Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space

Clear summer nights are the perfect time for star-gazing and there’s one clever cat who can teach junior astronomers the ropes.

Meet Professor Astro Cat and his sidekick, Astro Mouse, the stars of Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman. The book gives kids with a penchant for space exploration (so basically, all kids!) detailed, accurate and visually appealing information about the planets, the stars, space travel and galaxies.

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So what does Professor Astro Cat bring to a book about space that we haven’t seen before? Well, apart from 64 pages of fascinating facts, there’s a quantum physicist, Dr Dominic Walliman, and an award-winning illustrator, Ben Newman, behind this publication.

Newman’s magnificent illustrations combined with Walliman’s detailed explanations about all-things space, set this book apart and it achieves that rare balance in children’s non-fiction of being informative and factually robust, and also being beautiful to look at.

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Walliman speculates and presents various theories about the unknown aspects of space alongside what we know, and in doing so, will blow little minds. For example –

“The further you look into space, the further you are looking into the past, so the furthest galaxy we have discovered is very, very old. It is called UDFj-39546284 and because it is at the very edge of the visible Universe, we see it as it was not long after the Big Bang.”

There’s also information about what to do if you find yourself trapped in a black hole; how to get to the moon; whether there’s life on Mars and in other galaxies; and the fact that if plants grew in a lower gravity environment, they’d be enormous (and be home to ‘sky whales’) –

“Combined with a dense oxygen atmosphere, the sky would be like the ocean on Earth, and you could get giant alien sky whales swimming through the air.”

I’m sure kids will be excited by the fact that there’s oodles of unanswered questions about space and this book provides lots to fire the imagination.

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Newman’s illustrations are sensational. They have a mid-century feel, a nod to the time when space travel had just begun, and a subdued colour palette, dominated by orange, rust-brown, yellow and muted blues. They’re not just pleasing to look at, they’re also clever – a diagram comparing the size of planets if they were fruit; another comparing the very straight axis of Venus and the horizontal axis of Uranus with Earth’s tilt; and the spectacular birth and death of stars.

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space is suitable for children aged seven years and over. Find it in all good book stores or online at Book Depository, who deliver for free to Australia.

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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