TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Earlier this year, the Truckee Library received a generous grant from the Tahoe Truckee Airport District to purchase children’s books relating to aviation and space.
While researching the best ways to spend the funds, I came upon the Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine’s annual lists of Best Children’s Books relating to flight and space exploration. It was a treasure trove of great suggestions that are now a part of the Truckee Library’s collection thanks to the TTAD.
The suggested age range of the books is 3 to 14, and includes both fiction and non-fiction works — everything from mouse astronauts to the first black paratroopers to the man who remotely operates rovers on Mars. Each of the 33 new books sports a donation bookplate indicating that it was purchased using funds from the TTAD.
Some of my favorite picture books from this eye-catching collection include the Mousetronaut series, written by an actual astronaut, Mark Kelly, a four-time veteran of the space shuttle, “A is for Airplane: An Aviation Alphabet” and “Flight 1-2-3” counting book.
One of the most creative is Frank Viva’s “A Long Way Away: A Two-Way Story,” which is read vertically, either from top to bottom or the reverse. Read from the top, a baby space alien from a distant planet tumbles to earth, dodging satellites, spaceships and passenger jets, gently falling to the bottom of the ocean. Read in reverse, the space alien heads back to its home and loving family.
Among the non-fiction selections, there are a number of bright and shiny new space encyclopedias including two published by Dorling Kindersley: “First Space Encyclopedia” for younger readers and “Space: a Visual Encyclopedia” for the slightly older set.
One of my new favorites is the retro-flavored “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space,” written by Dr. Dominic Walliman, a British Ph.D. in quantum physics. He covers “everything about our star, our planet, the solar system, our galaxy and the Universe that there could be to know” in a very entertaining fashion.
The planet Mars seems to be all the rage with titles such as Elizabeth Rusch’s “The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity,” Patrick O’Brien’s “You Are the First Kid on Mars” and “Mars Rover Driver,” part of a series The Coolest Jobs on the Planet.
Back down to earth and traveling back in time, there is a great picture book biography of the first woman astronomer, “Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer” and the story of the first black paratroopers entitled “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles.”
In “Courage Has No Color,” author Tanya Lee Stone asks: What did it take to be a paratrooper in World War II? The answer: Specialized training, extreme physical fitness, courage, and — until the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was formed — white skin. But while white soldiers were sent overseas to fight the enemy, the 555th was assigned to fight forest fires within the United States, in part a response to Japan’s bomb-laden balloons, found as far east as Michigan. Stone’s interviews with surviving 555th members and many period photographs make this title a standout. It is no wonder that it a 2014 YALSA Excellence in Non-Fiction finalist.
Thanks to the Tahoe Truckee Airport District for helping to bring all of this wonderful, inspiring stories and information about aviation and space exploration to the children of Truckee!
The Truckee Library is located at 10031 Levon Ave. Call 530-582-7846 or visit www.mynevadacounty.com/library.