Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Kingdom of the Sun


Kingdom of the Sun: A Book of the Planets written by Jacqueline Mitton and illustrated by Christina Balit is a book written about our sun, moon and the planets in our solar system.  The book starts with an explanation of how “planets,” named from the Greek word for “wanderers,” were discovered and named.  At first, they were named for Greek gods and a goddesses.  Now they are named after Roman Gods and a Goddess except for Uranus (which is named for a Greek god).  The sun is the first celestial body that is explained.  Mitton writes about each celestial body in first person.  For example, “THE SUN– A MASSIVE BALL OF GLOWING FLAME, I am sovereign over nine planets.” (Mitton, pg 6) Pluto is included as one of the planets.  For each celestial body, there is an illustration of the god or goddess.  The illustrations by Balit are large and beautiful.  Mitton starts with the sun, then the moon, and finally describes the planets in order from Mercury through Pluto.  The book shows the size of the earth compared to the planets.  On the final two pages, there is a glossary and other facts about the planets, the sun and the moon such as, the number of moons each planet has, the distance the planet is from the sun, and the time it takes for a planet to orbit the sun.

Curriculum Connections
This book would be great for teaching students about our solar system.  The book describes the cycle of the moon.  It also lists the planets in order from the closest to the furthest from the sun.  Mitton explains that some planets are made up of rock while others are made up of gas.  There is much technical information important for older students such as the information listed at the end of the last paragraph, the diameter of the planets equators, the size of the sun and moon compared to the earth, and terms in the glossary such as atmosphere, constellation, gravity, etc.  (VA SOL 4.7 b,c,d)

Additional Resources

  • Interactive Solar System is a quick reference guide to the solar system at the “apples4the teacher.com website.  It states that Pluto is no longer a planet and students can move the cursor over a rocket with the name of a planet and the sun to learn some fun facts.
  • The Solar System is a link that takes you to “Instructor Web” and gives a lesson plan and worksheets on the solar system.  It is appropriate for 3rd through 5th grade.
  • Welcome to the Planets shows real photograph images of the planets.  It is a photojournal that also has a list of human made satellites and a large glossary.
  • The Moon Cycle  is a link to the “Instructor Web” site where there is a lesson plan for elementary school teachers on the moon cycle.  It is appropriate for 3rd through 5th grade.

Book:  Kingdom of the Sun: A Book of the Planets
Author:  Jacqueline Mitton
Illustrator:  Christina Balit
Publisher:  National Geographic Society
Publication Date:  2001
Pages:  30 pages
Grade Range:  K-4
ISBN:  0-7922-7220-X (Hard Cover)

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