Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978
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Stargazing

Did you know that the sun makes up 99% or our solar system? Did you know that there are 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and that scientists estimate that there another 50 billion galaxies in the universe? We have collected a universe of products for you and your young astronomers packed with fun facts like these. So take time to enjoy the night sky with these recommendations from Parents' Choice ...
The Backyardigans The Backyardigans "Mission to Mars"
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Nickelodeon/MTV Networks, $16.99 (DVD)   

Four stories from the Nick Jr. "Backyardigans" animated television series feature music and dancing as five animal neighbors have imaginary adventures together in their back yards. "Mission to Mars" has the friends riding on the Space Shuttle to the music the publicity material calls "Kenyan High Life." "Samurai Pie" features the quest for the greatest and tastiest pie ever, and combines "Spaghetti Western" music and martial-arts action. "Scared of You" has a Mad Scientist/Frankenstein-type theme and swing music, and "Whodunit?" is an English country house mystery with vaudeville-type songs. The fun that's become standard fare to Backyardigans fans.

Jr. Space Explorer Inflatable Space Shuttle Jr. Space Explorer Inflatable Space Shuttle
Ages: 2 - 6 yrs.
Aeromax Inc., $34.95

The Jr. Space Explorer Inflatable Space Shuttle is a welcome addition to our growing collection of toys that encourage pretend play. It's different from similar toys because of its size. When fully inflated it feels like a full-size space shuttle to 3- and 4-year-olds. And although we have not used it in a pool as the box advertises, it has provided a lot of fun for indoor pretend play. Preschool age kids will enjoy "blasting off on space missions" daily.

A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky
Ages: 3 - 10 yrs.
Author: Michael Driscoll   Illustrator: Meredith Hamilton  
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $19.95 (Hard Cover)   

Though stars and planets get most of the attention, "there's lots of other cool stuff up there" according to author Michael Driscoll. Through vivid illustrations and photos of space, Driscoll takes kids on a tour of the universe, including the myths, explorers, and science that make it so intriguing. Also included are a hand-held Star Finder and glow-in-the-dark stickers, Deep Space Dictionary, calendar of important dates, and a list of space resources.

Why Dragonfly? Why Dragonfly? "What's Up with the Moon?"
Ages: 3 & Up
Why Dragonfly?,

With a pun-loving "magical" dragonfly named Archimedes as its main character, the DVD is reminiscent of Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a science question as its plot. Computer-generated Archimedes is buzzing around a playground when live-action youngsters Emily and Ryan, who are playing on the equipment, realize the moon is out. "Why is the moon out during the daytime?" they ask. The next thing you know, they've gone down the slide and have become miniaturized by Archimedes, who whisks them off on an adventure to find the answer. Between the Space Science Institute and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the kids get a full explanation of the obit and rotation of the Earth, moon and Sun.

If You Decide to Go to the Moon If You Decide to Go to the Moon
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Faith McNulty   Illustrator: Steven Kellogg  
Scholastic Inc./Scholastic Press, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

McNulty's text and Kellogg's illustrations coalesce dramatically to capture both the factual minutiae and the lyrical poetry of space travel as a young boy (too bad it's not a girl as well) travels to the moon and back. Readers will truly feel what it means when they turn a page and find a tiny spaceship, the only touch of color in a vast black double page spread sprinkled with stars, and read the accompanying text: "Don't look back at earth. It would make you even lonelier." Youngsters curious to know what it's really like to sleep aboard a rocket or walk on the moon will come away feeling that they've actually been there.

Max Goes to the Moon Max Goes to the Moon
Ages: 4 - 10 yrs.
Author: Jeffrey Bennett   Illustrator: Alan Okamoto  
Big Kid Science, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

Max goes to the Moon combines a lavishly illustrated picture book format with fundamental science concepts. In this adventure, Max the Dog and his young human friend Tori undertake a quest to make the first trip to the Moon since the Apollo era. Their trip inspires the nations of the world to join together to build a Moon colony. The engaging story encourages children to learn, dream, and explore, while offering the message that we live on a precious planet.

Little Labs: Stars & Planets Little Labs: Stars & Planets
Ages: 5 - 7 yrs.
Thames & Kosmos, $16.95

The Little Labs Stars and Planets Science Kit by Thames and Kosmos packs a big punch despite its pint-sized package. The kit includes materials and a 20-page instruction manual for ten space-themed experiments as well as "Try It" sections for follow-up activities. Experiments and projects include, but are not limited to, testing to see which planets can support plant life, creating moon craters and constructing a model solar system. The kit even includes a Knowledge Wheel so that children can test what they have learned through their experiments.

Sight Word Space Station Sight Word Space Station
Ages: 5 - 7 yrs.
Key Education Publishing Company, LLC, $18.99

This memory game involving matching pairs of 48 high-frequency sight words captures a child's attention as they reveal friendly aliens conducting science experiments, taking a snooze or operating a bubble machine on the game board. More than once, a child playing the game gasped in delight at what was concealed under his card. Parents can easily adapt this game to their child's reading ability by using fewer pairs of words in the set or playing one of the two levels.

Star Walk Star Walk
Ages: 5 - 18 yrs.
Adapted By: Olga Shtaub  
Vito Technology,

Star Walk is an application well worth its cost. Information rich and visually stunning, Star Walk is an opportunity to become an amateur astronomer, giving users knowledge of the moon, planets, and distant galaxies. The dim but backlit images of the night sky coupled with GPS orientation put this app miles ahead of ordinary star maps as a tool for field use. It can even be put into red mode, which dims the display's lights to prevent losing one's night vision. Virtually any venture outside at night leads to one of the children asking for information on a planet or constellation, on whether the moon is waxing or waning or if it qualifies as "full", and Star Walk is immediately at our fingertips, chock-full of answers. But answers in astronomy inevitably lead to more questions, the best kind of learning opportunity.

The Magic School Bus - The Secrets of Space The Magic School Bus - The Secrets of Space
Ages: 5 & Up
The Young Scientists Club, $19.99

The Magic School Bus - The Secrets of Space is a science kit inspired by the Magic School bus books and television series. It focuses on observing and understanding the solar system. The kit includes a star map and constellation cards, a chart of the planets, a night-vision flashlight (a tiny standard flashlight with red cellophane, but it's adequate), supplies to make a simple telescope, and supplies to make models of the planets in orbit and the moon orbiting the earth. One could wish that some of the materials were higher quality but the price is so reasonable that this seems like a petty complaint. The set also includes an instruction booklet written in the same mix of cartoon and prose that is found in many of the Magic School Bus books.

Also look for: Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Space Adventures for children ages 3 - 6 years.

Buzz Aldrin: Reaching for the Moon Buzz Aldrin: Reaching for the Moon
Ages: 6 - 9 yrs.
Author: Buzz Aldrin   Illustrator: Wendell Minor  
HarperCollins Childrens Books, $15.99 (Hard Cover)   

This is my journey. It didn’t begin when I stepped on board Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969. It began the day I was born -- Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr., whom everyone called Buzz. Becoming an astronaut took more than education, discipline, and physical strength. It took years of determination and believing that any goal is possible -- from riding a bike alone across the George Washington Bridge at age ten to making a footprint on the Moon.

Kids Book of the Night Sky Kids Book of the Night Sky
Ages: 6 & Up
Author: Ann Love   Author: Jane Drake   Illustrator: Heather Collins  
Kids Can Press, $12.95 (Hard Cover)   

In The Kids Book of the Night Sky, boys and girls will discover all the secrets the night sky holds. They can play games like "Night Sky I Spy," keep an astronomer’s log and read about night sky myths. Star maps are included for each season - so kids will know what to look for, when and where. Then as the sun goes down and the sky goes dark, they’ll be ready for the night sky’s all-star show!

Professor Noggin's Card Game Series Professor Noggin's Card Game Series
Ages: 7 & Up
Outset Media Games, $9.99

Each interest-specific card game combines true and false, multiple choice and trivia questions. The Outer Space series introduces children the cosmos with topics like planets, stars, solar systems, asteroids, and much more. Offering two levels of difficulty, games can accommodate 2 to 8 players.

