Literature Connections to
Earth, Moon, & Stars

Teacher's Guides > Earth, Moon & Stars

Books that explain the physical world through myths and legends are a perfect accompaniment to Activity 1. Of course, certain myths and legends can also be matched with other sessions of the guide. For instance, legends about the moon or stars can be connected to the class sessions on moon phases or constellations.

Many of the books here are not myths or legends. These can be related to Activities 2 through 6, depending on their focus. How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World works well with Activity 2. Stories that include eclipses of the moon or the sun would fit well with Activity 4. Any book about the Big Dipper enhances Activity 5, in which students learn how to use the Big Dipper to tell time and to find the North Star. Books about other constellations relate best to Activity 6.

Several books, such as those about comets or planets, are connected more generally to the subject of astronomy. Such books can be used to lead students from their investigations of the Earth, Moon and stars to other elements of our Solar System.
Watch for any books that picture the Moon in the sky, even if they are primary level books, and challenge older students to evalute the astronomical accuracy of these books.

Boat Ride With Lillian Two Blossom
Einstein Anderson Lights Up the Sky
Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Grandfather Twilight
The Heavenly Zoo, Legends and Tales of the Stars
How Many Stars in the Sky?
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World
In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System

Many Moons
Moon-Watch Summer
Nine O’Clock Lullaby
Planet of Exile
The Planet of Junior Brown
The Planets
Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend
Sky Songs
Space Songs
Star Tales: North American Indian Stories
To Space and Back
The Truth about the Moon
The Way To Start a Day
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
The Year of The Comet

