Hardcover. Actual size of book: over 9" x 12"; all photographs in full color. Color on every page.

An Up-To-Date Book on Stars and Stellar Evolution

A Society of School Librarians International Honor Book

Age Level: 9 and Up

Now in its Second Printing


Good Reviews: 13

Bad Reviews: 0

Read an excerpt from THE LIVES OF STARS!


A huge cloud of gas and dust...The Orion Nebula is a nursery where thousands of stars have been born.

A brilliant blue-white star...Rigel will live fast and die young.

A wispy cloud of beautiful colors....The Crab Nebula is where a huge star has exploded.

An invisible black hole, tearing apart a nearby star...Nothing can escape Cygnus X-1, not even light.

The wonders of the stars are yours in this spectacular explosion of deep space. Using the most beautiful photographs available, Harvard-trained astronomer Ken Croswell leads a tour of the stars--the young, the living, the aging, and the dead. He also describes how the stars made life possible on Earth--and perhaps on planets throughout the cosmos.

"Ken Croswell's THE LIVES OF STARS is a wonderful astronomy book for young people--for anyone, for that matter. Well written, beautifully illustrated, it takes sophisticated modern concepts and makes them clearly accessible. I wish I could have had a book like this one when I was young."
--Dr. James Kaler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of Stars and Stars and Their Spectra

"A terrific book. I am enjoying The Lives of Stars immensely. It is very well written, aimed with precision at young readers, and is filled with inspiration to get these readers to enjoy the stars. I would not be surprised if a whole generation gets inspired to study astronomy after reading this wonderful book."
--David Levy, discoverer of 22 comets

"This is a great book for the astronomy enthusiast. If you're beyond the basics and want to talk about astronomy the way astronomers do, then this is the book for you."
--Dennis Schatz, Senior Vice President, Pacific Science Center
Award-winning astronomy educator and children's book author


The Lives of Stars4
Star Light, Star Bright6
The Birthplace of Stars8
A Star Is Born14
The H-R Diagram16
Main-Sequence Stars20
Brown Dwarfs22
Red Giants24
Planetary Nebulae26
White Dwarfs32
Supergiants and Supernovae34
Neutron Stars and Pulsars42
Black Holes44
Double Stars46
When Little Stars Explode48
Star Clusters50
Origin of the Elements54
Extrasolar Planets58
Life in Space?60

Large, outstanding images--all in color:

NGC 346 in Small Magellanic Cloud
Galactic Bulge
Orion Nebula
Horsehead Nebula
Lagoon Nebula
Eagle Nebula
Cone Nebula
T Tauri
Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
SCR 1845-6357 (red dwarf and brown dwarf)
Ring Nebula
Helix Nebula
Dumbbell Nebula
Eskimo Nebula
Cat's Eye Nebula
NGC 3370 (spiral galaxy)
Crab Nebula
Cassiopeia A
Veil Nebula
Crab Pulsar
Cygnus X-1
SN 1994D in galaxy NGC 4526
Pleiades star cluster
Quintuplet cluster
M80 (globular cluster)
Extrasolar planet around red dwarf


Rollins Magazine:

Appropriate for young children and adults, The Lives of Stars is filled with stunning images accompanied by detailed explanations of every major stage in the stellar life cycle, from gaseous planetary nebulae, brown dwarfs, and white dwarfs, to stars, giants, supergiants, variable stars, supernovae, and black holes. The Lives of Stars clearly illustrates the origin of elements—derived from the big bang or forged in the cores of stars and stellar explosions—that ultimately led to planetary formation and life. Croswell also beautifully presents one of astronomers’ most powerful descriptive tools: the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which places dozens of our famous stellar neighbors in relation to their intrinsic brightness and temperature. Breathtaking images and impressively clear and complete explanations make this short book a joy to peruse and a must-read for any astronomy enthusiast.
--Kenneth Pestka II

Science Books and Films:

This excellent book for young people who are interested in astronomy and want to go beyond the basics is very well organized, with each section leading nicely into the next. For example, a section on nebulae leads into a section on the birth of stars, which in turn leads into a section on main-sequence stars. All types of stars are discussed, from red giants to white dwarfs, and clear explanations are given as to how these stars came to be. There are numerous exquisitely produced color photographs throughout the volume, but the real strength of the book lies in the excellence of the writing. The author does not shy away from discussing complicated ideas such as the formation of black holes and the spinning of pulsars, and the explanations should be very understandable to young readers. There is a two-page depiction of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which classifies stars on the basis of their surface temperature and luminosity. A chart of the elements shows their abundances and how the elements were formed. These charts contain a wealth of information in an easy-to-understand and interesting format. A comprehensive glossary of all of the terms and specific astronomical objects mentioned in the text, complete with more color photos, appears at the end of the book. All in all, this book succeeds in explaining complicated processes in an understandable and enjoyable manner. I recommend it highly for anyone with an interest in astronomy.
--Robert N. McCullough

Science News:

Brilliant images and comprehensive text present the basics of stellar astronomy in an engaging fashion.


