Books in space
Some of the authors and illustrators of the books timed to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing are longtime space fans. They faithfully monitored the Apollo 11 mission and documented the adventures of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins in treasured scrapbooks. Now, a new generation will be inspired to follow dreams of traveling back to the moon or even to Mars, or perhaps designing the equipment and procedures for those missions.
It was a close race, but Jerry Stone’s One Small Step: Celebrating the First Men on the Moon wins honors for best cover. A round hologram shows an astronaut climbing down a ladder, stepping on the moon, moving closer and finally standing front-and-center holding a flag. The rest of the book, presented as an Apollo program scrapbook kept by the grandson of a Mission Control employee (and son of a present-day NASA scientist), is equally fascinating. Scores of photographs—of things like the Apollo 11 crew eating breakfast, a Saturn V rocket under construction—some of which lift to reveal more information—fill the book and wonderful two-page spreads document the in-space experience, the crew’s return to Earth, etc. Other nice touches include a mission diagram of orbits, docking and undocking maneuvers; minibooks of countdown checklists and mission menus; removable facsimiles of VIP and press passes for the Apollo 11 launch; and a hologram showing the rocket lifting off the pad.
There are lots of similarities between One Small Step and Alan Dyer’s Mission to the Moon, including a show-stopping cover—this one features an embossed image of an Apollo 11 astronaut on the lunar surface. A mix of images and short blocks of text (much more inviting and accessible than long passages) cover the men, machines and other aspects of the Apollo program in well-designed spreads. Factor in the enclosed double-sided poster and truly spectacular DVD of authentic NASA footage, and this book is sure to please children and adults.
Andrew Chaikin was a space-obsessed 12-year-old the first time he met Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, and there’s a photo on the back flap of Mission Control, This Is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon to prove it. Chaikin, writing with wife Victoria Kohl, covers the same wide territory he so expertly presented in A Man on the Moon, here in a version for junior space fans. There are plenty of photographs of activities on the ground and in space, informative sidebars (waste management gets glorious treatment, as it does in many of the space books published this year) and colorful graphics to appeal to young minds.
In addition to original paintings of his colleagues and their missions, Bean contributes personal reminiscences about them, as well as details about the paintings themselves. For example, he stages the scenes with small models he makes himself, uses crushed soil to add texture and sometimes even grinds up small pieces of mission patches, flags and NASA emblems from his spacesuits into the paint. For budding artists or those otherwise intrigued by the paintings, consider Painting Apollo: First Artist on Another World (Smithsonian Books), which includes 107 of Bean’s paintings and is the companion volume to an exhibition at the National Air & Space Museum July 16 through January 2010.
Fly me to the moon
Buzz Aldrin flew on the Apollo mission just before Alan Bean’s. He teams up again with painter (and pilot) Wendell Minor for Look to the Stars, the follow-up to 2005’s Reaching for the Moon. It’s a quick trip through aviation history sprinkled with personal insights and recollections from Aldrin. He tells us, for example, that crewmate Armstrong took along a piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers’ plane to the moon. (He doesn’t mention that aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh was in the viewing stand for Apollo 11’s launch, seated next to Apollo 13’s Jim Lovell. But, hey, Aldrin was obviously too busy that day to notice.) The timeline at the end of the book is packed with information and looks like a cool 1950s mobile.
One Giant Leap takes its title from the famous words spoken by Armstrong when he became the first man to step on the moon. Written by Robert Burleigh, the book skips the launch and starts when the lunar lander separates from the command service module and heads off toward the moon. Mike Wimmer’s paintings capture the stark beauty of outer space—and his likenesses of the astronauts are astounding.
Brian Floca offers a completely different view of the Apollo 11 mission in Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. Reading Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon inspired Floca to write (and, of course, illustrate) his own project. His paintings are bright and airy, perfect for suggesting the sensation of floating in space, but equally effective portraying Mission Control, liftoff and star-studded space vistas. Floca's images are paired with lyrical text that turns the technical achievement of the moon landing into a poetic—and thrilling—adventure. Author and/or illustrator of more than two dozen children's books, including the Sibert Honor-winning Lightship, Floca reaches new heights in Moonshot.
Cool, daddy, cool
If you’ve not yet seen the world via M. Sasek’s series of children’s travel books, here’s the perfect excuse to do so: This is the Way to the Moon is the latest of the series to be re-released. Originally published in 1963, the book is a colorful time capsule from the hip world of Cape Canaveral during the era of “Right Stuff” astronauts. Sasek’s simple, stylish drawings show off the clothes, cars and buildings of the day—including a beautiful rendering of a two-story hotel favored by the Mercury 7 astronauts, complete with pool, splashy sign and geometric wrought-iron railing. Sasek also wrote the accompanying text, which is tinged with the sarcasm of a late 1950s animated feature. Halfway through This is the Way to the Moon, he makes an easy transition into more technical drawings of rockets—really missiles at this point in the space program—and explanatory copy.
Tomi Ungerer’s Moon Man is another oldie but goodie re-released this year. Rockets don’t appear until nearly the end of this tale about the man in the moon catching a ride on a falling star to satisfy his curiosity about the fun-loving earthlings he spies each night. After causing a series of events familiar to fans of the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, the moon man visits a tinkerer-scientist and catches a ride back to his orb. Ungerer’s lush colorful illustrations add to the poignancy of the story.