The Stardust Mystery illustrated book with companion video games, YouTube science videos, and online student projects were produced with funding from the National Science Foundation. These transmedia resources present the wonderful science story of stardust as entertainment and education for curious young minds.
The book follows the adventures of cousins Lizzy, Milo, VC and Neddy as they unravel the Stardust Mystery and tell the story. Their adventures take them across time during the evolution of the Universe and the history of Planet Earth in the Cosmic Egg time, space, and size-change travel ship. They must find out what stardust is (atoms) and how, when and where it was created (in the explosive death of stars shortly after the Big Bang and continuing to today). They must figure out how everyone alive is made of the same stardust that was once in the body of Albert Einstein and the Last T-Rex. They find out that this is actually true. We each have more than 300 trillion carbon atoms that once belonged to, and were exhaled by Einstein, and more than 5,000 trillion that were once in each T-Rex.
As the Cosmic Kids team, the cousins enter The Science and The Future Contest, held by the mysterious Dr. Q. The winners will be taken on a trip around the moon! What could be a better gift for the Grandpa they love, a former NASA astronaut? Grandpa is their team’s coach for the contest.
Along the way, they visit Einstein, dinosaurs, and even the Big Bang. To win, they’ll have to use their brains to answer the many science questions, but they’ll also have to use their hearts to come together to solve the problems of family.
The Mystery is presented in a poem:
“I was born in a place that is far, far away.
At a time long ago, but I am now here to stay.
Albert Einstein’s body was once my home.
I am now part of you, but I could always roam.
Some call me Stardust because of my history.
It will all be clear when you solve the mystery.
Who am I, and what is my story?
Write me a rhyme to tell of my glory.
The science of stardust is presented as the Cosmic Kids team use their brains to discover it. What they learn is about atoms, a wonderful science story for late elementary and middle school students. It is the story of the kinds of atoms, their sizes, their numbers, and their arrangements. It is the story of how atoms were created during the evolution of the universe, and how they have been shared among plants and animals during the history of planet Earth. The story is told by the Cosmic Kids as they discover these facts. The book is filled with Grandpa’s extra information about the science concepts. Scientific terms presented throughout the story are linked to more complete explanations and definitions at the end of the book.
Here is what one science teacher and mother said about the book on GoodReads.
ALLIE RATED THE BOOK 5 OUT OF 5 STARS – IT WAS AMAZING
This book was great! I have discussed this with my students, and we are reading it together. They are loving the information presented in a fun and relatable way. They love seeing the different families that work together to complete a common goal. I love that it uses scientific concepts and principles that we are learning in the classroom. The authors do a great job of presenting the information in ways that provide the students with the content knowledge they need. As a middle school teacher, this is a great resource for my STEM classroom. We are currently working on the project portion that is provided for teachers. My students are enjoying the website and all that it entails. As a Science teacher, I recommend this book for all science teachers! As a parent, my own children are enjoying the story and learning things they have not learned in school yet! Allie is a Middle School Teacher and a Goodreads Book Reviewer.
Targeted Age Group:: 8 to 13 years old
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
As a physicist with a long career, I loved discovering and writing about science to communicate my discoveries to my colleagues. When my twelfth grandchild was born, I decided to write books to communicate the wonderful stories of science to children. My idea was to weave the science into exciting fictional adventures that would be fun as well as educational. The history of stardust is one of those wonderful science stories. The characters in my stories are based on the personalities and interests of my grandchildren. Milo really did have a sneaker collection, and Lizzy really knows how to do the double flying kick in martial arts. They are now in college, still competing with each other for the best grades.
The back door slammed shut. The back door is always slamming when Neddy comes home. I heard her sprint through the kitchen and fly up the stairs, probably two at a time. Then she crashed open our bedroom door. She waved a piece of paper in her hands, tried to catch her breath, and screamed at the same time, “Lizzy, Lizzy, Lizzy, we have to enter this contest.” She dropped the papers on my open textbook in front of me.
“Not now,” I yelled back at her. “I’m busy.”
“But, but—but Lizzy—” She paused, took a deep breath, and started screaming again. “It’s called the Science and the Future contest. Dr. Q announced it right after you left.”
“Oh, zip it,” I replied, shooting her my meanest “mom” look as I pushed the papers aside. “Can’t you see I’m doing my homework?”
“But . . . but . . . but, Lizzy,” she begged, “you’ve got to see this. It’s for kids all over the United States. We can ask the cousins to enter it with us, and if we win, we can go to the moon.”
I still didn’t look up, even though that last part definitely sounded interesting. We could go to the moon? I ignored her anyway. It’s one of my greatest skills, because Neddy isn’t always easy to ignore.
“Lizzy!” She practically screamed directly into my ear. “If we win, we can take Grandpa to the moon, just like he’s always dreamed of!”
