50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing Celebrated Through Books

Katy Tessman

Recently, my dad asked me “Katy, where were you when the U.S. landed on the moon?” I laughed out loud, reminding him I wasn’t born … yet. I was born just a few months after we landed on the moon, in October of 1969. And my whole life I’ve been inspired by what NASA had done and continues to do. In fact, my now 16-year-old son has become very interested with astronauts, rockets, and space travel after taking a high school astronomy class his sophomore year.

July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing and many new books have been published for children on the subject. My son and I have been previewing the advanced reading copies and came up with a list of our favorites.

Graphic novel lovers will enjoy ROCKET TO THE MOON! (BIG IDEAS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD) by Don Brown (AMULET BOOKS). Colorful illustrations and simple text chronicles the discovery of gunpowder to the creation of rockets and the inventions. These discoveries led to the technology that made it possible for the first moon landing in 1969. Written for readers in grades 3rd through 6th, this comic style factual book takes readers through the history of rocket building: from ancient Chinese rockets, to “bombs bursting in air” during the War of 1812, to Russia’s Sputnik program, to the moon landing.The timeline that is included is a quick resource for readers curious about space travel.

MOON! EARTH’S BEST FRIEND (HENRY HOLT & COMPANY), is a light-hearted nonfiction picture book about the formation and history of the moon—told from the perspective of the moon itself. Written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated Stevie Lewis, this book is  for Preschoolers through 3rd Graders. The story is about how the Moon will always be with the Earth, just like best friends are always together. Full of kid-friendly facts, including how the Earth and Moon need each other to stay in control (without Moon, Earth would spin faster and our days would be shorter), this picture book uses humoristic characteristics and charming personality traits to tell the “autobiography” of the moon.

The father-daughter story of PAPA PUT A MAN ON THE MOON by Kristy Dempsey (DIAL) is a sweet story for Preschoolers through 3rd Graders. This picture book celebrates a small town’s large contribution to one of America’s greatest accomplishments. Written in the voice of the young girl, she is proud that Papa is helping her country accomplish an important mission. The fabric he weaves at the mill is a layer of material in the astronauts’ spacesuits. With illustrations by Sarah Green, there are scenes of the family watching the news on television, this father and daughter are pleased to see the astronauts tumbling through space knowing the fabric Papa made helped put a man on the moon.

Brian Floca’s stunning book, MOONSHOT : THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11 (ATHENEUM/RICHARD JACKSON BOOKS) has been expanded in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.  Originally published in 2009, this book is for upper elementary readers, yet I think it would be enjoyable for all ages. Columbia’s launch to landing and returning to Earth bookends the astronaut’s week-long journey to the moon and back in this informative picture book about Apollo 11’s historic mission to the Moon.

MOON MISSION : THE EPIC 400-YEAR JOURNEY TO APOLLO 11 by Sigmund Brouwer (KIDS CAN PRESS) is the perfect book for middle schoolers interested in the Apollo project. This book is different from others on the same topic because it links the inventions from the past four centuries, from Copernicus to Einstein.These innovations and discoveries made it possible to land on the moon. This unique look at the historic feat, written in the astronaut’s point of view, offers children a well-researched true account of the epic journey, and the science, technology, engineering and math that set it in motion. Using NASA-sourced photographs throughout, this is a highly readable book.

Suzanne Slade, a former mechanical engineer, teamed up with illustrator Thomas Gonzalez to tell the true story of the Project Apollo in COUNTDOWN : 2979 DAYS TO THE MOON (PEACHTREE PUBLISHING). Free verse and colorful illustrations and photographs take the reader back to 1961, when President Kennedy announced that the United States would land on the Moon by the end of the decade.This book highlights the successes and tragedies during the two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine days it took the engineers, technicians, scientists, mathematicians, and machinists make the dream a reality. Written for middle-schoolers, yet this book is informative and entertaining for all ages.

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