Literature Connections to
Messages From Space

Teacher's Guides > Messages From Space

2010: Odyssey Two
Against Infinity
Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars
Contact: A Novel
The Drop in My Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet
Einstein Anderson Lights Up the Sky

Einstein Anderson Makes Up for Lost Time
Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale
The Faces of CETI
In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
The Jupiter Theft

Planet of Exile

The Planet of Junior Brown
The Planets

Space Songs
Star Tales: North American Indian Stories
Stinker from Space
They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths

The Three Astronauts
To Space and Back

The Worst Band in the Universe

2010: Odyssey Two
by Arthur C. Clarke
Ballantine Books, New York. 1982
Grades: 10–Adult
This complex, mysterious, and thought-provoking sequel to Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey had the benefit of being written subsequent to the Voyager mission. There are fascinating observations, accurate scientific information, and lots of interesting speculation about Jupiter and its moons throughout the book, not to mention spirits of intergalactic intelligence and Jupiter becoming a second sun.

Against Infinity
by Gregory Benford
Simon & Schuster, New York. 1983
Grades: 10–Adult
This science fiction novel is an account of human settlement on Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede. The story takes place several hundred years into the colonization process, and begins from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy whose father is one of the leaders of the settlement. The author is a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Irvine.

Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars
by Daniel M. Pinkwater
Dutton, New York, 1979

Grades: 5–8
Leonard's life at his new junior high is just barely tolerable until he becomes friends with the unusual Alan and shares an extraordinary adventure with him.

Contact: A Novel
by Carl Sagan
Simon & Schuster, New York. 1985
Grades: 7–Adult
When a message from outer space is detected by a worldwide system of radio telescopes, astrophysicist Ellie Arroway decodes it and builds the machine for which the message gave instructions. Then she and others of a small multi-national team board the machine and take an amazing trip to outer space for the most awesome encounter in human history.

The Drop in My Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet
by Meredith Hooper; illustrated by Chris Coady
Viking Press, New York. 1998
Grades: 6–9
Here is the amazing and ever-changing story of water—where it comes from, how it behaves, why it matters—and the crucial role it has played throughout life on Earth. The eye-catching illustrations are realistic and thought-provoking.

Einstein Anderson Lights Up the Sky
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Press, New York. 1982
Grades: 4–7
In Chapter 2, "The World in His Hands," Einstein punctures his friend Stanley’s plan to build a scale model of the solar system in his basement. He discusses the relative sizes of the Sun and the planets and the distances between them. In Chapter 5, "The Stars Like Grains of Sand," Einstein enlightens his younger brother Dennis about the star population.

Einstein Anderson Makes Up for Lost Time
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Penguin, New York. 1981
Grades: 4–7
Chapter 6 poses the question "How can Einstein tell a planet from a star without using a telescope?" He explains to his friend Dennis that although stars twinkle, planets usually shine with a steady light. Looking through the telescope, he thinks the steady light he sees is Jupiter. The four faint points of steady light nearby are Jupiter’s moons.

Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Press, New York. 1981
Grades: 4–7
Chapter 1, "Tale of the Comet" provides some very interesting information about possible connections between comets, asteroids, and dinosaurs. Even though the book was published in 1981, the information is still accurate.

The Faces of CETI
by Mary Caraker
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1991
Grades: 6–12
In this science fiction thriller, colonists from Earth form two settlements on adjoining planets of the Tau Ceti system. One colony tries to survive by dominating the natural forces that they encounter, while those who land on the planet Ceti apply sound ecological principles and strive to live harmoniously in their new environment. Nonetheless, the Cetians encounter a terrible dilemma—the only edible food on the planet appears to be a species of native animals called the Hlur. Two teen-age colonists risk their lives in a desperate effort to save their fellow colonists from starvation without killing the gentle Hlur.

In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
by Virginia Hamilton; illustrated by Barry Moser
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego. 1988
Grades: All
An illustrated collection of twenty-five legends that explain the creation of the world, with commentary placing the myth geographically and by type of myth tradition such as "world parent," "creation from nothing," and "separation of earth and sky." Some of the selections are extracted from larger works such as Popol Vuh or the Icelandic Eddas. Makes a great connection to Activity 3, Session 1 in which the formation of the solar system is discussed.

The Jupiter Theft
by Donald Moffitt
Ballantine Books, New York. 1977
Grades: 7–Adult
Strange, advanced beings from somewhere near the constellation of Cygnus encounter a Jupiter expedition from Earth. The Cygnans want to take Jupiter away to use as a power source as they migrate through the universe. There is some graphic violence as various life forms attack and/or ally with each other, but in general the focus is on scientific speculation. The book has a wealth of cogent speculation on the possibilities and varieties of life on other worlds.