Long ago, when the world was young and I was a precocious pre-teen proto-SF-reader just discovering Tom Swift and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, I had two favorite nonfiction books: All About the Planets by Patricia Lauber and Life in Other Solar Systems by Frederick I. Ordway III. I checked both of those out from the library so often that my parents were forced to buy me copies of my own. Both books had a very strong influence on my developing interest in astronomy, science in general, and science fiction. The fact that I remember them more than forty years later shows you how much of an impact they made on me. I’ll bet you have a book or two like that from your own childhood.

If you have a similarly precocious pre-teen in your life, you might want to give them a copy of The Lives of Stars. This is a big, beautiful, full-color book chock full of gorgeous Hubble images and in-depth text that should be easily accessible to any bright third- or fourth-grader. The book discusses (and illustrates) the life cycle of stars, from nebulae to main sequence to supernova, neutron star, or black hole. This is all the latest state-of-the-art information, as up-to-date as any book can be.

The Lives of Stars doesn’t shy away from hardcore science: it explains the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, Cepheid variables, and the origin of elements, and is full of all sorts of interesting facts (for example, the Milky Way Galaxy gives birth to about ten new stars per year, and tin is primarily formed in red giants rather than supernovae). In addition, there are a few chapters that lead nicely into science fiction territory, discussing extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life.

Ken Croswell is a Ph.D. in astronomy who has written other astronomy books for kids; your precocious pre-teen will be in good hands. But before you give this book to the kid (or kids) in your life, take some time to look through it yourself--you’re sure to enjoy it, and you will probably learn something you didn’t know. Much fun indeed.
--Don Sakers

Kirkus Reviews:

A veteran stargazer pairs a meaty disquisition on stellar types and life cycles to page-filling photos and artistic visions of stars and nebulae. Using the H-R (Hertzsprung-Russell) Diagram as his framework, he devotes spreads to heavenly bodies from main-sequence stars to Cepheid variables, neutron stars and black holes--exploring along the way in some detail exactly how scientists determine or deduce stellar luminosity, mass, and chemical composition. He closes with a look at extrasolar planets, current theories about the origin of natural elements, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Even readers who find the densely packed text hard going will pore over the pictures: printed in sharp detail and bright, enhanced colors on glossy-coated paper, Orion, the Veil Nebula, the Crab Nebula, and their celestial companions make serious eye candy. Though the lack of a resource list limits its research value, students of the skies will find this a (what else?) stellar picture of what we know or guess about those distant lights.


For the astronomy-mad child comes this detailed book about stars, filled with gorgeous pictures from Hubble and other advanced telescopes.
--Sarah Zielinski

Midwest Book Review:

The Lives of Stars is a beautiful coffee-table book that will appeal to both students of astronomy age 10 and up and adults. There are multiple incredible photographs of lives and stages of stars and galaxies and a whole page of photography credits. Simply written in expository prose, The Lives of Stars has chapters that define how a star is born, the H-R diagram (a way of measuring the intensity of stars that reveals the star's projected life story), descriptions of many different types of stars, star clusters, the origin of the elements, and what to consider about the possibility of life in space, to name just a few. A full 8-page photo-illustrated glossary and index help to clarify astronomic terminology. The Lives of Stars is an experience not to be missed for all lovers of galactic theory and knowledge of stars.

School Library Journal:

Extensive, detailed information about stars is coupled with amazing colorful photographs, many from the Hubble Space Telescope, in this stunning book. Packed with facts about the stars and their life cycle, the text often relates them to situations or objects familiar to readers. The wealth of information may overwhelm casual readers, but the extensive glossary, including photographs, aids students. This book is sure to attract kids interested in astronomy and those doing reports.
--Christine Markley

Finding Great Science Books for Children:

This explains a great deal about stars and their life cycles in language that elementary-school children can understand. The design and illustrations are excellent.
--Priscilla Spears


This handsomely designed, large-format volume features spectacular images of stars, nebulae, and galaxies on glossy pages. Most of the pictures are digitally enhanced, space-telescope images, while a few are clearly labeled as artists’ conceptions. The author of See the Stars and Ten Worlds, as well as several books for adults, astronomer Croswell here presents a great deal of information about stars and how they change over time. Topics include “The Birthplace of Stars,” “Red Giants,” “Double Stars,” and “Extrasolar Planets.” Though no sources are listed, an index and a detailed glossary are appended. The book’s intended audience is puzzling, since it sometimes seems to address young children (“Some stars are blue. Some stars are white. Some stars, like the Sun, are yellow”), while at other times both the reading level and the concepts are a good deal more challenging (“Most interstellar hydrogen gas is made of separate hydrogen atoms. Each hydrogen atom has one proton, a particle with positive electric charge”). Still, an inviting presentation that will get kids turning pages.
--Carolyn Phelan

National Science Teachers Association:

This book is an easy-to-read reference book on the lives of stars and the different stars that astronomers are studying today. The material is complete and in-depth, but the reading level is low enough for younger readers, older ESOL students, or special education students.

