I was fortunate enough to get a copy of John’s book from him when we met at this past total solar eclipse. As a science communicator at the Manitoba Museum’s planetarium, I am always on the hunt for good astronomy books, especially ones that are accessible to a younger audience.
John Read’s “50 Things to See with a Telescope Kids” turned out to be one of those rare books. Not only did it teach and remind me a few things I didn’t know or had forgotten, but it was also a light read with spot on and fun visuals making it great for a reading session with your kid.
The book is a good introduction on what to expect from the hobby of amateur astronomy and gives good tips on how to enjoy your night beneath the stars. The first thing I really like in John’s book, compared to some I have read, is that he is up front and honest about the fact that it takes time, patience and practice to find objects in the night time sky.
His reminders about the challenges of telescope use, especially around more difficult objects to find, is so important to keep in mind, otherwise you and your child will get discouraged. I remember taking four evenings just trying to find The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules (Target 37 in the book) when I was just starting out. Despite the frustrations, I kept at it. The sight was worth it.
This leads me to the second thing I really appreciate about 50 Things to See with a Telescope; John has included images of all the objects in his book as seen through a small telescope. It may seem obvious, but what you will see through the eyepiece of your telescope (or for some targets through your binoculars) will be very different from the images and views of the Hubble Space Telescope, whose images now colour our expectations of space.
The images are also incredibly useful as guides for what you should be looking for. Have you ever tried to find a blue cup in a friend’s cupboards when there are six different blue cups mixed in with a dozen other coloured cups? Well hunting for objects in the sky can be a little like that If you’ve never seen the objects before, these little beautiful images are sure to help you out.
I really appreciate that John included at least one binocular target for each season. This gives kids and parents alike a chance to try out some of the targets with a pair of good binoculars that they may already have at home and see if this is a hobby they want to explore deeper before going out and buying a small telescope.
There were a couple formatting issues where an image would cover the text a little, and some terminology and phrasing that I would perhaps have avoided in my personal style of writing, but none of this takes away from the enjoyment and usefulness of the book.
50 Things to See with a Telescope Kids is an excellent first book or addition to any kid amateur astronomer’s bookshelf – even for those of us who are still just kids at heart.
P.S. I wrote to John Read about the formatting issues and and he informed me that the issues have been addressed in the latest publications of his book.