I dropped my pen. Grandpa had always wanted to go to the moon. More than anything, I loved the idea of winning that for him. I was in Grandpa’s physics class this year, and so far I’d been off to a terrible start, which I knew was a huge embarrassment for him. My cousin Milo was in the same class and he was doing really well. But the first pop quiz had caught me off guard. I was usually pretty good about homework, but the evening before I had been busy with basketball practice and a history test,
so I had skimmed the reading. I got a C−, which—let’s just say—isn’t something Mom’s going to hang on the fridge. I did well on the first real test, but basketball had been a distraction again during the second test because we’d lost before making it to the finals. Another C. So far, I was doing fabulous as Grandpa’s biggest disappointment. So getting him to the moon sounded like a great idea to me.
I turned to Neddy and gave her my full attention. “OK, I’m listening.” I sighed. “Calm down and
show me what you’re yelling about.”
She pushed the papers back in front of me. I started reading as Neddy continued to annoyingly buzz around me, talking about how she thought we could win. I was studying the announcement when an image popped into my head: We were all buckled into
seats in a rocket ship, one on top of the other, with Grandpa at the very top. He was smiling and he was happy, wearing a giant pointed wizard cap on his head, visible through the window as we launched into space. It made me happy.
“How did you get this?” I asked, realizing I was grinning weirdly.
“I told you! After you guys left the science fair,” she responded with her patented Neddy-whiny voice. “Dr. Q gave a talk about it and handed out those announcements. It’s called the Science and the Future contest.”
“Neddy, you’re either a total genius or totally loony.”
“Grandpa would say those aren’t mutually exclusive.”
I laughed. “Are you sure you’re only in sixth grade?”
“Last time I checked.”
I looked at my little sister, staring at me with her intense brown eyes just visible behind the wild mess of long curly auburn hair surrounding her face. Maybe genius was right.
. . . . . . . .
This all started about three weeks ago. Neddy and I were on our beds up in the room we share, which Dad calls the girl cave. I was doing my homework when I heard Neddy quietly sniffling. I had no idea what was wrong with her, but it wasn’t really like her to cry.
Neddy is my pain in the you-know-what little sister. She’s eleven and in the sixth grade, two years behind me. I only got to have a year and a half without her following me around, and I really couldn’t remember any of it. It must have been heaven! What were my Mom and Dad thinking, having a second kid so soon?
There’re really two Neddys: her usual self, “Neddy the Nerd,” and her sometimes self, “Neddy the Nice.” Neddy the Nerd drives me crazy, picks fights with me, steals my clothes, and embarrasses me at school. Nerd is always breaking the rules, sometimes just because she’s so spacey she doesn’t know what the rules are to begin with. Nerd gets lost in her own world, and those of us here on Earth wonder if she’s weird, rude, or just in need of a good old-fashioned lesson in paying attention. (That last one is something I’ve heard our cousin Milo say.)
But Neddy the Nice is fun to play with. Sometimes she has great ideas. Sometimes she even teaches me how to break the rules, which I almost never do, except for Mom’s rules, which I always break. Most times she is my ally against Mom and Dad. When she is paying attention, Nice is also very observant and artistic like Grandpa, so she helps me with shopping for new clothes, which I am not good at and totally don’t like doing. If I could wear pajamas all day every day, I’d be living the dream.
When Neddy sniffled again, I knew she was crying and not just trying to suck up snot. “OK, spit it out,” I said. “What’s your problem?”
“I’m tired of being called names.” Neddy looked over at me with her big sad brown eyes. Her glasses were in her hand instead of on her face because they’d probably fogged up. “I don’t want to go to school anymore. I do everything wrong, and I always get laughed at, so what’s the point?”
“Well, what happened?” I demanded.
“Today was the worst day of my life,” she added in an almost-whine, but she was crying so I let it go. “First, I came to school with toilet paper tangled in my hair.”
“How did that happen?” I asked, trying to be supportive while also trying not to laugh.
“Yesterday, Dad and I pulled most of the toilet paper out of our front-yard tree,” she explained. The night before, some rotten kids from our school had mummified it for Halloween. We didn’t catch them in the act because we’d dressed up and gone trick-or-treating, even though we were probably too old for that. I think after age nine it goes from looking cute to desperate for free candy. But Neddy had a great idea that we go as Peter Pan and his shadow. I dressed in all black and even covered my face
with a black ski mask. Neddy dressed as Peter Pan. She made the hat and tunic out of green felt, and she looked great.
Meanwhile, Neddy was still telling me her teary story. “I saw more toilet paper in the tree this morning, so I got on a ladder, and I shook the branch to get it out.” I understood the rest.
“Some of it landed in your hair,” I guessed.
