Friday, January 22, 2010

Space Words

Two weeks ago, Little Brother created an illustrated book of weather words. He was so proud of his creation that he recently told me, "I want to make another book -- an award-winning alphabet book!"

As a writer myself, I was excited to hear this. The original weather book was my idea, but now he was taking things further. I told him that his new book needed a theme. "Like animals, outer space, or places."

Little Brother loved the idea of a book of "space words." I wasn't sure. How do you draw "dark matter" or "black holes"? How could I explain these concepts to a four-year-old? Could I even think of words for each letter of the alphabet? You can see that we are missing several letters in our original list of space words.

Mommy, what color is gravity?

Fortunately, Twitter is populated with some kind people, including Debra L. Davis, otherwise known as Woman Astronomer. She made some helpful suggestions for Little Brother's book, including "flyby" for f, "Kuiper belt" for k, and "ice moons" for i.

And so, "Space Words" was born.

Little Brother referenced his older brother's illustrated Earth & Space book, which influenced his drawings for "black hole" and "dark matter".

I told him to think of a "comet" like a shooting star (since it looks like one), but I now realize that's the wrong way to think about it so we'll have to have a chat about that soon.

Our conversation about dark matter went something like this:

Me: "Well, you know how there's all that stuff up there in outer space that we can see?"

Little Brother: "Yeah."

Me: "Well, there's a lot of stuff out there that we know about, but we can't see. That's dark matter."

I taught Little Brother how satellites would sometimes have a "flyby" near a planet to gather data. And I suggested that maybe someday, manned spaceships would fly by planets, too. He loved this idea, which is why the rocket is much larger than the planet -- in this case, Jupiter (note the large red eye!).

"Gravity" was another fun topic.

Little Brother: "What color is gravity?"

Me: "Uh, gravity doesn't have a color. It's the force that sticks us to the Earth. How about you draw some people walking on the Earth with an arrow pointing down?"

So far, it's my favorite of his drawings. I promised him that if he finishes the whole alphabet, I'll find a way to get his pictures bound in a real book.

Photo credits: Mama Joules. Images courtesy of Little Brother.

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