Unless you’ve been living in outer space you can’t have failed to notice that this week marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever moon landing. Our televisions are filled with documentaries recounting how we got to this significant moment in history, when Apollo 11 bravely launched into space resulting in Neil Armstrong being the first man to have walked on the moon. So there is a natural curiosity about how mankind was able to achieve this extraordinary goal with technology less able than the computer I am writing this blog on today. A plethora of books to celebrate the 50th anniversary have been released, each looking to take us on a different journey of discovery to understanding how we made it to the moon.
Most people are familiar with the name Neil Armstrong, after all he was the first man to step on the moon. But how did this man become the one chosen to take the most momentous steps in history? Long before that day Neil was dreaming of journeys above the clouds, from making model planes as a child to gaining his pilot’s licence aged just 15. This fabulous new book, the first in a brand new ‘Trailblazer,’ series is packed with little-know trivia and fascinating facts about Neil Armstong. Who knew that he nearly missed out on becoming one of the most famous men in history when he sent his astronaut application in late and that they were saved from being stuck on the moon by a felt tip pen? Lively black and white illustrations make for an engaging and informative biography.
While Neil Armstrong’s name is synonymous with space travel, until the film ‘Hidden Figures,’ was released little was known about the mathematicians who careful calculations made the moon landings possible. In particular the story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American who worked for NASA and despite being a mathematical genius faced racism and sexism to have her voice heard. Her determination and her desire to learn everything about the universe drove her to challenge the institutions that would hold her back. This picture book biography gives us an insight into Katherine a child who loved to count and was fascinated by the world around her and the journey she took to becoming a crucial part of America’s space programme. Beautifully illustrated with accessible information, this is a truly inspirational read.
If you talk to children about what they want to be when they grow up, being an astronaut is bound to be a popular answer. But what do you need to do to become an astronaut and what other jobs are there in space? ‘How to be an Astronaut,’ aims to answer these questions in this bright and bold book bursting with interesting things to discover. Vibrant illustrations sit alongside insights such as the history of space exploration, what astronauts actually do on the space station and how the moon actually feels. There are so different space jobs to discover, from discovering new planets to becoming a spacecraft engineer this book uncovers the complexities behind space travels allowing us to understand how it truly happens. Encouraging children to embrace their passions and showing them a world of opportunities awaits, this book is a unique take on space exploration.
I’ve been on many trips with school but never before have I blasted off for an adventure to the moon. This quirky and humorous picture book takes a class to the moon where the humans in silver space suits are observed by the occupants, who are scared of these strange beings. One girl sits down to imagine who lives in a place like this and the occupants are entranced by her rainbow coloured sticks. But tragedy strikes when she becomes separated from the rest of the class. She soon discovers that reaching out a hand of friendship and embracing the unknown can lead to the most unexpected of discoveries. Jeanne’s gently lilting rhymes make this book a joy to read aloud, while John’s stunning illustrations invite the reader to use their imaginations to think about what lies beyond our world.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the moon landing was the terrible discover that the moon after all is not made of cheese. But what do we actually know about the moon? Usborne takes us back in time to discover ancient legends about the moon’s creation, through the Space Race and offering us thoughts of a future world with a moon colony. This narrative non-fiction offers an insight into the role the moon has played through humanity, giving us gems such as moon rabbits, angry suns splattering the moon with mud and whites of eggs creating the moon and stars. I love how the illustrations vary when capturing the different essences of this book, it’s a real joy to pour over the pages. Fascinating facts mixed with ancient beliefs give this book a really distinctive feel that I found really appealing. Usborne have produced some brilliant resources to accompany this book.
‘Balloon to the Moon,’ takes space travel back to its origins to October 1783 when the Montgolfier brothers became the first people to experience controlled flight with the help of a sheep, a duck and a rooster. Counting down through history to Neil Armstrong’s first steps and imagining a future world where we could go to space on holiday, this book has it all. In a world where we take air travel for granted, its hard to imagine that the original pioneers would have such a long lasting effect on our ability to travel through space. An in depth examination of the technologies, innovations and stories that led to the moon landings. Exquisitely produced this book has a real retro feel with its muted palette and sophisticated illustrations, it truly is a thing of beauty.
Inspired by the life of real-life astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield tells the story of the moon landing through his eyes watched next door on the only television on their tiny island. It’s hard to imagine a world where you had to go next door to watch something unfold when everything we see now can be found at the touch of our fingertips. Yet for Chris who has this fear of the dark, a place where aliens are hiding away ready to spring upon him this opens his eyes up to a universe where the darkness we see is only the tip of the iceberg. He realises for the first time that his dreams of an astronaut and travelling space are a real life possibility and that he has the ability to make his dreams come true. A gently exploration of facing your fears and embracing your dreams, this is an uplifting and inspiring story sublimely illustrated with detailed pencil drawings.
‘The Big Beyond,’ captures the excitement and thrills of space travel through beautiful narrative poetry which flows magnificently as it begins its examination of mankind’s thoughts about the world around us. Asking fundamental questions, how deep is space, how far are stars and does Mars have life like ours, this feels like stepping into a child’s curious mind. When reading aloud it allows the reader the fun of blasting off into space, then asking questions to create discussions whilst reflecting on everything we have achieved in space exploration. Vibrant illustrations meet playful rhymes in this delightful narrative non-fiction read.
‘Spectacular Space,’ is a quirky and informative guide that celebrates the moon landing by assembling weird and wacky facts about space that are wonderfully appealing to children. James takes mind-blowing information like one million Earths could fit inside our Sun and presents them concisely in a humorous and unforgettable way. This is more than just a homage to the moon landing, instead it seeks to inform and entertain with diverse and daft facts, who knew that there is a WiFi hotspot on the Moon, it means my children would be more than happy to go on holiday there! Stunningly produced, featuring retro illustrations that will appeal to both children and adults this is an absolute gem of a book.
Thanks to Big Picture Press, Macmillan, Nosy Crow, Pavilion Books, Stripes Publishing and Usborne for sending me gifted copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All of these books are available to buy now online (click on the title) or from any good bookshop.