She nodded. “Then Richie Torres sees me in homeroom and calls out, ‘Look who’s here, it’s Hairy Potty.’” Poor Neddy, I thought, feeling the blood rush into my own cheeks. Neddy looked at me with all that awful embarrassment still fresh on her face. “The whole class cracked up, and pretty soon everyone was calling me ‘Hairy Potty.’”
“OK, first of all, Richie is the worst,” I replied. “But aren’t you friends? I thought you were saying how much you loved his artwork.”
“We used to be friends,” Neddy answered, “then he started calling me all these mean names.”
“Like what?” I asked.
She looked down at the yellow bedspread on her bed and picked at a thread. “Space Cadet,” she answered quietly, then went on, “Spacey, Space Station, Loony Probe, Cosmic Cuckoo, and . .
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing.
“Lizzy!” she cried.
“Come on, Cosmic Cuckoo is pretty funny.” I took a deep breath. Neddy did not look like she agreed.
“That’s not even all of the names,” she whined with a look of total dejection.
“Oh, Neddy,” I said, pulling myself together, “don’t let them get to you.”
“Actually, the day got worse,” Neddy went on. “For science class, we were discussing space travel. You know how I love everything about space and astronomy?” I nodded. “Mrs. Wilson asked each of the kids, ‘If you could go to the moon, what is the thing you would love most?’ When she gets to me, I say, ‘Being weightless, floating in space.’ I thought that would be really neat. Then, Richie whispered loud enough so that everyone would hear, ‘Of course that would be Spacey’s favorite thing.’ And the
whole science class cracked up.”
“Don’t worry,” I said unhelpfully, “the boys are still awful in eighth grade.”
I felt bad for her. Usually, nothing really got to Neddy. It wasn’t like she’d never been teased before. It’s just that this time she wasn’t shrugging off the teasing. I wondered if she liked Richie more than she was letting on. No matter what it was, I didn’t like it. Richie and the other kids were killing her spirit.
Nobody gets to bully my little sister except me.
“Let’s go visit Grandpa after dinner,” I said, knowing that Grandpa can usually cheer her up. Neddy had always been a little bit like our Grandpa. Nerdiness and spaciness sum up both of them pretty well. They both love space travel, and like Neddy, Grandpa tends to daydream too. “I bet he has a good idea about how you should handle this.” Reluctantly, Neddy agreed to go with me.
We walked to Grandpa and Grandma’s big house which was about ten blocks from ours. When we got there, Grandma opened the door. “Hi, Grandma,” I said. “Neddy and I need to speak to Grandpa.”
After Grandma’s hugs and kisses, she announced, “Your grandfather is in his usual place in the basement, doing something secret. Be careful,” she said with a wink. Our grandma gave us the best winks.
The basement walls were covered with pictures of outer space stuff. I guess he still wished he was an astronaut at NASA and not a physics teacher at a middle school. Grandpa was in his lab coat and rubber gloves sitting at his work bench. “Hi, Grandpa,” I said. “What’s up?”
“Oh, hi,” he responded, “just testing a new theory. What’s up with my beautiful girls?”
“Neddy needs your advice,” I said. “Neddy, tell Grandpa what happened.”
Neddy told him about the kids teasing her about the toilet paper in her hair and about being called Hairy Potty and Spacey.
Grandpa responded, “You think Albert Einstein cared about how his hair looked?” Neddy loves anything about science, so Einstein goes a long way with her, as he is like the all-time science genius.
“Here,” said Grandpa, showing her a picture of Einstein with his hair all wild and twisted like a cave man, “he didn’t care because he had his mind on other things. BIG THINGS! Like the workings of the universe . . . where we came from. Deep stuff. And you’re like him, Neddy. You’re thinking of important stuff too.”
Neddy looked at me and smiled. I knew taking her to Grandpa was a good thing.
“Hey,” I said, suddenly having a brilliant idea. “You should enter the science fair next week!” Neddy’s eyes widened. It felt good to be the smart one in the room with these two. “You could show up everybody by winning!”
The science fair was just a week away, but if anyone could pull it off, it was Neddy. Grandpa agreed. “That’s a great idea, Neddy. You should do it.”
Neddy started to smile pretty big, so I said one last thing to lock it in: “You could show all those lame kids and Richie Torres that being a nerd has advantages.”
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Peter Solomon is a scientist, author and entrepreneur who is devoted to passing on his love for the many wonderful science stories to the younger generation through the media they like best. He believes that integrating science concepts into exciting stories is the best way for children to learn. The birth of his twelfth grandchild was the inspiration for The STARDUST MYSTERY book. The child characters in the story explore the creation of their atoms through time and space travel adventures in the Beamer Virtual World. Solomon was asked by his young book reviewers to create a virtual world that they could use. This inspired a National Science Foundation project to create video games and the Stardust Mystery YouTube channel for science videos to accompany the book. The characters in the story, games and videos were inspired by his grandchildren.