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Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Apr 19, 2024

A standout, informative junior biography that celebrates the solar system and self-taught knowledge.

This absorbing short biography explores the life of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the dwarf planet Pluto.

Born to farmers in 1906, Tombaugh and his father and uncle used a Sears telescope to look at the stars in Illinois and Kansas. The budding astronomer, who eventually found Pluto while searching for an imagined “Planet X,” made a better telescope for himself with parts from a Buick automobile. He was eventually hired at the Lowell Observatory because “the observatory was looking for an amateur astronomer willing to work long hours for little pay” in the search for Planet X, which Percival Lowell, the observatory’s founder, was sure existed. Readers are treated to an edifying pastiche of information about the planets, pages from Tombaugh’s observation journals, photographs of Tombaugh and other astronomers, headlines from the New York Times announcing the discovery of Pluto, and much more. Budden ascribes some uncited dialogue to Tombaugh, often using expressions like “HA!” to illustrate his big laugh and sense of humor. The book sticks to the facts and includes plenty of primary sources to provide history and astronomy lovers with visuals, though it doesn’t provide much larger context for early Earthbound space exploration. Addendums provide a glossary, some information about Pluto’s terrain and demotion to dwarf, Tombaugh’s later life, a bibliography (which includes much first-person writing from the subject), and photo credits for all images.

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