Category: Children’s Book
Reviewed by: Marianne Dyson
Title: Blast Off Doodle Book
Author: Karen Romano Young
Ages: Preschool to age 5
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Paperback
Pages: 128
Publisher: Smithsonian (Grosset & Dunlap)
Date: June 2015
Retail Price: $12.99
ISBN: 978-0448482101

Author and artist Karen Romano Young’s Blast Off Doodle Book is much more than a coloring or activity workbook. Chock-full of aviation and space history, the book takes kids on a fascinating tour of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum’s collection.

The book is organized in historical order, opening with people’s first attempts to imitate the flight of animals. After viewing contraptions by Leonardo da Vinci and others, future artists and engineers are tasked with dreaming up their own design to allow penguins to fly. At this point, the parents may want to break out their own sketch pads and doodle along!

From kites to hot air balloons to supersonic jets, all types of flying machines are shown in photos and illustrations with just the right amount of text to explain their historical significance and allow kids to role-play the “characters” involved in their invention, use, or record-breaking flight. The activities include mazes for seaplanes to navigate; designing mission patches, uniforms, and commemorative stamps; and making lists of things to take on an around-the-world flight. Some are easy enough for the youngest child, and others, such as the origami hot air balloon, may be a challenge even adults can’t master!

The book is marketed for ages 7 and up, though I suspect many preschool kids would have fun with it if the parents read the text to them. Anyone buying the book as a gift should consider buying copies for each child in a family because, like coloring/activity books, once the lunar rover maze has been solved or the path of the Blue Angels drawn in, it won’t be available for a second use. (Teachers/Parents might make copies of pristine pages to share at parties or use as handouts to supplement history lessons.)

Thankfully, the book is not too pricey to allow the purchase of multiple copies, especially considering it should entertain a child for hours without requiring them to stare at a screen or recharge the batteries. The traffic around the Smithsonian in DC, or the prevalence of flight delays at airports, should allow the book’s purchase to compare very favorably to other gift shop choices of cheap plastic models. Also, when the child is finished reading the book and doing the activities, they will have gained knowledge and insights into what people just like them can accomplish with imagination and determination. And that, as they say, is priceless!

Speaking of priceless, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of these books, carefully filled in and decorated by a child today and tucked away by a loving parent who senses their child’s destiny, reappears in the Smithsonian Interplanetary Air & Space Museum of the future, in the Mars or Europa exhibit, showing what the first pioneers to visit those worlds were thinking about back when they were eight years old. Maybe you will be the person who bought it for them!

© 2016 Marianne Dyson

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