A handsome portrait gallery and finding guide for the 88 “official” constellations.
Unlike most guides for young stargazers, which introduce just a few select constellations, this systematic catalog goes for the whole modern, International Astronomical Union–standardized roster. Following a historical introduction, the author groups all 88 by age and then type, presenting in each tidy entry a small sky map opposite a full-page, fleshed-out image, a verbal description of the constellation’s shape, the Arabic and Latin names of at least one featured star, associated asterisms, and brief explanations or paraphrased versions of background myths. These last are, unfortunately, colorless (“Prometheus was tied to a rock and an eagle was sent to peck at him every day as punishment.” Peck?!?). Worse, notwithstanding vague references to star myths in “many cultures” and a set of relevant URLs in the back, with rare exceptions they are confined to ancient Greek tales alone. Gillingham’s stylized figures are serigraphic in look with golden brown and turquoise as featured hues; she neatly sidesteps the problematic “Indus (The Indian)” by inviting readers to imagine their own overlays. She closes with a full set of larger seasonal star maps, but actual nocturnal expeditions will be better served by the interactive apps and other resources she mentions in the endmatter.
Disappointingly narrow in cultural perspective, nevertheless it’s digestibly arranged and presented grist for young readers with a budding or even latent interest in sky watching. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)