I’ve got a great read-along this week: a work of historical verse to pair with a wonderful new middle grade novel, coming out in February.
First up: The verse.
A few months ago, Linda Mitchell of the blog A Word Edgewise recommended a fabulous book: Countdown, 2878 Days to the Moon, by Suzanne Slade.
I hesitate to call this a picture book. It is a rich poetic history of the American moon missions, from President John F. Kennedy’s announcement of a goal to land a man on the moon (1961) to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moonwalk in 1969.
Paired with the poems, which cover all 11 Apollo missions, are gorgeous full-color paintings of the astronauts and rockets by artist Thomas Gonzalez, as well as photographs of and info-boxes about the astronauts on each mission.
The astronaut who most caught my attention in this book was Michael Collins. He flew with Armstrong and Aldrin, but never set foot on the moon:
Collins remains in the command module–
hoping he won’t have to return to Earth alone.
Then he pushes a button
and releases Eagle.
“Okay, there you go. Beautiful!” Collins calls out
as the ships slowly drift apart.
Imagine being the one to stay behind at that moment. Imagine being solely responsible for getting Armstrong and Aldrin safely back on board the command module.
There’s another reason why Michael Collins stood out among all of the heroic characters in Countdown. I had recently read about him in another book.
Next up: The Novel.
Ruby in the Sky is a debut middle grade novel by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo.
Ruby’s Dad used to work for NASA. The moon was their touchstone. Whether they were together or apart, every night they would both look at the moon and know they were thinking about each other. But Ruby and her mother’s lives have been in a tailspin since her father passed away.
Mom has dragged Ruby from Florida to Vermont, her own childhood home, in the middle of winter. Ruby is reluctant to make friends — even reluctant to speak — at her new school. But when a class biography project comes up and she has to pick a topic, her first choice is Michael Collins.
There is so much more I could say about this beautiful story of friendship, forgiveness, and finding your voice. I hope you will read it and enjoy it for yourself! Full disclosure, MG author Tricia Clasen and I worked with Jeanne on this book when she was our Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 (read about that here).
If Ruby Moon Hayes were a real person, she’d devour the poems and history in Countdown. She might even have some facts and important historical figures of her own to add to the “race to the moon” story. For your real life kids, these two books are perfects read-alongs. Enjoy!
I once worked with a brother and sister in a writing workshop who were related in some way to Michael Collins. They said he was the real hero. What a wonderful discovery both of these books are. Thanks!
That is so cool, Margaret. I hadn’t heard of Michael Collins until I read Ruby in the Sky. It was exciting — for me — to come across him again in Countdown. He does seem heroic, the man behind the scenes who made the moon walk a success.
I couldn’t imagine being the one left in the ship & yes, Michael Collins connected to Ruby In The Sky sounds terrific, Laura. I’m glad you’re sharing these recent new books. As I told you on FB, I promise to read Countdown soon! I used to do moon-journaling with my students, including the science, art & poetry of it. It was a special month of moon celebrating.
I’ll make sure my library orders these titles–they sound great!