Scholastic Discover More Planets Scholastic Discover More Planets
Ages: 7 & Up
Author: Scholastic Inc.  
Scholastic, $12.99 (Hard Cover)   

Penny Arlon's Scholastic Discover More: Planets is a contemporary exploration of the Earth's solar system, its planets, and the other elements composing near space, including moons, asteroid belts, and satellites. Written in an accessible tone, each page spread presents a planet or element of the solar system. The text focuses on a mix of our latest knowledge of the planet, and the historical context in which it was originally understood, discovered or named.

The Space Place The Space Place
Ages: 8 - 11 yrs.
Developer: Diane K. Fisher, JPL   Developer: Anil Natha, JPL  
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology,

Always wanted to know the "secret code" used by the Voyager spacecraft? Curious about what’s really inside a comet? Wonder what would happen if you fell into a black hole? NASA’s Space Place has answers to these questions and much more. Featuring a universe of creative games, animations, projects, and fun facts about Earth, space and technology, the site speaks directly to its audience of 8 -11 years olds in a playful and appropriate way and also offers relevant content for educators and adults. The site makes the science of earth and space exploration approachable and appealing to both aspiring scientists and kids who are just plain curious.

Slooh Explore Space Live Telescope Card Slooh Explore Space Live Telescope Card
Ages: 8 - 14 yrs.
BlueStorm Productions, $10.00

At 4:10 p.m. EST I logged onto the online telescope at slooh.com, clicked “current mission” on the launch-pad page and in seconds my computer screen was transformed into a live telescopic view of the moon. Not an image of the moon but the actual moon as it revealed its half-glowing, cratered, lunar self at that very moment in the skies above the Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa. That's the location of the Observatorio de Teide and the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, two observatories that combine as one of the largest assemblages of telescopes in the world. And thanks to the partnership of Discovery.com and Astronomy Magazine which launched the Slooh site, the deep-space heavens those powerful professional telescopes focus on are now available to you.

SmartLab Remote Control Rocket SmartLab Remote Control Rocket
Ages: 8 & Up
SmartLab, $19.99

Remote Control Rocket is a kit containing a 32-page book entitled, Mission to Mars!, and components necessary to assemble and launch a 9-inch rocket here on earth. The rocket is powered by the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar and is fired using a remote control button that releases the rocket from the launch pad when pressure has built up. The book offers lessons about the energy that makes rockets soar, how scientists have already figured out how to get into space, how to live in space, and how to return home from space. They show the timeline for a trip to Mars, show the necessities aboard a Mars transit vehicle, and describe jobs and tasks to be performed on the red planet.

Space Exploration Space Exploration
Ages: 8 & Up
Thames & Kosmos, $34.95

Space Exploration, an excellent science experiment kit that covers the gamut of space topics, includes most materials necessary to complete 22 activities and experiments on propulsion, the arrangement of the planets, phases of the moon, centrifugal force, parabolic mirrors and constellations. Young astronomers can make a telescope, a moon phase flipbook, a sundial, and a star map. Clearly written, the 33-page experiment manual is full of color photographs and illustrations to accompany and supplement each activity. Many activities in the book can be completed in about half an hour; others take much longer.

George's Secret Key to the Universe George's Secret Key to the Universe
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (Hard Cover)   

Written for young readers by Lucy and Stephen Hawking - a duo featuring the world-renowned physicist and his novelist daughter - the book follows the adventures of George, a curious boy who discovers some strange and interesting activity happening just next door. George's neighbor, Eric, is a scientist with a powerful computer that can open up windows onto the Universe and even enable people to step through doorways into the cold vastness of outer space. With a little push from Annie, Eric's headstrong daughter, George finds himself going through one of those doorways himself. Soon he is riding a comet, zooming past the planets in the Solar System, experiencing weightlessness and being pelted with asteroids. Back home, on Earth, life is getting more interesting too, as a villainous teacher named Mr. Reeper corrals a few school bullies to help him with a treacherous plan that puts Eric - and, to a certain extent, humanity - in real danger. George's Secret Key harnesses several mind-blowing, "no way!" moments of scientific discovery, puts them in easy-to-understand language, and then uses them to propel readers through the story.


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