Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Starry Messenger

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Starry Messenger, written by Peter Sís is an extremely child friendly biography of the famous philosopher and astronomist Galileo Galilee.  This book could be used with a wide variety of children of different ages and reading levels.

The main story line is easily followed by younger children, and is accompanied with extra information and quotes written in cursive for older students.  The illustrations, also done by Peter Sís, are interesting, yet very complex and filled with extra information for older students to pick out using the knowledge they acquire from the extra facts.

Starry Messenger begins by describing the world that Galileo lived in, giving more information about beliefs and traditions of the time:

“For hundreds of years, most people thought the earth was the center of the universe, and the sun and the moon and all the other planets revolved around it.  they did not doubt or wonder if this was true.  They just followed tradition… In those days, Italy was a country where many great artists, writers, musicians and scholars lived…In the city of Pisa a little boy was born with stars in eyes.  His parents named him Galileo.”

Some of the extra information provides more fact filled tidbits for older children to consider when reading the story:

“Italy was a quilt of city-states, each with its own laws and government.  A common religion, the Catholic faith, was one thing they all shared, and the Church was a powerful influence…Until the age of eleven, Galileo was taught at home by his father.  Then he was sent to the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria di Vallonbiosa where he studied Latin, Greek, religion and music.”

Starry Messenger also helps explain to children an important aspect that is often glossed over:  the importance of the traditions of the ancient world, and that those traditions were so important to the leaders of the country, i.e. the Church, that Galileo was disowned for his beliefs because they were different.

“Galileo was afraid.  He knew that people had suffered terrible torture and punishment for not following tradition.  It could happen to him… Galileo was condemned to spend the rest of his life locked in his house under guard.  But he still had stars on his mind and no one could keep him from thinking about the wonders of the skies and the mysteries of the universe.”

Curriculum Connections 

VA SOL Science 1.1b and 1.1f: The student will conduct investigations in which b.) simple tools are used to enhance observations and f.) predictions are based on patterns of observation rather than random guesses

VA SOL Science 2.1a, 2.1g and 2.1h: The student will conduct investigations in which a.) observation is differentiated from personal interpretation, and conclusions are drawn based on observations and g.) unexpected or unusual quantitative data are recognized and h.) simple physical models are constructed.

Additional Resources

  • Peter Sís’ own website provides multiple lesson extension ideas and lesson ideas for many standards of learning in subject areas such as geography and history.
  • TeacherVision provides a lesson plan for older students, grades 6-8, including measuring with scales and using pendulums like Galileo used in his studies.
  • 400 Years of the Telescope expands upon the biography of Galileo, as well as gives extra information about the telescope.

Book: Starry Messenger
Author/Illustrator:
Peter Sís
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date:
September  2000
Pages: 40 pages
Age Range: 4-8
ISBN-13: 978-0374470272