About the Holiday
Today’s holiday celebrates the astounding technological achievement that saw men land—and walk—on the moon. On July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins touched down on the moon. Six hours after landing, Armstrong made the first “small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” when he descended the ladder of the space craft to the moon’s surface. He spent two and a half hours exploring our nearest neighbor. Aldrin also made a lunar walk. Between them, the two astronauts brought 47.5 pounds of material back to Earth. Millions of people watched live coverage of the moon landing on television, cheering along with NASA at this amazing feat.
To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space
Written by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan | Illustrated by Nicole Wong
As a child Kathy Sullivan loved to explore. Her father designed airplanes, and when he brought home blueprints, she carefully studied every line and curve. When she saw airplanes in the sky she wished she were on them, flying to exciting locations all over the world. Maps and foreign languages fascinated her. “Their strange symbols, exotic tales, and musical sounds made her feel like the world was waiting for her.” Kathy wanted to see that whole world and thought maybe she’d like to be a spy or a diplomat, but her friends and other adults told her those weren’t jobs for women.
But Kathy always followed her heart. She loved going fishing with her dad and brother, finishing the day with a swim. She “delighted in how her arms and legs moved in slow motion underwater.” Kathy was still a teenager when she learned how to pilot a plane. At first the busy instrument panel made her nervous, but she quickly learned how to manage all the “dials, buttons, and numbers.”
Kathy got a taste for the thrill of space when she bravely jumped at the opportunity to ride in a Breezy—an open air framework plane. Sitting at the very tip of the airplane, in front of the pilot, Kathy had a bird’s eye view. “The wind rushed past her face so fast it pushed her cheeks back. Higher! Faster! Young Kathy looked at the ground below her feet. She felt like she could see the whole world.”
Later, as the first American woman to walk in space, she did!
Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, have written a compelling biography of Dr. Sullivan that not only tells the story of her adult achievements, but also reveals the childhood and teenage motivations and influences that fostered her journey to the stars. As each event in Kathy’s young life is introduced, it is followed by an adult accomplishment: Kathy’s poring over her father’s aircraft blueprints leads to a spread of college-age Kathy studying charts in textbooks. Her enjoyment of swimming underwater is followed by an illustration showing her NASA training underwater. Her initial introduction to a plane’s instrument panel informs her later responsibilities inside the spacecraft. And the question she once asked herself as a child—what kind of job would allow her to see the whole world—is answered as the astronaut Kathy gazes down at Earth from space.
Nicole Wong’s lovely, realistic watercolor and ink paintings clearly show readers Kathy Sullivan’s trajectory from curious girl to accomplished astronaut. The blueprints that Kathy studies are filled with schematics. The aqua water she swims in swirls and bubbles in the wake of her cannonball dive, the crisscrossing fields lay like a mottled green quilt under the Breezy. Especially stunning and effective are the illustrations of Dr. Sullivan’s work with NASA. Kids will love the up-close view of the spacecraft’s instrument panel with its myriad buttons and dials, and find the gorgeous two-page spreads of the space shuttle’s launch, the view from the cockpit, and Kathy’s spacewalk particularly thrilling.
Following the text are a personal note from Kathy Sullivan to her young readers, as well as more extensive biographical notes on how Dr. Sullivan discovered her love of science and the NASA missions she supported. Two more pages highlight the women of the first space-shuttle class, which included Kathy Sullivan, and other firsts by eight other women in space.
To the Stars is a wonderful book to teach children that following their own heart is the best path to future happiness and personal accomplishment. It’s a nice addition to any budding scientist’s or adventurer’s library!
Ages 5 – 9
Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580896443
To find fun activities for To the Stars—including how to make space play dough—as well as other books by Carmella Van Vleet, visit her website!
To learn more about Nicole Wong and view a portfolio of her artwork, visit her website!
National Moon Day Activity
Out of this World Coloring Page
The view of the Moon from Earth or of Earth from the Moon is spectacular! Have fun coloring this printable Out of this World Coloring Page!
Picture Book Review