This retelling of the story of the memorable moon mission by David Long, winner of the Blue Peter Book Award 2017 – Best Books with Facts for Survivors, will engage, inform and inspire young readers keeping them gripped to the final page. It vividly conveys the tension and the danger experienced by those involved whilst also demonstrating the importance of teamwork when attempting to overcome what may appear to be insurmountable obstacles. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission this is a wonderful example of quality nonfiction for children.
‘The explosion had made a huge hole in one of the oxygen tanks, and the gas inside it was leaking out fast. When Jim Lovell looked out of the window, he saw the jet of oxygen shooting out into space, but he knew there was nothing the crew could do to plug the hole or to stop the oxygen escaping.
One of the other astronauts, Jack Swigert, quickly sent a radio message to Mission Control: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”’
This quote, or in fact the misquote “Houston, we have a problem” was immortalised in the well known film of this famous historical event starring Tom Hanks in the 1990s. However those of us of a certain age may well remember the actual moment itself and how the plight of the astronauts thousands of miles from earth kept adults and children at the time glued to the TV hoping for their safe return. David Long has so successfully captured the build up to the accident and the manner in which the astronauts and the NASA team dealt with the aftermath that young readers will experience the same nail biting tension that I did as a child 50 years ago.
David Long provides a background to the build up of the 1960s space race with the history of flight itself and the gradual development of space exploration pioneered by the USA and the Soviet Union, as it was then. The information is conveyed in a excellent, readable manner with, for example, the sizes and power of the rockets described in relation to items familiar to children such as famous landmarks or objects such as racing cars. This makes the concepts discussed more meaningful and understandable to the reader. The illustrations by Stefano Tambellini are great, providing detail to support the text and drawn in a style similar to a graphic novel giving the book added appeal.
This is an immensely readable book whilst still being full of information and detail. It would, I think, be perfect for kindling an interest in this subject in children because although nonfiction this is also about people and how they worked together as a team in a time of trouble.
This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 8.
I should like to thank Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for providing my review copy.
Barrington Stoke have produced some excellent resources linked to the book that would be great for children at home at present and useful for teachers to share when schools reopen. These include Build Your Own Rocket! a Creative Writing prompt and a quiz.
If you would like to get a feel for the book the first chapter is available to read here: