Skyward – A magic beagle and the stars
David H. Levy
It is my honor to introduce you, dear readers, this month to my latest book, “Clipper, Cosmos, and Children: Finding the Eureka moment.” It is a book specially designed to inspire young people to enjoy the night sky. Whether you are physically young, or even just young at heart, this new book is meant to inspire you to reach for the stars.
This book’s genesis was one day a few years ago. As I strolled into the office in the east wing of our home, I saw Wendee engrossed in the reading of an old book entitled Clipper. “When did you write this book?”she inquired.
“I wrote it when I was ten. Around 1958.” Not a word about the stars in it.
“David, this is the best book I have ever read of yours. In fact,” she laughed, “all your other books have gone downhill since this one.” She asked me that day to rewrite Clipper as an astronomy book. I did, and the book is now published by RJI publishing in 2022 and is available from Amazon for about $20.
As I wrote and revised the book during these recent years, my mind frequently wandered back to the simple, carefree time of my youth. The original Clipper was a Bar Mitzvah present for my older brother, Richard. Perhaps my fondest memory of this little beagle dates back to the cloudy evening of December 17, 1965. That was the night I had planned to begin my search for comets. At around 11 pm I took Clipper for a walk up the hill near our house. As I ambled up the streets nearby, I began to notice a small clearing to the west. I quickly decided to hurry home. Clipper had other ideas. As I headed south, Clipper tried to go north. Our tug-of-war lasted a few unforgettable seconds until a quick jerk on the leash persuaded him who was boss. (He was, but he turned around anyway.) At 11:50 that evening, I began my comet search program through a break in the clouds that lasted less than ten minutes. Now, 58 years later, I am still searching for comets.
Each chapter of my book begins with a passage from the original Clipper. In the story, a young boy named Stephen (the original name, now termed for my grandson Matthew Stephen) goes on a nightly adventure with a magic beagle who, with an equally enchanted telescope, takes him on a frolic through the cosmos, seeing the planets, comets, and asteroids, then the stars of our galaxy, and finally to the massive filaments of galaxies that mark the edges of our known universe. Stephen is soon joined by Kaia, a young girl student named in honor of my granddaughter Summer Kaia.
There is also a strange extraterrestrial girl named Tania who lives on the Moon. Tania comes from a dream I enjoyed decades ago, at the height of the appearance of my brightest comet in 1990, when I encountered a creature shaped like a box, with four feet and four hands and a small head. “I do not have the power to send comets your way,” Tania told me, “but I can change their orbits just a bit so there is a greater chance that you might find them.” There is even a chapter about nothing, in which Clipper takes the children on a tour across the great voids, bereft of galaxies, that are an integral part of our cosmos.
You are likely all familiar with Peter, Paul, and Mary’s wonderful song about a magic dragon, and how it describes how “a dragon lives forever, but not so girls and boys.” The book’s closing chapter explores what happens when the children grow up and pursue their lives.
The book might be fun, but actually, every telescope, from the tiniest department store telescope to the Webb Space Telescope, is charmed. All it takes is a single, thoughtful gaze that launches you on your own life’s journey across the endless wonder of space and time.