Planet of Exile
by Ursula LeGuin
Ace Books, New York. 1966
Grades: 6–Adult
Cooperation is the central theme of this thin but gripping book about the clash of three cultures—two that have inhabited this harsh planet for eons, and the one that has been exiled only a few generations. Difficult seasonal conditions on the planet are the result of how long it takes for the planet to revolve once around its central star. Because one "year" is equivalent to many Earth years, people only live through a very small number of winters.

The Planet of Junior Brown
by Virginia Hamilton
Macmillan Publishing, New York. 1971
Grades: 5–12
This unusual and moving book begins with three people (two students who regularly cut 8th grade classes and a school custodian who was formerly a teacher) in a secret room in a school basement with a working model of the solar system. The model has one incredible addition—a giant planet named for one of the students, Junior Brown. How can the Earth’s orbit not be affected by this giant planet? Is there a belt of asteroids that balances it all out? How does this relate to equilateral triangles? From these subjects, the universe of the book expands outward into the Manhattan streets and inward into the hearts, minds, and friendship of the two students who are both African-American. After the first chapter, the solar system becomes more metaphor than scientific model, until the end of the book when the real model must be dismantled and the three must find a way to help Junior Brown and to affirm their solidarity against all odds. Powerfully and poetically written, this book humanizes the statistics about homelessness and the educational crisis in a profound and unforgettable way.

The Planets
edited by Byron Preiss
Bantam Books, New York. 1985
Grades: 8–Adult
This extremely rich, high-quality anthology pairs a non-fiction essay with a fictional work about the Earth, Moon, each of the planets, and asteroids and comets. Introductory essays are by Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and others. The material is dazzlingly illustrated with color photographs from the archives of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and paintings by astronomical artists such as the movie production designers of 2001 and Star Wars.

Space Songs
by Myra Cohn Livingston; illustrated by Leonard E. Fisher
Holiday House, New York. 1988
Grades: 5–12
Series of short poems about aspects of outer space including the Milky Way, Moon, Sun, stars, planets, comets, meteorites, asteroids, and satellites. Although the astronomy content is limited, it is accurate. The black background illustrations are dynamic and involving.

Star Tales: North American Indian Stories
retold and illustrated by Gretchen W. Mayo
Walker & Co., New York. 1987
Grades: 5–12
The nine legends in this collection explain observations of the stars, Moon, and night sky. Accompanying each tale is information about the constellation or other heavenly observation and how various peoples perceived it.

Stinker from Space
by Pamela F. Service
Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1988
Ballantine Books, New York. 1989
Grades: 5–8
A girl encounters an extraterrestrial being who has had to inhabit the body of a skunk after an emergency landing. The girl and a neighbor boy help the skunk, Tsynq Yr (Stinker), to evade his enemies, the Zarnks, and get an important message to his own people. Stinker’s departure from Earth involves "borrowing" the space shuttle.

They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths
by Jean Guard Monroe and Ray A. Williamson
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1987
Grades: 2–8
This book, which is great for reading aloud, includes stories from many Native American regions and peoples. Stories about the Pleiades, the Big Dipper, and the "Star Beings" are particularly noteworthy, but all are imaginative and intriguing. Stories like these from Native American and other world cultures can be interwoven with astronomy activities, provide a sense of careful observation over time, and highlight how the stars and planets have always inspired the human imagination.

The Three Astronauts
by Umberto Eco; illustrated by Eugenio Carmi
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego. 1989
Grades: K–5
An American, a Russian, and a Chinese astronaut take off separately in their own rockets with the goal of being first on Mars. They all land at the same time, immediately distrusting each other. When they encounter a Martian their cultural differences disappear as they unite against him. In a surprise happy ending, they recognize the humanity of the Martian after observing his charity toward a baby bird and extend this understanding to differences between all peoples. Younger children may not get the full benefit of the sophisticated illustrations and humor. The astronauts are all male, with no women characters or references.

To Space and Back
by Sally Ride with Susan Okie
Lothrop, Lee and Shepard/Morrow, New York. 1986
Grades: 4–7
This is a fascinating description of what it is like to travel in space—to live, sleep, eat, and work in conditions unlike anything we know on Earth, complete with colored photographs aboard ship and in space. The astronauts conducted a number of scientific experiments as they observed and photographed the stars, the Earth, the planets, and galaxies. Working outside the shuttle, they feel the warmth of the Sun through their gloves, but cool off on the dark side of Earth in the shade.

The Worst Band in the Universe: A Totally Cosmic Musical Adventure (with CD)
by Graeme Base
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1999
Grades 4–9

This wonderfully illustrated, poetic, and highly amusing book/recording takes place in a distant planetary system. Accused of the crime of "musical innovation" 13-year-old Sprocc, a Splingtwanger-player, departs Blipp, his home planet. He is tricked into entering a Worst Band contest that strands him on remote Wastedump B19, then helps build a music-driven spaceship, which gets him back to Blipp in time for a high-volume, onstage face-off with the power-mad Musical Inquisitor. Complete with a CD of music composed and performed by Base himself, this whimsical science fiction journey is a true marvel.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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