The highlight of the book is the collection of large and colorful pictures of these deep space objects. The photos are compelling examples of nebulae from which stars develop. The written material is in-depth and comprehensive. It begins with a description of how distances to stars are calculated and how temperature and brightness of a star is determined; it also explains the inverse square law, giving good examples of how it applies to the Sun. It continues with the idea of nebulae and the origin of stars.

Text material describes the concept of balancing gravity with outward pressure to form stable stars. The H-R diagram is explained and illustrated with a two-page spread showing the way the graph develops. Subsequent chapters address the concepts of main sequence, red giant, white dwarf, brown dwarf, supernova explosions, planetary nebulae, Cepheid variables, pulsars, and of course black holes. Other concepts covered include double stars and star clusters.

Each section describes a star in detail and gives plenty of examples of them in the sky, and they are illustrated with great, full-color pictures. The book concludes with a discussion of extrasolar planets and the possibility of life in space. There is a full glossary and an index. The author maintains a rigorous approach to the material but keeps the jargon to a minimum, making it an easy and interesting book to read.
--Claudia Fetters

Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children's Media:

Clearly written, with the most beautiful photographs available, this book does what it says it will do: it “shows how stars live and die.” Topics are simply addressed in one-, two-, or three-page spreads. A nice feature under each section title is a phrase which in itself provides information. For example, "Supergiants and Supernovae" is followed by “One supernova can outshine an entire galaxy”. It does not surprise this reviewer that all the major review journals had great things to say about this book. Includes a really amazing glossary and an index.
--Judy Bordeaux

Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada:

I first encountered Ken when I did a telephone interview with him a few years ago in connection with work I was doing on Polaris. The resulting piece that he assembled for an article, based upon interviews with astronomers studying the Pole Star, was a work of art, and, unlike most media interviews, faithfully captured the known facts on the star as well as the sentiments of those upon whom he based his story. It is these two characteristics, accuracy and a reliance on inspired ways of describing old ideas, that raise Croswell's writing above the rest of the field. I truly love his writing style evident in The Lives of Stars as well as in his other works, and strongly recommend them to anyone wishing to enthuse young future astronomers about the wonders of astronomy.

As the title suggests, The Lives of Stars, after first introducing readers to the nature of stars, traces the various evolutionary stages that stars of different original mass can pass through, from star birth to star death, ending with the inevitable link between the creation of heavy elements and life in space. Nothing appears to have been missed, and I was delighted to find that even Cepheids are included, both as a post-red-supergiant stage (perhaps not in the case of Polaris?) and as distance indicators to other galaxies. Included are a variety of historical snippets woven into the text to provide both background and inspiration regarding the manner in which scientific ideas are generated, following careful observational studies. The age level for potential readers is indicated as nine or older, but the writing is also suitable for "more senior" astronomers.

The Lives of Stars contains many glorious color views of objects related to stellar evolution: the Horsehead Nebula, T Tauri stars, young and old star clusters, H II regions, planetary nebulae, the Crab Nebula, the Veil Nebula in Cygnus, and even an extragalactic supernova. Also included are faithful schematics of planets and brown dwarfs, as well as an all-color Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, with all stars identified and the various stellar characteristics described in exciting fashion in an accompanying two-page chapter. Nothing is neglected, and the contents might easily substitute for the appropriate chapters of an introductory textbook on astronomy for non-science specialists. It is similar in some respects to table-top books designed to show off the best astronomical images, but the writing is what makes it more than worth its small list price. Boyds Mills Press has done an excellent job in producing The Lives of Stars, and there is very little to criticize in the finished product.

The descriptive portions of The Lives of Stars are what make the book special. A number of quotes are reproduced in the publicity blurb for the book as well as in the online site, to which I refer interested readers. My personal favorites are his comparison of the present rate of the Sun's expansion from evolutionary effects as "about as fast as your fingernails grow," his manner of describing absorption lines in stellar spectra by "different elements remove different wavelengths of light, thereby imprinting themselves on the star's spectrum," and his comparison of the properties of Cepheid pulsation with "musical instruments in an orchestra." Copyright restrictions limit the number of words from Croswell's books that can be quoted directly, so you will have to purchase your own copies to enjoy them to the full. The Lives of Stars, only 72 pages from title page to the end of the index, can be read easily in one evening, including time spent in rereading those delightful passages that describe well-known concepts from a fresh and evocative perspective.
--David G. Turner

Read an Excerpt from THE LIVES OF STARS!