Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Picture Book of Astronomy (1945)

The Picture Book of Astronomy lurks on that line between space travel being fiction and space travel being a real possibility. This wonderful children's book has a style that suggests more than basic astronomic facts are being presented. It is only a 36 page book and obviously intended for parents to purchase for their children. As World War 2 finished there was a perceived need to have more new books specifically aimed at children.

Meyer, Jerome S. Illustrated by Floethe, Richard. Picture Book of Astronomy. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard. (36 p.) 29 cm. 1945

I like the imagery in the book of children going out into space. Under the dust jacket of the book is this imaginary space ship illustration embossed on the actual cover:

The text discusses gravity, the Earth's rotation, and conditions on the Moon and the planets. Wonderful illustrations include those of a rocket launch, children floating inside the spacecraft looking at the Earth, children exploring the Moon, and children visiting Mars (with vegetation). One of the earliest non-fiction children's books I have found showing a rocket flight to the Moon. Also reprinted in the late 1950s (undated).

I have found very few children's books before this time that showed children floating weightlessly or view the Earth from space.

My favorite illustration is the actual landing on the Moon. While this seems familiar to science fiction readers it is being presented to children as a imaginative possibility.

I do agree that the space helmet and hiking shorts wardrobe is a little unusual but it also seems to communication that this is not a dream or fantasy but rather real children hiking and looking up at the earth in sky.

A dream of rockets flying above our cities on their way to the Moon.

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