Boat Ride With Lillian Two Blossom
by Patricia Polacco
Philomel/Putnam & Grosset, New York. 1988
Grades: K–4
A wise and mysterious Native American woman takes William and Mabel on a boat ride, starting in Michigan and ranging through the sky. Explanations for the rain, the wind, and the changing nature of the sky refer to spirits such as the caribou or polar bear, which are magically shown.
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Einstein Anderson Lights Up the Sky
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Press, New York. 1982
Grades: 4–7
In “The World in His Hands,” Einstein punctures his friend Stanley’s plan to build a scale model of the solar system in his basement. He discusses the relative sizes of the sun and the planets and the distances between them. In “The Stars Like Grains of Sand,” Einstein enlightens his younger brother Dennis about the star population.
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Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Press, New York. 1981
Grades: 4–7
In “Tale of the Comet” there is some very interesting information about possible connections between comets, asteroids, and dinosaurs. Even though the book was published in 1981, the information is still accurate.
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Follow the Drinking Gourd
by Jeanette Winter
Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1988
Grades: K–6
By following the hidden directions in the song “The Drinking Gourd,” taught to them by an old sailor named Peg Leg Joe, runaway slaves follow the stars along the Underground Railroad and the connecting waterways to Canada and freedom. The “drinking gourd,” another name for the Big Dipper, guided them north. In Activities 5 and 6, students learn how to use the Big Dipper to tell time and find the North Star.
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Grandfather Twilight
by Barbara Berger
Philomel Books/Putnam & Grosset, New York. 1984
Grades: Preschool–2
At the end of the day, as he does each day, Grandfather Twilight delivers the moon to the sky. The moon is a pearl that is removed from a strand and grows in size with each step grandfather takes. The story is portrayed simply, with few words and peaceful, yet magical illustrations.
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The Heavenly Zoo, Legends and Tales of the Stars
by Alison Lurie; illustrated by Monika Beisner
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 1979
Grades: 4–8
“Long before anyone knew that the stars were great burning globes of gas many millions of miles from the earth and from one another, men and women saw the sky filled with magical pictures outlined with points of light. Some of these (16) tales are heroic, some comic, some sad; but all are full of the wonder we still feel when we look at the sky full of stars.” The illustrations are striking, showing each beast, bird, or fish against the stars that indicate its position.
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How Many Stars in the Sky?
by Lenny Hort; illustrated by James E. Ransome
Tambourine Books/William Morrow, New York. 1991
Grades: K–2
An African-American father and son set off on a journey of discovery to count the stars in a summer night sky. As city dwellers, they discover the obstacles to stargazing—city lights, for example—and end up driving to the country.
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How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World
by Faith McNulty; illustrated by Marc Simont
HarperCollins, New York. 1990
Grades: K–8
A child takes an imaginary 8,000-mile journey through the earth and discovers what’s inside. This activity connects beautifully with Activity 2 of the GEMS guide, in which students are asked to imagine what might happen if an obect could be dropped through the center of the Earth to the other side.
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In the Beginning:
Creation Stories from Around the World
by Virginia Hamilton; illustrated by Barry Moser
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, San Diego. 1988
Grades: All
An illustrated collection of 25 legends that explain the creation of the world, with commentary placing the myths geographically and classifying them by type of myth tradition such as “world parent,” “creation from nothing,” and “separation of earth and sky.” Some of the selections are extracted from larger works such as the Popol Vuh or the Icelandic Eddas. Excellent connection with Activity 1 of the GEMS guide in which students learn about the ways several ancient peoples modeled how the Sun and Earth move.
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The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System
by Joanna Cole; illustrated by Bruce Degen
Scholastic, New York. 1990
Grades: K–6
Ms. Frizzle and her class leave the earth and visit the moon, sun, and each planet in the Solar System, noting the temperature, color, size, and unique features. Excellent literature connection for students who want to extend their investigations on the Earth, Moon and stars to a study of the Solar System.
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Many Moons
by James Thurber; illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
Harcourt, Brace & World, New York. 1943
Grades: K–5
This is the tale of a little princess who wanted the moon, and how she got it. Neither the King, the Lord High Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard, the Royal Mathematician, nor the Court Jester were able to solve the problem—it took a 10-year-old princess to figure it out. The story includes a debate about how far away the moon is.
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Moon-Watch Summer
by Lenore Blegvad; illustrated by Erik Blegvad
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, San Diego. 1972
Out of print
Grades: 4–6
Adam’s eager anticipation of the Apollo landing and first moon walk turns to sullen resentment when he learns that he and his younger sister will be spending the summer on his grandmother’s farm where there isn’t even a television set. Once there, he is surprised when his grandmother confesses that she has always been “a sort of ancient moon-worshiper” and is fascinated by the Sea of Rainbows. He consoles himself with an old radio, hearing with frustration reports of the good television transmission. “Mission Control called it a ‘superb’ quality picture.” The landing had been seen live in the United States, Japan, Western Europe, and South America, but not in Grannie’s house. As the summer progresses, he makes charts and drawings summarizing the mission’s progress and learns to put his family responsibilities before personal disappointments. Today’s students may find it hard to imagine life without television, but will appreciate the significance of the moon walk to Adam and to society at that time.
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Nine O’Clock Lullaby
by Marilyn Singer; illustrated by Frane Lessac
HarperCollins, New York. 1991
Grades: Preschool–6
Children are transported through many lands showing what people might be doing on different parts of the globe at the “same” time. The pictures of the various cultures are fresh and lively, from cooking on a “barbie” in Australia to conga drumming and coconut candy in Puerto Rico. There’s a brief astronomical explanation of time. This, and the idea that it is day on one part of the earth while it is night on another can be modeled for students at the beginning of Activity 3 of the GEMS guide, and is the question they explore in Activity 1. This book could be read aloud to students even as old as the sixth grade.
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Planet of Exile
by Ursula LeGuin
Ace Books, New York. 1966
Grades: 6–Adult
Cooperation is the central theme of this thin but gripping book about the clash of three cultures—two that have inhabited a harsh planet for eons, and the one that has been exiled only a few generations. Difficult seasonal conditions on the planet are the result of how long it takes for the planet to revolve once around its central star. Because one “year” is equivalent to many Earth years, people only live through a very small number of winters.
