Title: Queen Vernita Meets Sir Heathybean The Astronomer
Authors: Dawn Menge and Heath Rhoades
Illustrator: Bobbi Switzer
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Queen Vernita Meets Sir Heathybean The Astronomer is the third installment in the engaging and intelligent Queen Vernita series written by Dawn Menge. With this book, she has a co-author: Heath Rhoades, an Astronomy Team Leader at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Table Mountain Observatory. He is obviously the inspiration for the character of Sir Heathybean and as always, the book is delightfully illustrated by Bobbi Switzer, but this time the illustrations are somewhat juvenile for the text.
This volume is a little different from the first two, which include the award winning Queen Vernita’s Visitors and Queen Vernita Visits The Blue Ice Mountains, in that the size of the book has changed from 8.2 x 8.2 to 8.5 x 11 and the reading age level has switched from ages 4-8 to 9-12 in this latest book. I must confess that I didn’t read the book ahead of time when I read it to my niece and nephew who are 8-years-old because I expected it to be more like its predecessors and I did feel a bit awkward. My niece enjoyed the photos as well as the story, asked some questions about a couple of astronomy facts (that thankfully I was able to answer), and was especially interested in how fast the Earth rotates around the other planets and the reason why each year has 365 days. My nephew seemed more interested in playing with his re-discovered Tamagotchi.
However, this is still the quality children’s book that I’ve come to expect from Dawn Menge, and it was filled with so many interesting facts about the solar system, planets, asteroids and comets, that I learned things too. The average parent will as well I suspect, because not many can claim to be experts in astronomy!
Queen Vernita Meets Sir Heathybean The Astronomer is written in the same style as the previous books, with Queen Vernita of the Land of Oceaneers inviting 12 different friends to visit her for one month during each month of the year. Each day of the week they learn a new fact and this time, they were all treated to astronomy lessons from Sir Heathybean The Astronomer and Cora the Teacher. The authors have included some Greek and Roman mythology in their descriptions of the solar system as well as a lot of numerical facts including temperatures in Fahrenheit which can be a mouthful when reading aloud.
Queen Vernita’s visitors are people of all ages from many different ethnicities and include a child with cerebral palsy and one with Down’s syndrome to establish the concept of lack of prejudice and that anyone can enjoy learning new things. At the end of Queen Vernita Meets Sir Heathybean The Astronomer, Menge (who is currently working on her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction) reveals that the next book in the series will be about the sea and plant life of the Oceaneer islands. I’m probably looking forward to that as much as my niece and nephew are!