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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Racing the Moon* by Alan Armstrong, illustrated by Tim Jessell - middle grades book review
Also by Alan Armstrong:

Looking for Marco Polo


Also illustrated by Tim Jessell:

Looking for Marco Polo
Racing the Moon
by Alan Armstrong, illustrated by Tim Jessell
Ages 9-12 224 pages Random House June 2012 Hardcover    

Newbery Honor author Alan Armstrong has captured the excitement surrounding the time and place of the space race in 1947. The scientific community is experimenting with new technology including rockets and radar. Twelve-year-old Alex and her 17-year-old brother, Chuck, are fascinated by the idea of flying and space travel. They’ve built their own “space station” and hang out by the nearby airport, hoping to have a chance to fly.

Narrated by Alex, the main plot focuses on the children after they meet female NASA scientist Captain Ebbs. She encourages the children to pursue their scientific interests and takes them on an exciting sailing trip near the island of Wallops, where a rocket is expected to be launched very soon. Chuck desperately wants to get close to any rocket technology, and they embark on a risky trip to the restricted island to witness the launch firsthand.

Armstrong loosely weaves subplots throughout the story, including parallels with Captain John Smith of Jamestown, Chuck’s learning difficulties, Captain Ebbs’ food research, the famous rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun, and their mother’s own history as a German immigrant. Chuck’s story is perhaps the most interesting, yet it is not fully developed. The children put themselves in a number of dangerous situations, but the consequences are positive—getting them closer to their goal of observing real NASA technology.

This book will appeal mostly to children who already have an inclination toward the history surrounding space technology. The illustrations highlight important events in the story and help keep the text moving. Overall, the precept of the book is interesting, but the various story threads are a little distracting and slow down the excitement and pace of the story.
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  Kristine Wildner/2012 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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