Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Roaring Brook Press
2014, 40 pages, 8.8 x 11.4 x 0.4 inches
A popular Internet meme pairs a photograph of astrophysicist and humanitarian Carl Sagan with that of reality show star and shrill media figure Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. The caption states, "If you don't know who this is… (referencing Sagan) …but you know who this is… (Snooki) …Congratulations! You're what's wrong with the world!" Certainly a bit harsh and overstated, leading another Internet blogger to modify the last part of the meme thusly: "That's a real shame! Why not Google 'Carl Sagan' and learn all about him? Read his books, watch his shows and be inspired!"
Reading is one sure path to inspiration, which prompted Stephanie Roth Sisson to write her children's biography of Carl Sagan. "Carl Sagan was able to ignite imagination and wonder and pull science out of the antiseptic staleness that existed in my classroom," states Sisson on her website. "[He] made it relevant to me and millions of people around the globe." Star Stuff covers everything from its subject's Brooklyn boyhood and how his love for science began at the public library and the 1939 World's Fair, to his work with NASA, the release of his seminal PBS series Cosmos and his role in founding the SETI Institute (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) to find life in the universe. The illustrations are playful and engaging, and the text is quite accessible. As a special education teacher, I shared the book with my class which led to their writing a paper about his life and work. The book has since become a student favorite and a staple of my regular curriculum.
Parents and teachers who want to get even more out of sharing this beautiful book with their kids might want to pair it with this video of the humble Dr. Sagan teaching a class of children at his elementary school alma mater here. Truly, a reminder of what an inspired intellect and great soul the man was.
– Lee Hollman
April 21, 2016