Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book #255: The Planet Gods: Myths and Facts about the Solar System by Jacqueline Mitton, Illustrated by Christina Balit

Image from RandomHouse.com
The Sun, the Moon, the eight planets in our solar system, as well as three dwarf planets, including Pluto, are discussed in this non fiction book. Accompanied by vibrant illustrations, this book covers how names were chosen for these celestial bodies, facts and attributes of each, and the characteristics they share with their Greek/Roman namesakes.

Published by National Geographic, this beautifully illustrated book devotes a two page spread to each celestial body. This book differs from many non-fiction books about the solar system in that the writing focuses on evocative images that helps the reader paint a picture of the planet and the god/goddess in their minds eye, while at the same time presenting important factual information. Text is printed on a white background in contrast to the energetic colors of Balit’s illustrations, which pulse with fiery oranges and reds, starry indigo blues, and smoothly shiny gold accents. The book begins with general information on when the planets were discovered and how they were named. Back matter includes a one-page glossary and additional facts about the sun, moon, and planets, including their size, average distance from the sun, and number of moons. The front endpapers feature the small planets and the back endpapers show the giant planets.

Although this book is geared toward elementary school aged kids, it can easily be used with the upper grades as well. Greek and Roman mythology has always been attractive to children and teens and this popularity has only increased with Rick Riordan’s blockbuster Lightning Thief series.

Use this book as an introduction to the solar system. You can read the book cover to cover or just the section on the planet you are learning about that day. If possible, make a field trip to a planetarium or a good stargazing location.

If you are learning about Greek/Roman mythology, use this book to show kids the different ways those myths are present in today’s society and culture. Try pairing this book with sections from Lise Lunge-Larsen’s Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Gods or one of the four Look-It-Up Guides to Mythology

Follow up with one of these solar system crafts, perfect for elementary school aged children. Try this paint and collage solar system. If you have a large group and/or a lot of time, make a bigger representation of the solar system by making papier-mâché planets.

If your kids like this book, check out Once Upon a Starry Night and Zoo in the Sky. Written and illustrated by Mitton and Balit, both books look at the mythology and facts behind constellations.



  1. I love the jewel like illustrations in this book.

    1. I hope you can find a copy at your local library or bookstore so you can see the illustrations up close. The jewel tones combined with the metallic papers create such a stunning effect.