Space Racers – Make Your Own Paper Rockets by Isabel Thomas

[Reviewed from Copy Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing]

9781786270382.IN01Space Racers – Make Your Own Paper Rockets is an impressive combination of art and science that incorporates the best of both didactic and experiential learning. Its innovative approach makes it very accessible to a wide variety of ages and abilities. You’ll read about rocket science and different types of rockets, then make it hands on by building several different kinds of model rockets out of paper.

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From Space Racers – Make Your Own Paper Rockets. Image Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing.

Space Racers – Make Your Own Paper Rockets is actually three softbound books in a hardcover box.

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From Space Racers Make Your Own Paper Rockets. Image Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing.

The first book of ‘Rocket fact files’ gives a background about rocket science, rockets, and a breakdown of eight specific types of rockets used.

It consists of an overview of what has to be done to even get into space, a broad but effective explanation of general rocket science, and a bit about rockets, their parts, how they’re named, some notable rocket scientists, and some of the challenges we face in building and flying them.

There are excellent diagrams of engines, a general timeline of rockets, a glossary of launch jargon, a fact countdown of all of the different types of cargo previously launched into space, and an excellent reference showing just how far it is between us and the different spheres that planes, hot-air balloons, rockets, spaceships, and satellites travel.

Then there is a two-page spread for each of the eight rockets discussed. It begins with the Vostok K, the first rocket that was used to launch a person into space, and ends with the Skylon, a spaceplane being developed for future ventures into space. Each of the eight spreads gives clear diagrams of the different parts of the rockets, making it easy to compare and contrast the different types.

You learn about how long the rockets have been in use, how many have been launched, where we’ve sent cargo, as well as facts and figures about their size and types of fuel used. It’s effortless to scan and lets you dive in quickly to those things that you want to learn more about. The design and illustrations are clean, flawless, and work perfectly with how you naturally want to read. It packs an incredible amount of information into it without ever feeling cluttered or overwhelming.

Told in second-person perspective, the way the author uses “You” immediately draws the readers in. The information has an educated, but accessible and friendly tone making it a pleasure to read aloud. My seven-year-old son wanted me to read every single word on every single page, and it was fun to do so. The flow of the layout sets a very comfortable pace and the information presented is always interesting. It skillfully goes into depth without ever coming close to being dry.

Questions are sprinkled throughout the book. This gives comfortable pauses and makes it easy to remember what you’ve just read. The vocabulary is excellent. It directly defines words that may be unfamiliar to young ones (and not so young ones) and then gives relevant and applicable meanings.  I was pleased overhearing my eldest son “playing spaceships” and using some of this newly acquired vocabulary.

After reading through the book, there is a compelling sense to do more, to someway immerse yourself further in the world of rocketry and space exploration. It is very satisfying to then, after reading about rockets and seeing how important and fascinating they are, sit down and turn this two-dimensional abstract experience into a hands-on three-dimensional one.

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From Space Racers Make Your Own Paper Rockets. Image Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing.

The second book is a very detailed instructional book on how to make paper rockets. It consists of techniques, a reasonable supplies list, and helpful tips on how to make the space rockets. It’s definitely there for a reason, read this part before diving in to making the rockets. Each rocket includes a level of difficulty and a thorough breakdown of how many steps each part of each rocket will take. The instructions do not abandon you and give you a spot-on idea of how much work constructing each rocket will be. The directions are presented in English, but are only there when an image needs to be further expounded upon.

The third book is the actual punch out pieces of rockets that you will put together.   It consists of the eight rockets that you read about in the first book plus two additional, very easy, basic ones.

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My first attempt at making the Space Racer 1 from Space Races Make Your Own Paper Rockets.

I started with one of the easiest ones to make, the Space Racer 1. Completely uninterrupted, working very slowly and carefully, it took me one full hour to complete. I still managed to put the very top together inside out, but that was oversight on my part. (Sigh. Next time I’ll be ready.) I wanted to do one by myself before sitting down with a three-year-old and a seven-year-old and having to figure it out on the fly. I’m glad I did.

Small tips for working with younger ones are: 1) only pop out the pieces as they’re called for to prevent losing them, 2) using (massive amounts of) glue stick vs. the liquid glue may reduce mess and still be effective, 3) press, press, press the paper together and wait patiently for those pieces to set, and 4) check twice, glue once.

The paper is thicker and sturdier than standard copy paper, but it is still paper and can be torn or ripped if not careful. Any thicker though and it would have been frustrating to work with. So, when working with the younger ones, it may be best to take out the pieces yourself unless you are working with a very meticulous child. Teens and older children (8+ for which the book is specifically designed for) shouldn’t have a problem at all if they’re reasonably careful.

The model rocket, for being paper, is surprisingly sturdy. Both of my boys played with the rocket I put together for awhile yesterday and it is still standing in one piece today. The rockets aren’t intended to be toys, but it is hard to tell them that.

These rockets are definitely projects for those who enjoy the process of putting things together and being exact. This is fantastic for the meticulously oriented, but you don’t have to be obsessive to get it right. It’s also a fabulous mental exercise in interpreting plans and understanding how a three-dimensional object is translated onto paper.

Space Racers Make Your Own Paper Rockets is a fabulous, informative, and excellent way to take learning about rockets to another level. I’m impressed!

Recommended Ages 8 to Adult. Laurence King Publishing. October 16, 2017. 56 pages. ISBN: 978-1786270382 Nonfiction

Where to Get it: [Available October 16th, 2017]

Author/Illustrator Websites:

More Reviews:

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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