Children’s Book News: June 2019

Team Moon, How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon

by Catherine Thimmesh

Suggested ages: 10 years and up

Fifty years ago this coming July the amazing feat of landing two men on the moon was realized.  Some of us will always remember those incredible pictures beamed from the moon as Walter Cronkite, CBS anchor, echoed our credulity at such an accomplishment.  But for many readers, adult and child alike, books such as this are some of the only windows to this past milestone.   In either case, Team Moon offers a fascinating account of the “10,000 individual tasks” to be faced before this event could be called a success.  

400,000 people and 8 years of planning and working contributed to this historical milestone.  In Team Moon we get a glimpse into the work of engineers, computer software specialists, flight controllers, space suit designers, seamstresses, photo developers – all experts in their fields who devoted innumerable hours to the Apollo 11 project. This book ‘s recounting of the various problems that had to be solved and the errors to be avoided make for a fascinating story for adults as well as older children.  Learning that all did not go smoothly on this first moon trip from the master alarms that sounded in the lunar module(LM) to the rise in fuel temperature in the LM makes for a breath-taking account even though we are aware of the mission’s success. 

Team Moon’s story is supported by an array of photos as well as direct quotes from many of those who took part in this unforgettable undertaking.  Thimmesh masterfully weaves Apollo 11’s story, keeping the reader’s attention along the way.  It is no wonder that Team Moon was awarded The Robert F. Sibert Award in 2007 for the most outstanding informational book for children.

Max Goes to the Moon, A Science Adventure with Max the Dog

by Jeffrey Bennett, illustrated by Alan Okamoto

Suggested ages: 7 – 10 years

Max Goes to the Moon is really two books in one.  The first is a fictional story of Max the Dog who has just returned from an expedition to the Space Station.  Next Max wants to visit the moon, which he eventually does along with six astronauts and his friend, Tori.  The ensuing story tells of Max’s moon trip and all he learns in the process with a final hope of establishing a moon colony.  Large, colored illustrations accompany this tale. 

The second segment of the book is contained in what the author refers to as “Big Kid Boxes.”  These provide background and explanatory information for parents and older children supporting the science behind the fictional story on each page.  It’s a clever way of appealing to various age groups and connecting fiction to reality.

Counting on Katherine, How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

by Helaine Becker

Suggested ages: 5-9 years

Exploring and enhancing our knowledge about the moon rested on the shoulders of many, as sited in Team Moon.  One of the necessities vital to success for a moon landing was expert ability in mathematics in order to calculate the innumerable operations required for the operation of the rockets and landers.  Katherine Johnson was a mathematical genius who dealt with such problems but who is particularly remembered for recalculating the Apollo 13’s flight path back to earth after a life-threatening explosion in space. 

The picture book, Counting on Katherine, begins with Johnson as a young girl and her fascination with the universe and numbers.  Becker is successful in conveying Johnson’s story in a manor that will captivate young readers. It recounts her pursuit of becoming a research mathematician and overcoming the barriers that existed for African Americans and women in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Johnson’s mind was like a human computer and she soon was a vital part of Project Mercury and later Project Apollo, the flights to the moon.

This thoughtfully illustrated and written book introduces children to an amazing individual and is a particular inspiration to girls to shoot for the moon and reach for the stars!