It’s nearly impossible not to be fascinated by the mysterious expanse of the universe. From astronaut chickens to the final word on that controversial dwarf planet Pluto, here are 27 children’s outer space books to celebrate National Astronomy Day (September 30) and fuel the interplanetary interests of elementary and middle school readers.
1. A Moon Of My Own by Jennifer Rustgi
It’s Harold and the Purple Crayon for the world-traveling child. Clever illustrations follow the shadow of a sweet and spunky girl around the world, showing different phases of the moon as seen from the Eiffel Tower to the Amazon Rainforest. Best for: Preschool-Grade 3.
2. The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara
In this interplanetary retelling of the Three Little Pigs, the mother of young alien siblings Bork, Gork and Nklxwcyz sends them out into space to find their own homes. She doesn’t let them leave with a warning, though: beware of the comet chomping, black hole ripping, Big Bad Robot. Best for: Preschool-Grade 3.
3. Zelda’s Big Adventure by Marie Alafaci
Zelda is determined to be the first chicken in space. As in traditional versions of The Little Red Hen, she doesn’t get much help from her poultry pals with her preparations. Even so, she refuses to give up on her stellar dream. Best for: Preschool-Grade 3.
4. Oh No, Astro! by Matt Roeser
When a rogue satellite infringes on Astro the Astroid’s “personal outer space” and knocks him out of orbit, chaos in the cosmos ensues. Best for: Preschool-Grade 3.
5. The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield
Astronaut Chris Hadfield weaves a hushed, captivating memoir about watching the broadcast of the Apollo 11 Moon landing as a child. The historic event changed Chris, giving him the confidence to pursue his dream of becoming an explorer of the “Darkest Dark.” Best for Preschool-Grade 3.
6. Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing by Dean Robbins
Sometimes heroes wear pencil skirts and oversize eyeglasses. This biography will make everyone wish to be superstar NASA computer programmers. Best for: Grades Preschool-Grade 3.
7. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space by Catherine D. Hughes
With supersize photographs and all the interactive nonfiction text features typical of a National Geographic Kids book, this collection of facts about the moon, planets and dwarf planets invites young space enthusiasts to pore over its pages. Best for: Preschool-Grade 3.
8. Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly
Astronaut Mark Kelly imagined this tale of a brave little mouse that saves a space mission after a flight he shared with 18 research mice. After enjoying the fictional story, readers may be inspired to find out more about real life animal astronauts. Best for: Kindergarten-Grade 2.
9. Astronaut Handbook by Meghan McCarthy
“Welcome to Astronaut School!” From learning to be team player to training on the Vomit Comet, this guide covers everything that leads to Blast Off. Best for: Kindergarten-Grade 3.
10. Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space by Amy E. Sklansky
A journey into the expanse of the universe is the perfect poetic inspiration. Sidebar explanations unpack each part of the trip. Best for: Grades Kindergarten-4.
11. Meteor! by Patricia Polacco
The iconic author’s very first published children’s book tells how a summer trip to her grandparents’ farm took an unexpected turn when a meteor crashed down in the meadow, shaking up small-town life. Best for: Kindergarten-Grade 5.
12. Next Time You See the Moon by Emily Morgan
Written by a former teacher on a mission to remind children that things they see every day (or night) can be remarkable, this National Science Teachers Association book explains the reasons for the moon’s changing shape in a way that makes kids want to get outside and look. Bonus: The NSTA offers related teacher resources. Best for Kindergarten-Grade 5.
13. You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien
If you were to travel to Mars someday, how would you get there? What would you wear once you finally arrived on “the red planet?” Bottom line: what other experience could ever compare to being the first kid on Mars? Best for: Kindergarten-Grade 5.
14. If You Were a Kid Docking at the International Space Station by Josh Gregory
Lucy and Tim hang on their cousin Marie’s every word as she describes her training for a mission to the International Space Station. A video chat with Marie aboard the ISS gets her siblings dreaming about their own future space-related careers. Best for: Grades 1-4.
15. Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin’s best-known steps were those he took on the moon as the world watched. But how did he get there? From rock collecting to West Point, he tells his story alongside gorgeous paintings by Wendell Minor. Best for: Grades 1-5.
16. Once Upon a Starry Night by Jacqueline Mitton
Illustrations that overlay foil stars onto paintings of legendary figures like Andromeda and Orion breathe life into what can look –let’s face it – like just a random mass of stars. Brief but vivid stories illuminate this collection of constellations. Best for: Grades 1-5.
17. A Full Moon is Rising by Marilyn Singer
How do cultures around the world enjoy and honor the full moon? Find out from this collection of poems and accompanying background information. Best for: Grades 2-5.
18. How Do You Burp In Space?: And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know by Susan E. Goodman
Learn how to prioritize your two pounds of allotted luggage were you to take a celestial vacation one day, and find out why you probably don’t want to bring along a can of soda. Despite its many challenges, this manual makes outer space travel sound even better than Disney World. Best for: Grades 3-6.
19. I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
When 10-year-old Mamie’s classmates all write to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for a school assignment, Mamie chooses to write to Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut in charge of staying with the ship. She comes to rely on her letter writing when no one else in her life seems to stick around. Best for: Grades 3-7.
20. Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
Being one of the first kids to call the moon home is actually pretty boring for twelve-year-old Dash—but when a scientist turns up dead, life on Moon Base Alpha takes an interesting turn in this first installment of a series. Best for: Grades 3-7.
21. Chasing Space: Young Readers’ Edition by Leland Melvin
When an injury tanks your professional football career, why not join NASA? Leland Melvin did. Best for: Grades 3-7.
22. Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition by Margo Lee Shetterly
Not only did Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden live through some of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history, they did so while using slide rules and adding machines to help NASA launch rockets. Best for: Grades 3-7.
23. 13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar
Forget the mnemonics and songs for the order of the planets you learned in school. Pluto’s updated classification and the discovery of tongue-twisters Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake changed astronomers’ understanding of the galactic landscape. David Aguilar clears up misunderstandings with photos, diagrams, and clear-cut explanations. Best for: Grades 3-7.
24. Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt by Mary Kay Carson
Forty-six years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, crowds gathered to witness footage from a robotic probe that traveled for nine-and-a-half years to make a pass over Pluto. The New Horizons mission redefined ideas of time, space and what’s possible. Best for: Grades 5-7.
25. See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
What would you say in an audio recording about your life on earth meant for extraterrestrials? And what would you find out about yourself along the way? Best for Grades 5-9.
26. Seven Wonders of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar
Never mind the Great Pyramid of Giza and Zeus at Olympus. This Smithsonian nonfiction text makes the case that the nature-made wonders of the universe are worthy of just as much reverence. Best for: Grades 5 and up.
27. Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions and Gravity-Breaking Adventures by Karen Bush Gibson
From familiar names like Sally Ride and Mae Jemison to lesser-known female space pioneers, these stories profile an international collection of women who asserted themselves, overcame bias, and left their marks on the field of astronomy. Best for: Grades 7 and up.
Looking for some more books? Check out our list of 25+ STEM books for your classroom.