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JUNIOR ASTRONAUT by Crank Publishing Ltd Kirkus Star


Breaking Through the Space Barrier

developed by Crank Publishing Ltd, Immediate Media Company

Age Range: 6 - 8

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2012
Publisher: Immediate Media Company

A quick course in rocket science and aerodynamics features ’50s-style retro illustrations and rrrrobust narrrration in a Scots accent.

As introduction, readers are invited to wave a sheet of paper to experience air resistance, then fold it into an airplane (step diagrams provided) and “[t]hrow it as hard as you can into the sky and see how you get on” to watch gravity in action. A flashback through history offers interactive ganders at gunpowder and early rockets. This is followed by further demonstrations (with very simple animations) that show how modern rockets use controlled thrust, stabilizing fins and stages to counter atmospheric effects, the aforementioned gravity and even changes in the center of gravity to reach outer space. Tapping occasional “More Science!” tabs opens sidebars with additional details. A final exam of sorts challenges readers to assemble a rocket from correctly chosen parts, which leads to a dramatic takeoff and a congratulatory “Jnr Astronaut” designation. American readers may miss English equivalents to the metric measurements, but this may prove a salutary reminder that the rest of the world eschews pounds and miles. Though a three-round bout with Mexican wrestler “El Gravitino” partway along is more distracting than instructive, children will come away with a firm grasp of rocketry’s basic principles as well as some relevant physics, such as the difference between “mass” and “weight.”

Mission most definitely accomplished, thanks to lucid explanations and a steady focus on participatory instruction. (iPad informational app. 6-8)