Like some picture books, the story for BEYOND begins on the end papers, with a child and adult gazing up at the stars. But long before we ever reach a title page, we hurtle planet by planet through our solar system
starting with the sun.
We know much
about the mountains and oceans of Earth,
spinning with us
around the flaring sun.
We know something
of the space in between,
where swift Mercury and sizzling Venus track our sky.
When we reach the edge of our solar system, the title page finally announces that we’re now heading BEYOND, into the outer reaches of space. Through the Kuiper belt, an Oort Cloud, places where there are two setting suns, dying nebula, birthing nebula, the center of the Milky Way, and BEYOND.
Lyrical text sets the stage within our solar system and then describes these vast reaches where humanity is just now learning so much more. Do we know exactly what we’re looking at?
No. But the narrative and info bubbles give us clues.
And we can imagine. This is exactly what the reader is invited to do.
The ending uplifts and inspires, for it’s no longer talking solely about the cosmos, but about our growing body of knowledge, our expanding horizons, and the possibilities of our own lives.
Stretching the limits
of what we can detect
(but not what we can imagine),
a colossal, expanding horizon guards the great beyond.
The vastness whispers,
“You are small…
but the adventures that await you
are infinite.”(the bubble: The observable universe, 93 billion light-years in diameter)
Each page includes side bubbles that provide information, including how far we are now from earth, while the poetic text delivers observations and questions about what we do and do not know. What we can only theorize. After all, this is what scientists do, base their theories on what is known and update those theories when they learn more.
Six pages of back matter delve more deeply into known, juicy facts and more detailed questions surrounding each part of space described in the narrative.
In addition to the usual methods of research, Miranda Paul attended Space Camp to get an eyeful from the experts. Clearly, she absorbed and synthesized a tremendous amount of ever-changing information. Long-time and newly-minted space nerds are going to love this book!
In her illustration note, Sija Hong describes her process for creating the abstract images of outer space, one that brought together facts and feeling, creating a sense of wonder and awe and possibility. A perfect match for the text.
To help put space distances in perspective, watch this cool video shot in Black Rock desert in Nevada.
Explore NASA’s website.
Make origami stars.
Pair with The Boy Whose Head was Filled with Stars, a biography of Edwin Hubble, by Isabelle Marinov, What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barrett, or Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer by Laura Gehl.
Title: Beyond: Discoveries from the Outer Reaches of Space
Author: Miranda Paul
Illustrator: Sija Hong
Publisher: Millbrook Press, 2021
Ages: 1st-5th grade (especially the back matter)
Themes: Space, exploration, curiousity
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.