The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission has brought a slew of new books to the market in celebration of the first manned lunar landing…and that includes this book for kids.
First published in 2009 and expanded for this 2019 edition, it is based on illustrations in watercolour, ink, acrylic and gouache by artist Michael McCartney. The pictures are deceptive in their apparent simplicity: while it’s clear that this is a children’s book, the artist’s attention to detail - in the shape and form of the lunar module or the control panel circuit breakers – will impress more knowledgeable adults. Indeed, for those immersed in the subject, the photo reference sources for some of the paintings are clearly evident.
Brian Floca’s text is effectively an extended poem and the extent to which it grabs the reader (or the read-to) will depend on its verbalisation. There is plenty of drama to work with, however: “The rocket below them/sheds parts as it soars./ Bolts explode, engines ignite/first stage, second stage, escape tower/gone!”; “And here, hidden till now, is Eagle, too/a stranger ship, more bug than bird/a black and gold and folded spider”.
One cannot expect the net-savvy, games-oriented children of today to engage with Apollo 11 any more than, say, the voyages of Columbus, but (given the right presentation) they can still be excited by tales of daring and exploration. Any space-engaged adult should welcome the challenge of reading this book to a child or grandchild and instilling some of the original excitement of Apollo into the next generation of space scientists and engineers.