Saturday, July 6, 2019

John's Journal (3 Books About Apollo 11)

Guest Post: John is a K-5 Media Specialist, history buff, author, and my oh-so-sweet husband. He's going to post weekly book reviews/finds here. 

Fifty years ago this July, I was in the living room of a rented beach house in Belmar, NJ watching the spectacular events of the first moon landing and moon walk unfold on a small flickering black and white TV across the room as was millions of other people around the country and the world. Yet somehow, I was watching history being made – alone! 

Even as a six year old I couldn't believe that I was the only one who seemed interested at the time. Where was everyone?! The beach? Porch? Backyard? Gone fishing??  I still don’t know! I did know that is was cool – and it fascinated me for years to come. I collected anything that I could about the Apollo program – newspaper articles, toys, plastic model kits, and of course, books. 

There are numerous books that have been published and many stories told over the years, and of course as the Apollo 11 mission celebrates fifty years, there are many new ones to honor and commemorate the event. I’m familiar with several wonderful editions about the Apollo program for young readers, but the three above stand out as favorites.

Earthrise is my favorite of the three...

To see more illustrations from the talented Christy Lundy, visit this page. 

Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone with Illustrations by Christy Lundy is one of my favorite picture books of the past year. It tells the story of one of the most iconic and famous photographs ever taken – the Earth from the viewpoint of the Apollo 8 astronauts orbiting the moon. 1968 was a time of tremendous unrest and turmoil in the world - wars, political uncertainty and racial strife. The photograph taken by astronaut ----- as the spacecraft was probing the surface of the moon showed the Earth from far away – a planet not with maps or borderlines, but a place where all humans lived as one. The story is told with clear and concise text; there are not technical and scientific details, instead the story is focused on the astronauts traveling to explore the moon and then being able to take the photograph. The illustrations use muted tones and colors and a style that is reminiscent of the late 60’s. I also noted that many of the illustrations that showed gatherings of people watching the mission on TV contained many people of color which adds to the significance of the period in time.  As a read aloud this books can operate on many levels – it tells a story that was significant to mankind and was a prelude to further amazing feats in the space program; for older children, it can be a lesson on artistic style and symbolism for a spectacular scientific event in a turbulent period in human history. 

Visit this section of Brian's website to see more of his art from the book.  

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca is a visually stunning and great narrative of the first landing on the moon and the process it took to plan and carry out the historic mission. The author is also a Caldecott-winning artist (Locomotive). The illustrations carry the story along – even for the earliest readers, but the book is also an excellent  read-aloud story for all ages as the narrative builds throughout – similar it an actual countdown before lift-off. All three Apollo 11 astronauts are treated as main characters – as well as they should considering the dangerous and daring mission that they completed. This is a great example of narrative nonfiction that reads like an adventure story. For readers who want to know more, there is adequate space at the end of the book that contains facts and figures related to the entire Apollo program.

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh – In all of human history, the NASA space missions are all to be considered the true example of teamwork. The astronauts were naturally the focal points and the “stars” of the missions, but it took thousands and thousands of dedicated and talented people from varied walks of life all working towards the same goal to actually make it happen. The Apollo 11 mission exemplified the ultimate goal and in this book: landing on the moon – we learn about contributions from  seamstresses (who carefully sewed layers and layers of fabric to make the space suits), engineers, scientists, photographers, navigation experts, telescope designers, and of course members of mission control who all demonstrated expertise in their field to get the astronauts to the moon and back – an amazing accomplishment still do this day. Team Moon is an attractive non-fiction book for all ages as it contains an abundance of photographs, however I feel that this would be more suitable for middle grade students – it works well as narrative non-fiction and is perfect for a book talk – about the Apollo 11 mission of course, but also as an example of the true meaning of teamwork.
This was published in 2006 with a recent reprinting.

Read on!

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