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Moon Landings

Blast off with some brilliant books about the Apollo 11 Moon Landing! Review Panel member and librarian Carol Carter takes a look at some astro-themed children’s books to explore the topic.

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Hilary Robinson
 & Lewis James
Chapter book

For those just past the Early Readers stage, Jasper: Space Dog is a fun and easy to read first chapter book. The book is written in the form of letters from Jasper (and his human owner, Charlie) to Dr Isabella Starr, Rocket Scientist. The letters from Charlie and Jasper are silly and light; they ask questions such as ‘Is the moon made of cheese?’, ‘Do astronauts eat hotdogs?’, and ‘Did the astronauts see a man in the moon?’.

Dr Starr’s replies are fun too, but also provide interesting facts. Did you know that the landing module Eagle was originally going to be called Haystack? ‘Houston, the Haystack has landed’ doesn’t have quite the same ring! Or that the astronauts couldn’t afford life insurance, so they each signed hundreds of photos to be sold if they didn’t make it back to raise money for their families. Jasper: Space Dog provides young readers with all of these answers and more.

Jeanne Willis
 & John Hare

Field Trip to the Moon is a stunning picture book exploring what happens when one child on a school trip to the moon accidentally gets left behind after the school space ship departs. Depicted in atmospheric shades of grey, with soothing rhyming text, we see the aliens creep up to investigate the lost child who is drawing a picture of Earth. For the moon aliens, the crayon colours open up a whole new world and lead to ‘the best day of our lives’.

Moving through pathos and wariness to friendship and joy, Field Trip to the Moon is accessible for the youngest children in school, but there is also much that could be explored with KS1 and LKS2, such as writing about the experience from the point of view of the child, describing a field trip to space or imagining suddenly discovering colour after a lifetime of grey.

Chris Hadfield
 & Kate Fillion & The Fan Brothers

The Darkest Dark tells the true story of how Chris Hadfield conquered his childhood fear of the dark after watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, thus paving the way for his own journey to become an astronaut. The foreword and afterword from Chris add excellent context which makes the story even more inspiring.

Children will be able to empathise with Chris’ fear of night-time monsters which he overcomes through his realisation of ‘the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark’ in space. The expansive artwork on the pages conveying the awesome majesty of space contrasts beautifully with the earth-bound portraits of a warm and loving human family. The uplifting message of this book inspires the reader to dream big; as Chris says ‘Your dreams are always with you…Big dreams about the kind of person you want to be. Wonderful dreams about the life you will live. Dreams that actually can come true’.

Ken Wilson-Max

Astrid has loved space ever since she can remember and wants to be an astronaut when she grows up. Even when her dad gently reminds her of the challenges ahead (eating food out of a tube, getting used to near-zero gravity, sleeping on her own amongst the stars), she is confident – “I can do that!”

This is a story full of tenderness and adventure, with a lovely surprise ending when Astrid and Dad go to pick up Mum from the airbase – where has she been?

This gentle picture book with distinctive earthy illustrations is a lovely read-aloud for Reception/Year 1 with a wonderful inclusive message at its heart, supported by the mini fact-files about female and BAME astronauts at the end.

Dr Sheila Kanani
 & Sol Linero

How To be an Astronaut and Other Space Jobs is a very well laid out introduction to space exploration and the jobs associated with it. It begins with a short introduction to space and why it’s worth exploring before giving an in-depth look at what it’s like to be an astronaut, including such interesting questions as what kind of training you need to do, what it feels like to be weightless and what happens to your body when you return to earth. It also covers a wide range of behind-the-scenes roles I’d never considered before such as astrobiologists, space doctors and even space chefs!

The amount and detail of the text is perfectly judged for KS1/LKS2 – blocks of text are never more than a few sentences with key words highlighted in bold. Sol Linero deserves a special mention for the excellent clear and attractive illustrations which are as important as the words.

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