How to Make a Planet - NFPB review

Be sure to visit each Wednesday for a fabulous selection of nonfiction titles!

Sometimes a nonfiction book comes along that just totally knocks your socks off. It has just the right amount of information combined with style that would make a fabulous mentor text. Here is one of my favorite books of the year!

How to Make a Planet: A Step-By-Step Guide to Building the Earth

by Kids Can Press Inc
by Scott Forbes (author) and Jean Camden (illustrator) Hardcover, 64 pages
Published March 1st 2014 by Kids Can Press
ISBN 1894786882 (ISBN13: 9781894786881)

Summary from Goodreads:
Young readers can follow along as two children perform an experiment in which they create a new planet, replicating in ten steps the exact processes that formed Earth. Within that context, author Scott Forbes manages to clearly explain basic concepts that span the science curriculum, including: chemistry (atoms, protons, neutrons, elements), physics (gravity), astronomy (star formation, supernovas, galaxies, the Milky Way, black holes), earth science (temperature, atmosphere, the water cycle, surface plates and how they've changed) and biology (cells, single-celled organisms, evolution, extinction).

My Thoughts:
How to Make a Planet has it all.

Information: How to Make a Planet is a great starting point for so many types of science. As mentioned in the Goodreads summary, it manages to touch upon almost everything that would be covered in an Earth & Space science course. While it can't get into a huge amount of detail on each topic, the author is still able to explain each concept clearly and concisely. I can imagine some students being more than satisfied with these descriptions, and others being motivated to seek our more in depth information.

Organization: While packed with amazing scientific information, the book is chunked into ten manageable "steps" with catchy titles like "Begin with a Bang!" and "Bake to Perfection". Each step is a few pages long, and is also well chunked with interesting subtitles, creative graphics, and fun factoids. I love the "time check" portion that helps kids get a feel for the immense stretches of time represented by each step.

The overall style is what really sold me on this book, though. The writing is spot on. Forbes is able to clearly communicate very complex information while still making it all sound so... cool! The kids who are learning how to "make a planet" are drawn as active, interesting children. The main character, illustrated in color, is first shown on a skateboard with a ringed planet on his shirt. I love that the illustrator, Camden, doesn't feel the need to make science kids fit any stereotypical appearance. Two other children appear throughout the story (drawn in shades of greenish blue). One is a boy and the other is a girl. They are also shown in active, engaged poses. It would have been nice to see a little more variety in physical types, though, as all three children appear to be caucasian.

Back Matter:
Rounding out the book is a solid back section. There is a page of "Amazing Facts", which are also well organized. There is a three page glossary with excellent definitions and an index at the end.

Recommended for:
Classes: Based on my district's current science program, this title would fit perfectly in the fourth grade classroom. It is sophisticated enough in concept to go into early middle school.

Students: You know you always have a few kids who are just gung-ho about space, right? Be sure to have this title on hand for them!

Classroom Uses
Science units on space and the formation of the Earth
Mentor text for "how to" writing
Pair with science fiction titles like Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass.


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