Blast off! by Shelly Unwin

cover image

Penguin Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780143785040
(Age: 4-8) Recommended. The front cover of this is deceiving as what looks like a frivolous picture book is actually a fairly informative romp through the solar system. The end papers show the planets of the solar system and the sun in their relative positioning and the factual information continues within the pages. Two kids and their dog are headed off on a space adventure and we're invited on board the rocket just in time for the countdown; "Let's climb aboard our rocket ship and zoom off planet-bound". Facts are woven cleverly through the well-written rhyming text ("Eight planets in the solar system, spinning round and round") and both the pictures and the accompanying text provide humour and light-heartedness. As the rocket zooms along "Stand back!", one of the children shouts, "Mercury is mega-hot and closest to the sun. You couldn't visit Mercury, the heat would burn your bum!". We see that Let's bake woofles is the title of the dog astronaut's book and the boy is busy cooking bacon and eggs. At the bottom of each page are the planets in order with an arrow showing which planet we are on now; along with the endpapers this will orient readers to the layout of the solar system. There are many details within the busy illustrations for children to laugh at and enjoy. The last two pages have further explanatory information about each planet as well as about the Apollo 11 mission. For an interactive element and to encourage rereading there are also two very well hidden aliens to find on each page. Best of all, this is a fast-paced, rollicking journey through the solar system that will inspire curiosity about outer space and the planets within it.
Nicole Smith-Forrest