One night, my daughter looked up at the starry sky.
“There’s Pleiades,” she said, pointing to a cluster of stars. “And those three make Orion’s belt. And that bright one is Betelgeuse.”
I certainly can't navigate the night sky like that. But then again, I haven’t pored over H.A. Rey’s two books on stargazing the way my daughter has.
Rey, along with his wife Margaret, is best known for writing the beloved Curious George books. What is not as well known is that he was an amateur astronomer who wrote two wonderful books to introduce kids to the wonders of stargazing.
Rey makes a complex subject simple and appealing. The book Find the Constellations starts off playfully: “At night time, when the stars are out, the sky all of a sudden becomes a huge picture book…Those pictures are made by the stars, and finding them is a wonderful game. Let us start the game with a picture you may have heard of…The Big Dipper.”
It’s a great way to entice kids to read further, and Rey's flair for writing for children shines through. And, if you’ve ever looked at a constellation and thought, “How exactly is that a bear, anyway?”, Rey will show you by literally connecting the dots and pointing out how the stars form the bear's nose or paws.
Find the Constellations also explains concepts such as magnitude, and how some stars are brighter than others. This is a useful tip that my daughter uses all the time—she picks out brighter stars first and then uses them to find other stars and constellations. As well, he includes information about the solar system, planets, and light years, as well as sky charts and fun quizzes.
For older readers, Rey wrote The Stars: A New Way to See Them. It's a great book for beginning astronomers, covering concepts in more depth, but using the same simple, plain language and engaging style. Both books are regularly updated so be sure to get the latest edition.
Two kids, two cats, and a house full of books. We share our favourite picks for young readers.