I purchased the first book in this series, Legendary Journeys: Trains some time ago, mainly because my sons loved trains and I got a good price on it. We immediately fell in love with the book and even now, years later, it is still read on a regular basis. When the next book Legendary journeys Ships was released, we bough that as well, and as soon as noticed this book had been released - I was lucky enough to discover a copy in Amazon's Warehouse deals ( these are books that have been delivered to a customer and returned and are classed as used) at under £7 I clicked buy now just as quickly as I could and raced to complete the transaction.
Although this book would be perfect for home education - we have not used it for this yet. We did a very long unit study on Space last year and are right in the middle of a dinosaur unit now. We bought this book purely for pleasure reading, and it certainly is a pleasure to read.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but it is hard not to with this one. The cover is luxurious and beautiful. If I had room on my already overcrowded books shelves - I would display these books face out. The cover is a silver shade which looks like the outer hull of a spacecraft, but the best part is an additional piece of heavy card with a picture of a rocket blasting off from earth. The word space is distinctly raised and my sons have always enjoyed tracing their fingers over the letters - getting to know each letter and the word as well through touch as well as sight. What I wouldn't give for a full book using raised letters like this - I think it would be a wonderful way to teach reading especially for those children with a very strong leaning towards tactile learning. The rocket ship is raised as well as are the edges of the window or portal we are peering through to view this picture. Even I can not resist running my fingers over the picture - I can certainly see why this fascinates the children so much.
But a cover alone wouldn't be much use without content, and this book does have plenty of fascinating, but also very educational material. We do have a very large collection of Space books and have spent ages online learning about the space travel, the planets etc.. but I still learned quite a bit from this book, so I am sure my sons did as well. In particular, I liked the section on Russian inventor Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who solved the problem of a rocket being unable to carry enough fuel to reach space due to weight with the concept of a multistage rocket. Although he would not live to see this happen ( he died in 1935) his ideas made space travel possible. The section on the solar system is lovely when pulled out to full length, and has plenty of basic information, but nothing our other books do not have. The main focus of this book is travel into space as the name suggests. It tells us about the early cosmonauts and astronauts, the space station, the shuttle, the Mars Rover and more. I especially like the fact that it explains exactly how things works, in terms young children can understand. This is just the type of thing that keeps boys reading. This book is one of the better books as far as information goes, and I would give this 5 stars based just on the content if this were an ordinary book - but this book is far from ordinary.
This book is only 32 pages, and that is counting the insides of the front and back cover, but these are printed. Many of these pages expand to three times their size though by pulling them out from a pocket made by the other pages. One page fully extended is 27" by my measurements. The centre piece measures a whopping 54" with an absolutely brilliant illustration of the Apollo 11. This has flaps to lift for a look inside the moonship cut away drawing to inside and a wonderful section showing how a multistage rocket works. This is far and away the favourite page of both of my children, but they quite like the Mars Rover as well. The slingshot effect is also very well described but we ended up demonstrating this with a ball on a string. Even if the content had been mediocre - the pull out sections, flaps to lift art work and diagrams would make this book truly exceptional. Many books do rely on the gimmicks of pop ups, flaps or pull out sections to sell the book, but that is not the case with this book. Both the writing and the illustrations + special effects merit five stars individually.
As mentioned - I have not really used this book for educational purposes yet - but I am sure I will in time - the next time we do a unit study of space. Even so I am certain my children have learned more about space in reading this book and I would highly recommend this book for home educators. I can not however recommend it for a school library as I feel this book would be damaged very easily by young children who are not very careful with the pull out pages. My sons are used to this series and know how to handle the pages, but I did keep the trains book on a high shelf when my youngest was still a toddler.
I would also recommend this book as reference book for the family library. My sons especially like to have a lot of non fiction books and this is absolutely perfect for them to just sit down and enjoy. My youngest is only 4, and is not able to read, but he does enjoy exploring books and I am now convinced that this is an essential step in learning to read. Some time ago I read an author state that American children from deprived households did show an interest in books in school. they just didn't want to try to read them. Instead young children would sit turning the pages, looking at the pictures, even feeling the paper. I immediately thought of my own children - well before being able to read, just sitting with books, turning pages, looking at pictures, touching and feeling different textures. Often they would tell the story as they knew many books by heart, sometimes my youngest makes up his own conversations for the illustrations. But I strongly believe this exploration is critical to developing literacy. This book of course is perfect for this purpose. I have already mentioned my children exploring the cover, but they will often sit with these books, pulling out pages, lifting flaps, and just enjoying the pictures. Even the oldest - who can read will at times just enjoy this wordlessly.
We only had one problem with this book, and I don't really feel it is fair to class it as fault. It is a matter of scientific and historical fact and very relevant to space travel, but it did upset my youngest son and he prefers that we skip that part when reading now. The part that upset is a brief mention of Laika - the first dog in space. The book does not actually say the dogs fate - which was truly horrible - but my son asked and my oldest son already knew the truth from other books. I did not tell him the details of how the poor dog died but I did tell him the space ship was not built to return. He immediately wanted to get a ship sent up to save the poor animal - so I did tell him it was dead. I regret now that I not had taken the time to censor this book and prepare myself for these questions first rather than let him have it as soon as he had pulled it from its Amazon box. But as it does not say the animal died - I don't know if even then I would have anticipated the question. I would not say to avoid this book for this reason. I would say not to buy this book for this reason, but I would suggest parents give it some thought as to how they wish to answer any questions that may arise rather than being caught on the spot.
Finally - I have treated this book as a child's book, as this is the purpose for which it was bought - as well the area in which Amazon has listed this book. I do still tend to look at picture and pop up books as children's books, but there are many adults who collect these books as well. I did really enjoy this book, and I am sure other adults would enjoy reading it as well. If you know of an adult who collects pop up books or books with unusual artwork, this book might make a nice gift. It would also make a nice present for adults with a strong interest in space travel - who don't mind reading picture books. I can't say that I would buy this book for myself - but I do intend to keep this series after my children are grown, at least until they have children of their own to enjoy them.
New copies of this book cost £12.74 from Amazon or £8.71 new, both prices including delivery charges. Used copies ironically would cost significantly more - so I can't imagine anyone buying one.