The Planets

June 22, 2012 at 2:29 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Title: The Planets
Author: Dava Sobel

I’m impressed with how accessible Dava Sobel has made Astronomy.  As a New York Times journalist, she brings all the important information to the table.  As a writer, she’s a story teller of the highest degree.  Beautiful, fluid, and full of all the ancient romance of the stars, The Planets is full of history, poetry, and all the most relevant of scientific discoveries.  Sobel’s  work is not only a pleasurable read, but the dream-find for a homeschooling mom intent on classically educating her child.

With Sobel’s newspaper background, the book is very readable; a proficient sixth grader shouldn’t have a problem with it.  I plan to use this for my child’s eleven year old Astronomy lessons, along with a middle grade level study of Ancient History, as Sobel has filled the book with quotes from or about many of the Greats.  “Pythagoras believed the cosmic order obeyed the same mathematical rules and proportions as the tones on the musical scale,” (pg. 163.) introduces an entire chapter dedicated to man’s fascination with the planets and how that has been celebrated through the centuries through the art of music.

Always presented to me in school as a pitiable underdog, small and petite, Pluto was my favorite planet.  Even more so when it was first threatened by the idea of being stripped of its planetary status, I became indignant, an uneducated supporter of allowing it keep its rank in the sky and in our textbooks.  Like an older sibling protecting a small child, I felt like it was a personal attack to say Pluto wasn’t really a planet.  I was angered that someone had decided to take back all I had been taught and strip this little planet of a description I thought it had earned.  After reading Sobel’s explanation of Pluto’s discovery, history and status and then a chapter on Uranus, I think I may be sold on the reasons why Pluto title as the 9th planet is threatened and that Uranus is actually my new favorite.  So heavily tied to the literary works of Shakespeare in name and attitude with such a unique history, my new knowledge of Uranus now pales my previous love for Pluto – a childish emotion of elementary proportions, tied to an association with the Disney dog.

I have other books by Sobel lurking around in my library, and I can’t wait to dive into those when I’ve exhausted this particular topic.  I look forward to reading Longitude and see if she attacks the subject of geography with the same fervor as she did Astronomy.

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