Lonely Planet’s travel guidebooks are now nearly ubiquitous on the backpacker trail. This example of their venture into children’s publishing is an impressive piece of work. Handsomely produced and illustrated, the book takes the reader along a training programme to become a space explorer (a term presumably preferred to ‘astronaut’ because it lacks the American-centric connotations).
While independent readers would have to be older, children from the 6-8 age range whose imaginations have been captured by all things space would enjoy both the pictures and being read to from this book. At 128 pages it represents good value and a book one worth returning to repeatedly.
While at times I felt the ‘space explorer training’ conceit felt slightly forced, overall it provides an entertaining structure to the journey the reader goes on, and one which appeals greatly to the target readership. It also allows for much factual information to be covered smoothly and nearly invisibly. The pages are never overly busy or seemingly overloaded with information, but nevertheless, How to be a Space Explorer is a book packed with facts. Particularly interesting are the specifics of antigravity training, which conveys the sheer physicality of the challenge involved. The very success of so much of the space programme slightly robbed it of its drama; this book helps restore for a jaded adult reader some of the magic and thrill of space travel.