PBS is planning a SUMMER OF SPACE lineup that brings five new programs covering different areas of space exploration combined with the best of PBS’ encore space-themed programming and PBS Digital Studios content. These programs, along with the recommended books on our list, effectively augment the nation-wide theme of public library Summer Reading Programs & Events: “A Universe of Stories.”

You can read up on a Summer of Space with this Reading List. Contact your local library (or bookseller) if any title catches your eye. Each of these esteemed authors are taking a unique look at this moment in history, offering nuanced perspectives and analysis.

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Daring Dozen: The Twelve That Walked On The Moon
Suzanne Slade / Illustrated by Alan Marks
Ages 6-10
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong made one small step, which made history. In poetic verse, author Suzanne Slade introduces twelve brave men, who participated in seven ApolloMissions over a three-and a half year period and left their footprints on the moon. This cleverly crafted book with gorgeous illustrations by Alan Marks reveals successes and challenges of the missions, as well as important discoveries. There is an afterword by astronaut Alan Bean (1932-2018), the lunar module pilot of Apollo 12 and the fourth man to walk on the moon. Two additional must reads by this author about space are“A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon” (Ages 4-8) and “Countdown:2979 Days to the Moon” (Ages 10-14).

Astronaut Handbook
Meghan McCarthy
Ages 4-8
Young readers are suiting up for the space program from page one and learning not only about the different kinds of astronauts they can be (pilot, scientist, mechanical engineer, etc), but also that “all different kinds of people have become astronauts.” McCarthy achieves a fun but informative balance, showing how exciting the lives and work of astronauts can be, but framing it all as a reward for hard work, studying, and dedication.

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To The Stars!: First American Woman to Walk in Space 
Carmella Van Vleet / Dr. Kathy Sullivan / Illustrated by Nicole Wong
Ages 5-8

Some young girls play with dolls, but Kathy Sullivan pored over her dad’s airplane blueprints. When asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she’d reply: “I want to see the whole world!” With detailed illustrations, we follow Sullivan as she grows up in a world that tries to tell her women can only be nurses or teachers. When she finally becomes the first American woman to walk in space, we recall an empowering quote from the first few pages: “I know what I love, and I’m just going to follow that compass.”

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Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13
Helaine Becker / Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Ages 5-9

The stories of Apollo 13 and the “human computers” of Hidden Figures have been adapted into blockbuster films by now, but Becker’s book sheds more light on the life of mathematician Katherine Johnson. The narrative has the confidence-boosting refrain of “You can count on me,” as Johnson studies hard through school and is promoted to calculating the flight paths for the Apollo missions. The drama comes in April of 1970 when Johnson has to calculate a differen tkind of path, a path home for when Apollo 13 is blown off course.

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Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Margot Lee Shetterly, w/ WinifredConkling / Illustrated by Laura Freeman
Ages 7-10

Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden’s extraordinary math skills are valiantly portrayed in the illustrations of Freeman, while Shetterly and Conklin give insightful historical and societal context for young readers to understand the world that they grew up in (post war, segregation). While providing enough detailed text to aid any elementary school research project, the book also instils the importance of (not only studying and hard work) but standing up for yourself.

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There’s No Place Like Space The Cat In The Hat Story: All About Our Solar System
Tish Rabe
Ages 3-7

The Cat in the Hat, along with Thing One and Thing Two, explore space and the 8 planets with Dick and Sally in the Thingamajigger. They visit each planet and the sun, learning unique facts about each. Stars and several constellations are also explained by The Cat in the Hat in rhyming verse. Lastly before the crew returns to earth, they all visit the moon and discuss the moon landing. Don’t miss seeing The Cat In The Hat’s Rumbly Tumbly/Planet Name Game episode.

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Curious George Discovers Space
H.A. Rey
Ages 4-8

Curious George visits the Space Center on an exciting expedition to help Professor Pizza and Professor Einstein. He makes a special delivery of supplies to an international space station, and then goes to Mars to assist with a problem with the Mars rover. Exploring space travel, gravity, and the solar system, this book includes real photos, experiments, and activities.

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Elmo’s World: Space!
John Barrett, Danielle Obinger, and Mary Beth Nelson
Ages 2-5

Our cuddly red friend Elmo takes a trip into space on a rocket and has a fun adventure. Astronaut Elmo visits the moon before flying returning to Earth. Also check out “Elmo’s World: Moon!, Sun!, Stars, and Sky.” Visit pbskids.org for more Elmo’s World or learn more about Elmo’s visit to NASA.