The Constellations Activity Book is the unexpected answer to a question I hear at every elementary school visit: “What’s your best-selling book?” The students typically think I’ll reply with something more traditional, like a picture book, chapter book, or novel. But my top title is a collection of dot-to-dots and other games centered on the joys of stargazing.
Although I have more than 50 titles to my credit, writing books is my second job. By day, I work for Adventure Publications, a publishing imprint of AdventureKEEN and the publisher of the Constellations Activity Book. Back in 2011, I was in the midst of editing a series of state-specific activity books. (I was also the graphic designer and art director for those projects.) Needless to say, activity books were constantly on my mind.
For that matter, stargazing was too. A year earlier, in 2010, Adventure Publications had produced Night Sky by Jonathan Poppele. To say it was successful would be an understatement. It was a hit. We followed it with the Night Sky Playing Cards—which soon became our best-selling item.
Late in 2011, I was looking at an illustration of Ursa Major. It featured the famous star pattern with the shape of a bear drawn around it. Of course, a leap of imagination is usually required to see the figures that constellations represent. My first thought was that it would be an impossible stargazing guessing game for children. Then something in my mind clicked. What if children were shown those star patterns—but instead of guessing, the answer was revealed through a dot-to-dot?
It was such a good idea (if I do say so myself) that I was certain it must have been done before. I scoured the internet for the bevy of books that would burst my creative bubble.
To my extreme delight, I found nothing that featured dot-to-dots of constellations.
The next day, I pitched the idea at work. The response was… lukewarm. After a bit of hemming and hawing, management gave me the greenlight—with a limited budget for illustrations. They were not confident that it would sell.
Luckily, my friend Shane Nitzsche was a talented artist and a stargazing nut. I begged a favor off him, and he agreed to do the project—mostly because of the subject matter.
With him on board, I was left to create the book. I chose 26 constellations, wrote the manuscript, and put the book together—with a huge assist from the design team.
The end result is a fantastic, educational product. Each entry includes a dot-to-dot, a supplemental activity or game, a description of the mythology, and simple instructions on how to locate the figure in the night sky.
More than 7 years later, the Constellations Activity Book is still going strong. The interactive introduction to stargazing is available wherever books are sold.