Journey Around the Sun: The Story of Halley’s Comet – by James Gladstone,  illustrated by Yaara Eshet

Journey Around the Sun: The Story of Halley’s Comet – by James Gladstone,  illustrated by Yaara Eshet, Owkids, 9781771473712, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Nonfiction

What did you like about the book?  The text of this lyrical picture book operates on two levels. A large font across the top of most pages tells the story of Halley’s Comet from the object’s point-of-view, using the first person. The comet speaks directly to the reader, explaining how it has been seen and interpreted across human history. For centuries, it was a mystery, seen as a messenger of misfortune. But then Halley calculated its regular return and in its 1910 visit, telescopes took the first photos of its travels. The book also details and shows the comet’s 1986 encounter with the spacecraft Giotto. Meanwhile, passages set in smaller type give details, names, dates and specific scientific information about the comet. Lively watercolors accompany the text and the large format of the book gives readers the opportunity to study small details. Sometimes the art is fanciful; when an observer likens the comet’s tail to a peacock’s, Eshet literally shows a star dragging feathers across the sky. Other times she faithfully renders the space shuttle or astronomers using handheld telescopes in period dress.  I liked that the book shows the ways in which Halley’s Comet has appeared in artwork and observations from many cultures, including China in 240 BCE,  ancient Babylon, and 14th century Italy as we see Giotto incorporate it into his fresco Adoration of the Magi. The book ends with a note from the author and some facts about comets.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It is cool to think about how the comet returns cyclically, although children would have to have some notion of that before reading the book. The small type is very tiny. I found it a bit hard to read.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children age 5-8 with an interest in space or comets.

Who should buy this book? Elementary schools or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 523.6

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: June 16, 2021

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