Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm

I read Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm way back in Level 4 Lockdown but I’ve been reminded of it a couple of times lately. It was just what I needed to help me get away from pandemics. Alastair rocketed me into deep space with this mystery that had me on the edge of my seat.

Orion Lost is a twisty, nail-biting space adventure that will hook kids on sci-fi. I loved every minute of it!

The ship Orion is travelling from Earth to a new home on Eos Five. The ship has to make a series of Jumps through space time to shorten their travel time and when these jumps happen everyone is put to Sleep and woken after the Jump. The human crew aren’t the only ones in the depths of space – there are the mysterious alien race, the Videshi, and the vicious Scrapers, space pirates who will rip a ship apart to scrap it. When danger lurks the ship’s crew and passengers are all sent to Sleep, but when Beth and her classmates are the only ones woken it is up to the kids to run the ship and try to figure out what went wrong. As they look for answers they discover that someone has been lying to them.

I hope Alastair Chisholm has more adventures planned for the Orion crew because I’m eager for more.

Space Maps by Lara Albanese and Tommaso Vidus Rosin

The award for coolest nonfiction book of the year (and possibly the best book about space for kids EVER) goes to Space Maps by Lara Albanese and Tommaso Vidus Rosin. Its combination of bite-sized facts, stunning design and illustrations and sheer size make this a winning nonfiction book. It’s a book that every space fan, young or old, needs to have on their home bookshelf.

Starting with what we can see with our eyes (the stars and constellations) and moving further out to the planets we know, and then to beyond our solar system, readers journey throughout the universe. We see the planets in new ways, with maps showing us the craters, chasmas and seas and giving us interesting tidbits of information to astound our friends and family. The Selenean Summit, for instance, is the highest point on the moon and is higher than Mount Everest. Each planet has an identity card with fast facts about each one, including average temperature (-63 degrees Celsius for Mars) and number of moons (79 for Jupiter). We also learn about the observatories that help us look in to space and the things that help humans survive in space, including spacesuits and the International Space Station.

Space Maps is a book to treasure and pore over again and again. It’s a book that is beautifully produced, with strong binding, thick paper and a hard cover, meaning it will stand up to repeat reading in a home, school or public library. The large format of the book makes this a great book for sharing, spreading it out on a table or the floor to soak up the information and illustrations. Like any good nonfiction book there is a contents, glossary and a detailed index.

Tommaso Vidus Rosin’s illustrations are absolutely stunning! His maps of the planets are really detailed and the colours swirl and glow. I love how some of the pages really do seem to glow, like the map of the sun. You can tell that he has spent a lot of time studying images of the planets in order to create his images.

Get to your bookshop or library now and get a copy of this wonderful book.

The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge’s previous book, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was science fiction for kids at its best. Christopher effortlessly wove actual science with fiction into a story about a boy’s search for his mum across multiple dimensions. It is a fantastic book that the kids at my school have loved and I’ve certainly enjoyed discussing the story with them. Christopher’s latest book, The Jamie Drake Equation, is another brilliant science fiction story that readers young and old will devour.

Repro_JamieDrake_cvr.inddHow amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut?

Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake’s dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it’s cool but he just really misses him…

Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad’s mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he’s a hero too?

The Jamie Drake Equation tore apart my atoms, shook them up and put me back together again. It made me smile, broke my heart and left me in awe of the universe.  The story is narrated by Jamie so you really get inside his head and experience his sadness, embarrassment , heartbreak, wonder and awe.

Ultimately this is a story about a boy and his connection with his father who he just wants to return to him on Earth. Jamie’s dad is often away, training for missions or up in space, and Jamie and his family have had to live all over the world for his dad to achieve his dreams. Jamie really misses his dad and just wants him to be home, rather than talking to him on a screen. His dad’s latest mission is to launch nano-spacecraft in to space to look for signs of alien life. However, it’s Jamie who makes contact with an alien race when he accidentally downloads a transmission to the Hubble Telescope to his phone. Soon Jamie is discovering more about aliens and the universe than he ever thought he would.

Like The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, the thing I love most about The Jamie Drake Equation is the way that Christopher not only tells a fantastic story but also teaches you about the wonders of the universe. I never knew about things like a star’s ‘Goldilocks zone’, or that one of our closest stars, Proxima Centauri, is only four and a quarter light years from Earth. Reading this book made me want to desperately visit an observatory to look at the stars (something I’ve never done).  I’m sure Christopher will inspire kids to want to explore the universe too.

The Jamie Drake Equation is perfect for readers who love adventure, science and space, stories about families, or anyone who just loves a gripping story.   It would be a great read aloud for Years 6-8 as it will certainly grab kids (and teachers).  I wonder where Christopher Edge will take us next?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe is the absolutely amazing debut  Young Adult novel by Beth Revis and I can already tell that it is going to be one of my favourite books of the year.

The story starts with Amy who, along with her parents, is being prepared to be cryogenically frozen for the next 300 years as they travel to a new planet.  Her parents and the other adults on the ship all have special skills that will help to colonise this new planet, while Amy is a nonessential, just there because of her parents.    There are also others on board the ship, Godspeed, who are not frozen but keeping the ship moving on it’s course.  Elder is one of these people.  He is the youngest person on the ship and the one chosen to lead the next generation.  When Amy is violently woken 50 years before they are due to arrive on the new planet, she creates tension in Elder’s carefully ordered society.  On a ship in the middle of space where everyone has the same skin and hair colour, similar features, and never questions the rules, Amy is not welcomed.Amy’s questions and Elder’s own discoveries lead them to uncover the lies that Eldest has been telling them all about the ship and their quest for Centauri-Earth.

Beth Revis leads you on a rollercoaster ride, with lots of unexpected twists and turns.  Across the Universe has something for just about every reader – a dystopian society, science fiction, mystery, murder, and a touch of romance.  It’s the first book in a new trilogy and I really can’t wait to read more.  Get your hands on one of the hottest YA novels of 2011!

You can also check out Beth’s website and read her very entertaining blog.