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I’ve long been fascinated with space; staring up at the twinkling lights above imagining being one of the first people to see them and thinking up stories to explain how they got there, or pondering if there’s anything else alive out there. If I weren’t so darn claustrophobic, I’d be saving up my pennies for one of those tourist trips on a rocket ship so I could voyage into the great unknown and see the stars and planets and swirling, multi-colored universes.
Earlier this year I read a book that shaped much of the rest of my reading for the year, a book I gushed about, foisted on both of my book clubs, and mulled over during many empty moments. And it was all about space!
Fifty years ago the world was in turmoil (sound familiar?) The president saw a need for something to bring the country together, to put a temporary halt to the violence and chaos that were dividing the country, to give us something to work on and root for together. (Yeah, that part doesn’t sound too familiar right now, darnit.) So, he made a bold proclamation that America would be the first to reach the moon. And we were off.
Enter Rocket Men, by Robert Kurson. He starts with a brief re-cap of the tumultuous events around the country and world in 1968, Kennedy’s announcement and the ensuing space race. And then he takes time to introduce us to each of the three men who would make history by venturing to the moon. We get a great glimpse into the lives of the three key players of the Apollo 8 mission (Frank Borman, James Lovell, and Bill Anders), their backgrounds, training, and everything that brought them to be in the right place at the right time. We also get to watch the fledgling organization known as NASA navigate wholly uncharted waters. We cheer along with the rest of humanity (in retrospect) as the men loop around to the dark side of the moon and emerge safely on the other side. And we feel just a little more hopeful about the world and humanity as we view the famous earthrise photo, our first glimpse of the sphere of green and blue that supports life as we know it.
This is the ultimate mix of history, biography, adventure, exploration, and the celebration of the human spirit. I was wowed and amazed at nearly every page. The hubs and I read this one out loud to each other and constantly paused to exclaim over the gall of the people involved. We were amazed over and over again at passages that talked about engineers and mathematicians who had a strictly pen and paper proof of something convince the astronauts to climb into overgrown tin cans and launch themselves into the final frontier where literally no man had gone before, with only mathematical equations to guarantee that they would survive and return safely. And the astronauts’ courage to risk their lives to do it.
If you need a little bit more hope in your lives, I cannot recommend this book enough. And if you love this one as much as I do here are a few others to keep you reading!
Fiction Picture Books
Moon by Britta Teckentrup
Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly
The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer
Astronaut Annie by Suzanne Slade (see my review here)
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom I’m Off to the Moon by Dan Yaccarino
Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed
Non-Fiction Books for Kids
The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield
Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin
A is for Astronaut by Clayton Anderson
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman (see my review here)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins
Moonshot by Brian Floca
Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum
I Am Neil Armstrong by Brad Meltzer
Earthrise by James Gladstone
One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh
The Moon by Seymour Simon
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty
Non-Fiction Books for Teens and Adults
First Man by James R. Hansen
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (MG and Picture book versions also available)
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Death by Black Hole by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Women in Space by Karen Bush Gibson
Fiction Books for Teens and Adults
The Martian by Andy Wier
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal