Review of Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet
by Curtis Manley; illus. by Jessica Lanan
Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.
1/19    978-1-250-15533-7    $18.99 

The ever-fascinating idea that there may be life on other planets drives this smart discussion of the major advances in astronomy that have led to the discovery of exoplanets (officially, “extrasolar planets”), along with the conditions that might be necessary to support life (the “just right” of the title). Manley sets up the science carefully and thoroughly, leading readers step by step through the ways in which astronomers have used tools such as telescopes to “see” the planets that orbit distant stars. Excellent analogies help readers grasp the techniques: “For a few stars that are close to Earth, large telescopes can actually see an exoplanet, but only if the glare from the star is blocked — like when you hide the Moon’s glow with your hand.” Lanan’s illustrations take the concepts to the next level; the choices of scale, color, and detail in her planetary landscapes make visible the text’s content. The clever use of a parallel narrative in the art, which features a young (brown-skinned) girl and her family as they visit a planetarium and bring home a telescope, situates the images of possible other worlds in that character’s imagination. On one dramatic double-page spread, where a single sentence in white stands out on a black background, readers are invited to test the limits of their own thinking about exoplanetary life: “Maybe it’s like nothing we can even imagine.” Back matter includes more on the science of detecting exoplanets, a brief bibliography, lists of relevant websites, and a “timeline of discovering our place in the universe.”

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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