Book Review: A Black Hole is Not a Hole

Author: Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
Illustrator: Michael Carroll
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 9 and up
Nonfiction * Astronomy * Science * Informational Text

Description from Publisher:

Get ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind!
What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline which sums up important findings discussed throughout, while the glossary and index provide a quick point of reference for readers. Children and adults alike will learn a ton of spacey facts in this far-out book that’s sure to excite even the youngest of astrophiles. 

This book is good for your brain because:
Informational text, science, astronomy, photographs, diagrams

My thoughts on the book:
I am on the journey to help teachers understand that good Middle Grade nonfiction does not have to be a random 150 pages long.  If that was the true criteria for a good informational text, then these teachers and their classrooms will be missing out on many amazing books.  A Black Hole is Not a Hole is 74 pages including all the resource pages.  Clearly half the length of the arbitrary page limit set by some teachers.  Yet, I was amazed with both the readability of the text and the information provided for children.

Writers of informational text for children have a challenge. Too much dry techno-babble will turn off most children, except for those who may be highly interested in the subject.  Too little information and teachers won't view it as valuable for learning or as a source for a report.  DeCristofano does a remarkable job providing solid information about the phenomenon of black holes.  With the use of humor, scientific research, and practical analogies, DeCristofano provides basic information for students.  Carroll's illustrations work to provide the visual understanding and compliment DeCristofano's text.

At the end of the book, DeCristofano provides readers with a timeline, glossary, resources, websites, and most importantly an author's note.  She reminds readers that even reliable work can become outdated and that websites should be read with care for reliability. 

Though I tend to like my science in the form of fiction with minimal techno-babble and lots of character development, I will concede that if DeCristofano had been writing nonfiction when I was a child I may have developed other thoughts about science texts.  Teachers and librarians will find this a great resource for their students and a welcome addition to their libraries. 

Check out this interview with author, Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, on Kirkus:

You can find more information about the author here: