The Stars, A New Way to See Them
Submitted: Thursday, 7th April 2005 by Scott N. Mitchell

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The Stars, A New Way to See Them

“The Stars

A New Way To See Them”

 By H.A. Rey


ISBN: 0-395-24830-2 paperbound

Library of Congress Catalog Number 60-13609

published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston


I must admit, when I received this book as a gift from my wife and kids I already knew that I would love it.  I have been a huge fan of the author H.A. Rey (and his wife Margaret) since I was 7 years old and I am proud to say that I still am.  For those of you who don’t recognize the names of either H.A. or Margaret Rey they are the authors of a very special series of children books about a monkey named Curious George…

With that confession out of the way I can begin my review.

This book was first copyrighted in 1952 and while the sky charts have been regularly updated, the book itself is as fresh and interesting today as it must have been when it was first printed.  All 157 pages were written to help make the night sky and its many stars accessible and pleasurable for people of all ages and to my mind it admirably achieves this goal.

The book is divided into 4 parts:

Part 1 – Shapes In The Sky - the beginning of the book introduces the reader to what at the time of the writing was a new way to represent the constellations.  These representations made the constellations more recognizable to ordinary people looking at the night sky.  These “new” interpretations of star patterns by the author are now considered the “standard” by many observers (remember this book first came out in 1952.

Part 2 – Meet The Constellations – in this part of the book, the author initiates the reader to the main constellations in the night sky section by section with helpful hints on how to find them as well as some of the history and the mythology around their origins.



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Constellation illustrations

Part 3 – The Stars Through The Year – this section of the book familiarizes the reader with basic star charts and begins a discussion of the motions of the stars in the night sky.

Part 4 – Some Whys and Hows – in this last portion of the book the author presents many complex concepts concerning celestial motion.  I particularly like the equation on page 115…facts + explanation = understanding as I think that it sums up (no pun intended) the author’s belief on education and therefore his approach.

The closing index and glossary are well put together and make it quite easy to find useful information and star names both of which are spread throughout the book.

Like many astronomy books available today, there is a distinct Northern Hemisphere bias however, the author does try and is mindful at least that the Southern Hemisphere does exist and has some interesting stars and constellations to see even if they are not visible to most observers in the Northern Hemisphere.

This approachable and enjoyable book is a good introduction to the many wonders of the night sky and is a suitable read for an inquisitive student or other layman hoping to learn more about how and why the night sky behaves like it does.  A more experienced reader probably will find this book light on information but, they can still enjoy the book for its simple and approachable explanations.

The hand drawn illustrations are reminiscent in style of the Curious George books and so I personally found them charming and entertaining.   This book is a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend it for those seeking a solid introduction to viewing the constellations in the night sky and basic celestial motion.

Other than being a long time fan, I have no direct relationship or interest (financial or otherwise) with the author, his heirs or the publisher of this book.


Review by Scott N. Mitchell (wavelandscott). Discuss this review at the IceInSpace Forums.
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