Cover of ABC‘s of Space
Book 101 Astronomy 1969
Opus 100 Great Ideas of Science
1 spaceship-and-sun
Asimov fan
A mule
Target reader

Blockhouse? Docking? Quark? How many space words do you know? There are more than 50 words in this space dictionary—with a picture for each word.

This is the first in a truly disastrous series of science juveniles Asimov wrote for Walker. He discusses some of the problems in Opus 200; fortunately, the series didn’t last long and was soon replaced by the infinitely better “How Did We Find Out” series.

There are two main problems with the “ABC” books.

The first is the target audience. On the one hand, you want a child young enough that they might still find an ABC book an interesting or fun read, although with children that young it’s the parents who are going to be choosing and reading the books. On the other hand, you need a child old enough to understand the book and some of the esoteric words it contains.

This may be what underlay Scholastic’s decision to publish the paperback edition under the title Space Dictionary: it implies a somewhat older target audience, and one more likely to pick the book itself rather than rely on a parent’s choice. The alternate title isn’t much better, however, since it implies that the book is rather comprehensive and contains broad number of definitions, when it isn’t and doesn’t.

The other problem with the series is simply one of finding two interesting words dealing with the subject matter for each letter of the alphabet. ABC’s of Space, for example, uses “quark” as one of the q-words. (“Quasar” is the other.) There’s an even worse cheat for the two x-words, because one of them is “eXobiology,” which Space Dictionary quietly moves, leaving three e-words and one x-word.

Moreover, this particular volume is not so much about space as about space flight, and in space flight the forty years that have passed since its publication are an eternity and leave it hopelessly out of date for a modern child. There is really no reason for anybody to read this book except as an Asimovian curiosity.

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