I recently read a book that was so good it made me want to shout about it from the rooftops. But my roof is incredibly slanted, my voice doesn't reach that far and my neighbors would think I was extremely odd. So, all in all, blogging about it seemed like a better idea.
What's the book about? Something really original, right? Something unique, that nobody else has written about? Nope. It's about man landing on the moon, a subject that has been fully explored this year because of the 40th anniversary of the iconic Apollo 11 mission.
by Andrew Chaikin, illustrated by Alan Bean
Andrew Chaikin is an expert on the manned Apollo missions. He's the author of A Man on the Moon, a comprehensive 700 page book for adults that explains every minute detail of the Apollo space program. It was also the basis for the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. Chaikin has done exhaustive research on the missions, read thousands of transcripts, and reports. He's interviewed a multitude of NASA employees including every Apollo astronaut except for Jack Swigert who passed away in 1982. He knows what he's talking about.
Astronaut Alan Bean journeyed to the moon as part of the Apollo 12 mission and was the fourth moonwalker in history. After retiring from NASA, he became a full time artist. The fantastic paintings in the book encompass several decades of his work.
Bean imbues his pictures with details that only the 12 men who have walked on the moon could know. He shows us what it was like to land on the moon, walk in space and conduct science experiments. His captions capture a true sense of the experience and makes the reader feel (almost) if they had traveled into space, too. His pictures of both astronauts and equipment are incredibly detailed right down to the accessories on each astronaut's space suit.
NASA's universe is very technical, complicated and filled with acronyms. Chaikin and his co-author and wife Victoria Kohl, manage to bring this world to kids with clear and thorough explanations that never become condescending, dull, repetitive or confusing. Also included are extremely informative sidebars that answer common questions and point out intriguing aspects of Apollo. For those looking for more information, check the back for a good overview of additional material.
Take a look at the title of the book again. Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon. As of right now, the Apollo missions have been the only moon missions. Nobody has been back since December, 1972. I love the optimism and vision in the subtitle that suggests that the Apollo missions are the first of many.
All in all, a great book. As an added bonus, Alan Bean's paintings are currently on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC through January 13, 2010. Can't make the trip? Check out Alan Bean's online gallery and enjoy your trip from the earth to the moon.
For another excellent book on the subject, I highly recommend Catherine Thimmesh's Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. It shows what a team effort the moon missions really were and provides a terrific behind the scenes perspective. This well researched book won the 2007 Siebert Informational Book Medal.
Got a favorite space book of your own? I'd love to hear what it is.