustering here, dividing there, they whirl by in a frenzy.
The illustrations are arresting – bursting with colour and embossed with gold, they sing off the pages. Balit’s style reminds me of Gustav Klimt, both in her choice of palette, gold details and use of geometric shapes and repetitions. Her work makes this book feel alive!
In addition to the planet/god biographies the book contains several very informative, more traditionally factual passages – for example on naming planets, on the history of planetary discoveries, and a summary of the different types of surfaces to be found on planets. There is also a helpful glossary and two pictures drawn to scale at either end of the book to give readers a handle on the different sizes of planets.
M and I found this book to have a perfect blend of literary style with factual information – indeed, in some ways it is not unlike Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca (which I reviewed here) – a wonderful book that could as easily be catalogued to appear in the fiction part of the library as nonfiction.
Inspired by The Planet Gods we set to making our own revolving planets. Here’s what we did.
1. M draw around several circular objects onto card. (An older child could have used a compass instead to make circles of varying diameters).
2. M cut out the planets (circles).
3. M and J decorated the planets, first with pens, then with glue and glitter, in keeping with the sparkling illustrations in the book.
4. Once the glue was dry we pushed pencils through the centre of each planet to create a shaft. We found it was necessary to secure the pencil in the card with a little bit of sellotape on the underside of each circle before spinning our planets across a smooth surface.
In some ways the photos capture what happened better than we could see it for ourselves!
The Planet Gods: Myths and Facts about the Solar System: *** (3 stars)
Whilst we created our planets we were listening to:
Other projects that we could have done with this book in mind include:
This week’s Nonfiction Monday host is Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what’s included in today’s round up – I hope you’ll too have some time to visit Tricia’s blog and discover some new nonfiction delights!