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The Planet of Junior Brown
by Virginia Hamilton
Macmillan Publishing, New York. 1971
Grades: 5–12
This unusual and moving book begins with three people (two students who regularly cut eighth grade classes and a school custodian who was formerly a teacher) in a secret room in a school basement with a working model of the solar system. The model has one incredible addition—a giant planet named for one of the students, Junior Brown. How can the Earth’s orbit not be affected by this giant planet? Is there a belt of asteroids that balances it all out? How does this relate to equilateral triangles? From these subjects, the universe of the book expands outward into the Manhattan streets and inward into the hearts, minds, and friendship of the two students who are both African-American. After the first chapter, the solar system becomes more metaphor than scientific model, until the end of the book when the real model must be dismantled and the three must find a way to help Junior Brown and to affirm their solidarity against all odds. Powerfully and poetically written, this book humanizes the statistics about homelessness and the educational crisis in a profound and unforgettable way.
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The Planets
edited by Byron Preiss
Bantam Books, New York. 1985
Grades: 8–Adult
This extremely rich, high-quality anthology pairs a nonfiction essay with a fictional work about the earth, moon, each of the planets, and asteroids and comets. Introductory essays are by Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and others. The material is dazzlingly illustrated with color photographs from the archives of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and paintings by astronomical artists such as the movie production designers of 2001 and Star Wars.
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Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend
adapted by Terri Cohlene; illustrated by Charles Reasoner
Watermill Press/Educational Reading Services, Mahwah, New Jersey. 1990
Grades: 2–5
This Cheyenne legend explains the origin of the Big Dipper. Quillworker is an only child and an expert needle worker. Her dreams direct her to make seven buckskin warrior outfits for her mysterious new seven brothers. To escape the buffalo nation who want to take Quillworker, they all ride a tree up into the sky where they remain, with Quillworker as the brightest star in the dipper. Good tie to Activity 5 of the GEMS guide in which students learn about constellations and make star clocks.
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Sky Songs
by Myra Cohn Livingston; illustrated by Leonard E. Fisher
Holiday House, New York. 1984
Grades: 5–12
Fourteen poems about various aspects of the sky such as the moon, clouds, stars, storms, and sunsets. Wonderful images portray the planets as “wanderers of night,” shooting stars are “bundled up in interstellar dust and bright icy jackets,” and the morning sky is “earth’s astrodome, floodlit.”
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Space Songs
by Myra Cohn Livingston; illustrated by Leonard E. Fisher
Holiday House, New York. 1988
Grades: 5–12
Series of short poems about aspects of outer space including the Milky Way, moon, sun, stars, planets, comets, meteorites, asteroids, and satellites. The astronomy content is accurate. The black background illustrations are dynamic and involving.
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Star Tales: North American Indian Stories
by Gretchen W. Mayo
Walker & Co., New York. 1987
Grades: 5–12
The nine legends in this collection explain observations of the stars, moon, and night sky. Accompanying each tale is information about the constellation or other heavenly observation and how various tribes perceived it. In More Star Tales the same author includes “The Never-Ending Bear Hunt” and seven other tales.
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To Space and Back
by Sally Ride with Susan Okie
Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard/Morrow, New York. 1986
Grades: 4–7
This is a fascinating description of what it is like to travel in space—to live, sleep, eat, and work in conditions unlike anything we know on Earth, complete with colored photographs aboard ship and in space. The astronauts conducted a number of scientific experiments as they observed and photographed the stars, the Earth, the planets, and galaxies. Working outside the shuttle, they feel the warmth of the sun through their gloves, but cool off on the dark side of Earth in the shade. This, and other descriptions, could lead to a better understanding of the Earth’s shape and gravity (Activity 2) as well as day/night and phases of the moon.
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The Truth about the Moon
by Clayton Bess; illustrated by Rosekrans Hoffman
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1983
Grades: K–4
An African boy is puzzled by the changing size of the moon and asks for an explanation. His father says there is only one moon and that the moon he saw last night is the same moon he will see tomorrow. “It is growing, just as a child like you grows to be a man like me. It starts small, just a silver sliver, and every night grows bigger and bigger until it is as big as it can be, a full circle. Then, just as a man grows smaller when he is very old, so does the moon. Smaller and smaller until death.” His mother explains that there is only one moon. “It is like a woman. And you know how sometimes a woman will grow larger and larger, more and more round?” The Chief tells a long tale about the sun and the moon being married and how the moon lost its heat.
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The Way To Start a Day
by Byrd Baylor; illustrated by Peter Parnall
Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1973
Macmillan Publishing Co., New York. 1986
Grades: 3–7
The peoples of the world have celebrated the dawn in many ways—with drum beats, ringing of bells, gifts of gold or flowers. “The way to start the day is this: Go outside and face the east and greet the sun with some kind of blessing or chant or song that you made yourself and keep for early morning.” Relates well to Activity 1 of the GEMS guide, which explores ideas about the rising and setting of the Sun. A Caldecott honor book.
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Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
retold by Verna Aardema; illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Dial Books, New York. 1975
Grades: K–6
This West African folk tale explains why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, and how the owl’s call is what makes the sun rise each morning! Considering ideas that explain why the sun rises each morning is related to what students do in Activity 1 of the GEMS guide.
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The Year of The Comet
by Roberta Wiegand
Bradbury Press, Scarsdale, New York. 1984
Out of print
Grades: 4–9
The first two chapters are specifically about Halley’s Comet in 1910, the rumors about massive destruction that preceded it, and its actual impact on a small Nebraska town. The second chapter starts with an interesting narrative involving the theme of scale, as the heroine Sarah puts herself, like Alice going down the rabbit hole, inside a map of the United States to delve into the detail of the buildings and streets of her small town. For many students, it will be easy to continue reading of Sarah’s other adventures as she gains a new maturity during “the year of the comet.” Many touching and powerful passages; a good sense of the universal scope of the comet and the real-life complexity of human relations.
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The fault, dear Brutus,
is not in our stars,
But in ourselves . . .


— William Shakespeare
Julius Caeser


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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