The Big Backyard

The Solar System beyond Pluto

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

Thousands of years ago, humans believed that Earth was the center of the universe, that the world they lived on was all there was. Truthfully, the solar system extends almost halfway to the nearest star. And it is composed of not only planets, asteroids, and comets, but also powerful forces and vast fields of energy. This is our solar system’s big backyard.

The cold, dark world that lies at the farthest reaches of our solar system holds a vast collection of secrets, and for most of human history, we had no idea anything was out there. But, driven by curiosity and equipped with new technology, astronomers have determined that beyond the orbit of Neptune are countless icy comets, strange particles that dance under the influence of the sun, and signs of undiscovered planets. To learn more about these far-flung objects, scientists have finally begun to explore the distant solar system, finding answers to age-old questions at the same time that they encounter new mysteries.

With Ron Miller’s incredible illustrations and photographs from NASA probes and telescopes, The Big Backyard takes us on a tour through the solar system’s most obscure neighborhoods and into its darkest corners, to places beyond the limits of the human eye. Miller expertly describes the formation of the solar system and the history of the exploration of the outer solar system before delving into the latest discoveries and missions. Read on to learn what sorts of objects orbit at such extreme distances, what happens at the boundary between the sun’s influence and interstellar space, whether there is such a thing as the mysterious Planet X, and how life on Earth could not exist without the happenings at the edge of the solar system.

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On pre-order until 10/01/2024
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Interest Level Grade 8 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 8
Genre Science, Young Adult
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Traditional Nonfiction, STEM, STEM: Space Science, STEM: Technology
Copyright 2023
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Twenty-First Century Books ™
Language English
Number of Pages 104
Publication Date 2023-03-07
Text Type Informational/Explanatory
BISACS YAN050020, YAN055010, YAN016000
Dewey 523.49
Dimensions 6 x 9
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Charts/Graphs/Diagrams, Glossary, Index, Original artwork, Photo captions, Reviewed, Sidebars, Source notes, Starred Reviews, and Table of contents

Author: Ron Miller

Ron Miller has worked as a freelance writer and illustrator for more than 30 years. Many of his illustrations appear in magazines like Astronomy and Scientific American. He has also worked on motion pictures and created postage stamps. (One of his stamps is attached to a spacecraft headed for the planet Pluto!) He has also written short stories and novels and has even created a comic book.

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  • Dogwood Readers Award Finalist, Short-listed, 2024
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year 2024, Winner, 2024
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Winner, 2023


Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)

“[T]he reader can be assured that this book is not only informative, but interesting, and beautiful. For anyone wanting to learn about our solar system, this is definitely the book to read.Reviewer Rating: 5” –Children’s Literature

School Library Journal

“Hugo award-winning author and illustrator Miller brings his experience illustrating for NASA to this engaging book, taking curious readers on a fact-filled tour of the outer reaches of our solar system. . . . packed with information but also thoroughly entertaining.”—starred, School Library Journal


“The text is engaging, occasionally alluding to science fiction works and popular conspiracy theories, and uses accessible examples . . . This inviting offering will be welcomed by student researchers and space nerds alike.”—Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“This inviting work is perspective adjusting, particularly for readers who haven’t imagined much beyond a star, a handful of planets, and a few extra rocks. Tantalizingly introduces readers to far-flung scientific wonders.”—Kirkus Reviews