Taschek, K. (2006). Death stars, weird galaxies, and a quasar-spangled universe: The discoveries of the Very Large Array telescope. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
Plot Summary: This book begins by explaining what VLA, very large array, radio telescopes are and how they work. The following chapters outline some of the scientific discoveries that have been made possible by this technology. This includes discoveries about the composition of planets in our galaxy as well as discoveries about black holes, death stars, and quasars.
Critical Evaluation: This book is formatted in a way that is similar to children’s non-fiction books including lots of images. However the language makes it clear that it is intended for older readers. This format is great for teens that are visual learners or who get bored with more textbook like books that have more text and few pictures. The book is very good at explaining what is being described throughout the text. The book also has a glossary and index making it easy for readers to figure out terms that are confusing them. The book does require readers to know some basic things about space that are not explained in the book. However, this fits with it being for older readers that may feel their intelligence is being insulted when every little thing is explained. The book also does a great job with the images it includes. The book has several charts to explain the more complicated concepts and many images of the phenomenons that are being explained in the text. The book is fairly short so these images help keep readers clear on what exactly is being discussed.
Reader’s Annotation: Have you ever wondered how scientists see into black holes? or how they map celestial bodies on the furthest edges of the known universe? Learn that and more with this book.
Author Information: Karen Taschek has written several books for young adults including a series of books about horses. She has also authored another non-fiction book about bats and is the co-editor of the Wonder Science Series for Young Readers.
Curriculum Ties: This book can be used to discuss VLA radio telescopes, black holes, the formation of galaxies, and other celestial bodies.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) How do VLA radio telescopes work?
2) The book mentions a few projects that were on going when the book was written but have since been completed what have we learned from these projects?
Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for readers age 14. This book can clearly be enjoyed by older teens as well though the enjoyment of readers younger than 14 will depend a lot on how much they already know about space. The book is good about explaining things but readers still need to have some prior knowledge about space.
Challenge Issues: I can not think of any reasons why this book would be challenged, It is a well done book with lots of information and great pictures.
Why is it included?: I noticed my local library did not have a very large Young Adult non-fiction section and that many of the books they did have seemed to be geared a little young or a little old for most teens. I liked this book because it had a more teen friendly format that did not come across too much like a text book.