How We Got to the Moon details the almost overwhelming amount of expertise and problem-solving required to accomplish one human footprint.
How We Got to the Moon: the People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure by John Rocco. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020, 241 pages plus author note, bibliography, index, and index.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 8 and up
We all know the story, or think we do: the Soviets beat us to space, NASA was born, President Kennedy made a speech, and eight years later Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was 19 at the time, and wasn’t particularly surprised or impressed. This is the age of science, and sci-fi, I recall thinking: of course we can get to the moon. I’ve become less cavalier over time, but even so, this book is a strong corrective to that careless way of thinking.
It’s picture-book size but not picture-book thick: over 250 pages all told. That’s how much it takes to communicate a sense of the magnitude of logistics involved and new problems to solve. To address logistics and problems took an army of scientists, specialists, mechanics, craftsmen, seamstresses, and women with adding machines. This is their story as much as it is Aldren’s, Armstrong’s, and Collins’s. To tell it, the author goes back to October 4, 1957:
It all starts with a beep . . . beep . . . beep. People all over the world pick up the faint signal on shortwave radios, and Americans are listening with both fascination and terror.
The Soviets have startled the world by hurling a satellite into orbit, and Americans feel like they’ve been caught flat-footed. Catching up—and surpassing—is suddenly on the front-burner. After backtracking to Robert Goddard and the invention of rocketry, the narrative passes quickly over the Mercury and Gemini programs to arrive at Apollo. Rather than straight narrative, the story unfolds like a scrapbook, with capsule biographies of people instrumental to the program, from flight director Gene Kranz to seamstress manager Ellie Foraker. Countless diagrams, schematics, and illustrations break up the pages, with sidebars on everything from how to use a slide rule to how to urinate in space. Every Problem! that came up in the course of the program had its Solution! and readers have many opportunities to test those solutions for themselves with simple experiments.
How We Got to the Moon could almost serve as a year-long unit study, with excursions into history, biography, physics, biology, technology, geography, and much more. Besides the educational value, it’s a stirring story of trial and error and ultimate triumph.
Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 3.5Artistic/literary value: 5Also at Redeemed Reader:
Since 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, there have been several excellent picture books about the project. See our Lunar List from last year. Also, Gravity by Jason Chinn makes an abstract concept intelligible for 5 year olds. And just for fun: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon!We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.
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