Picture books about our world and our universe that are perfect for libraries and classrooms

These three picture books are about the world around us and while two of them focus on our planet and what makes it special, the third book ventures outside our solar system and imagines what might happen if a black hole ended up in a student’s desk.

Only One by Deborah Hopkinson and Chuck Groenink

“Only One” by Deborah Hopkinson and Chuck Groenink starts out with a child explaining to his brother about the big bang. It’s about stars and galaxies, how galaxies are shaped, and about our own galaxy, the Milky Way. In our galaxy, “only one” sun lights our sky and gives us warmth. While there are eight planets, “only one” is our home. We learn about the planets and their moons, and that Earth has “only one” moon. Hopkinson drills down into more specific details about Earth by explaining that Earth has seven continents and five oceans. She explains about the over eight million different kinds of creatures that inhabit our planet as well as the seven billion people, each of us unique. It’s a love story to the world around us, but also to our own planet, and how we need to respect it and keep it safe. The illustrations are engaging and keep the focus on the important messages in the text. One double spread is about different habitats on Earth, and cleverly, trees divide the illustrations of those habitats. There’s a lot of information in this book, but it’s presented in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand format. (Anne Schwartz Books)

A Planet Like Ours

Ironically, the picture book “A Planet Like Ours” mentions “only one” on the very first page with its message, “But there’s only one planet like ours.” The message that authors Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon and illustrator Kayla Harren demonstrate is how important it is to protect our planet. There are sections on our soil, our water, our animals, our trees, our air, and our people. The pages clearly document the danger our planet is in: the litter in the oceans, the pollution in our air, the depletion of our waters. The text is simple and easy to read and comprehend. The joint note from the authors and illustrator share that this book is their love letter to our Earth. They hope that young children learn about the importance of solving the problems our planet faces because if not, there will be no coming back. (Sleeping Bear Press)

The Black Hole Debacle

“The Black Hole Debacle” by Keri Claiborne Boyle and illustrated by Deborah Melmon is very definitely a fiction picture book about what could happen when an aspiring astronomer finds a black hole has taken up residence in her desk at school. After it eats much of the contents of her desk (it is a black hole, you know!), she takes it home. But soon the black hole is out of control. There’s a cute device by which Jordie, the main character, is able to save the day, her dog who had been swallowed by the black hole, and maybe the whole world. Future astronomers will love this book with plenty of nonfiction information at the end like “The Black Hole: Space’s Most Mysterious Monster,” “Where Do Black Holes Come From?” “What Would Happen if You Fell into a Black Hole?” and “Are Black Holes Big? It’s All Relative…” and there are suggestions for further research. My grandson gave it a thumbs up and insisted on taking it home with him! (Sleeping Bear Press)

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover picture books provided by the publishers for review purposes.