Marianne J. Dyson

Review of 8 Spinning Planets

Reviewed by: Marianne Dyson, 2010

This colorful book aimed at preschoolers contains one spread for each of the eight planets in the solar system. The cover has eight holes through which eight plastic “button” planets protrude.

Each spread has four lines of text ending with rhyming words. However, any parent who reads these lines aloud will soon discover that the rhythm leaves much to be desired, and the phrasing was obviously selected to force the ends to rhyme. For example, in the spread about Mercury,

“It is a rocky planet without any air,
With the sun so close by, it is very hot there.”

But bad poetry aside, the text does a decent job of describing each planet, though old data was used for Neptune—the great dark spot dissolved years ago.

The art, though pretty, does not get any points for accuracy. About the only thing right is that Mercury is the smallest and Jupiter is the largest, though the planets in between are not to scale. But the colors are just wrong on most of the worlds. Jupiter’s red spot (included in the text!) is not even red: it is orange, and the bands are purple! And beautiful yellow Saturn is shown in bright green! What’s with the blue polka dots on Uranus? The text says it looks like “one big blur,” but the photo shows it with stripes! Mars looks like it has the measles, and the most recognizable features, such as the Tharsis volcanoes or Vallis Marineris could easily have been included instead of random red dots. Earth’s continents are shown in green versus brown, and no white clouds are included. The planets are indeed colorful, but not these colors!

In almost every text and science lesson I know about, the planets are counted from the sun going outward, and Mercury is number 1, Earth is number 3, and Neptune is number 8. For some reason, this book goes backwards, starting with Mercury as number 8. Preschool children just learning to count are sure to be confused by this reverse order. They barely understand 3-2-1 Liftoff!

This book has little to offer that is not found in more accurately illustrated and better written books. I give it 2 points for facts, 1 point for explanations, 0.5 point for current data, no points for readability, and no points for accurate illustrations. Total 3.5 points. 8 Spinning Planets has visual appeal and some good introductory information about the planets, but suffers from a lack of accuracy in its illustrations and a confusing counting order. Rating: maybe/okay.

Title: 8 Spinning Planets
Author: Brian James
Illustrator: Russell Benfanti
Ages: 4-8
Format: hardback
Pages: 16
Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic
Date: 2010
Retail Price: $9.99
ISBN: 978-0-545-23517-4

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