July 3 – Apollo 11 Moon Landing Anniversary Month

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About the Holiday

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong, watched by millions of people around the world, became the first person to step foot on the moon. This month we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that monumental moment. Since then we have developed a deeper understanding of our universe, but there is still so much more to discover. Who knows how far today’s children will go in exploring the great unknowns of the cosmos.

I received a copy of Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story  (Tales of Young Americans Series) 

Written by Judy Young | Illustrated by David Miles

 

Ten-year-old Marty and his friend Tomás listened eagerly to the radio broadcast of the Apollo spacecraft liftoff from Marty’s home near NASA’s Tracking Station in Guam. The boys wished they could watch the historic flight, but there was no television reception. Marty and his family had moved to Guam a year ago when Marty’s dad took a job at the tracking station. Although Marty was excited to hear the announcer’s voice counting down to liftoff and then “‘Neil Armstrong talking from inside the spacecraft,’” he wished he could share the experience with his dad. But Marty’s father was busy at the tracking station and would be there for eight days.

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The tracking station, with its huge antenna facing skyward, fascinated Marty. “‘That,’” his dad had told him, “‘is what will pick up communication signals from the spacecraft. And inside the operations building is equipment to rely the signals back and forth between the astronauts and Mission Control in Houston, Texas.’” Marty thought it was awesome that his dad would get to hear everything the astronauts said. Marty wished he could visit the tracking station to hear them too, but he understood that his dad would be too busy and that there was “‘a lot at stake. If communications go down, the astronauts might not make it home,’” his dad had explained.

When Apollo 11 finally entered the moon’s orbit, Marty and Tomás were glued to the radio waiting for the Eagle to land. Then they got a call that the tracking station had set up a TV and was sending a bus to collect family members so they could watch the landing. Marty and Tomás rushed to board the bus. Marty, Tomás, and the rest of the families watched the Eagle touch down on the moon and Neil Armstrong descend the ladder to become the first person to set foot on the moon. They watched as the Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin “bounced around on the moon, taking photos and collecting lunar rocks.”

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The next day the Eagle connected with the Columbia and began the trip back to Earth. “On the last night of the mission,” Marty was suddenly woken up by his mother. She said that his father needed him. Something was wrong. He was driven to the tracking station and met up with his dad and other men outside the huge antenna. “‘The antenna is stuck,’ Dad told Marty,” If they couldn’t get it moving again, Mission Control would lose contact with Apollo 11. It was vital that the antenna work, and time was running out.

But why did they need him? Marty wondered. His dad explained that they thought the problem was in a bearing—”‘a ring with metal balls encased inside it…. The balls have to roll for the antenna to move, but they’re stuck.’” The men thought that if the bearing could be packed with grease, it might move again. But their arms were too big to reach into the tight space. “‘Do you think you can do it?’” Marty’s dad asked. “‘You bet!’ Marty exclaimed.”

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Marty learned what they wanted him to do and crawled into the space where the motor was. He took a glob of grease in one hand and reached in, “but even his arm was too big.” Marty knew he had to find a way to do it. The lives of the three astronauts depended on it. He thought a while and then smiled. “Quickly, Marty smeared grease all over his arm.” Although the space was still tight, his arm slipped in. Marty filled the bearing with grease. When he was finished, his dad called out to try starting the antenna again.

Slowly, it creaked back to life. “Instantly a voice called out from the building. ‘Communications with Apollo 11 intact. All systems working!’” The men cheered and congratulated Marty. Marty joined them in the operations building and listened as a voice from Houston announced, “‘Successful splashdown—task accomplished! Welcome back to Earth, Apollo 11.’” Marty’s father gave him a hug and said, “‘The world wouldn’t have heard those words if it weren’t for you, son.’”

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Based on true events, Judy Young’s compelling story of a child who played a crucial role in one of history’s most astounding accomplishments will thrill young readers. As the first moon landing, the Apollo 11 mission was fraught with danger, excitement, and a level of uncertainty that had people glued to their televisions and radios for the length of the mission. Communication with the astronauts was paramount, and when the link was lost many feared for the three men. Young’s straightforward storytelling  realistically portrays the excitement and fascination of a child for a favorite subject while also demonstrating their pride in and understanding of their parents’ jobs. Through dialogue that always rings true, Young builds the strong relationship and trust Marty and his dad enjoy. Marty’s confidence and quick thinking also mirror the serious nature of the book’s target audience.

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In his realistic and atmospheric paintings, David Miles offers readers a glimpse at a unique part of the Apollo 11 mission: NASA’s tracking station in Guam. As Marty and Tomás hang on every word from the radio, the moon hangs low in the twilight sky and serves as a backdrop to the waving palm trees. Kids interested in engineering, science, and communications will want to linger over the views of the huge antenna that provided the connection between Earth and the astronauts. Period details include images of radios, cars, televisions, and even the grainy broadcast seen by millions. As Marty’s father explains the problem to his son, readers can clearly see what a bearing looked like and where in the antenna Marty had to work. As the men in the operations building celebrate a successful mission, today’s children can feel a sense of kinship with the boy who made a difference in 1969.

Part of the Tales of Young American Series from Sleeping Bear Press, Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story is an absorbing true story that has impact for young readers today. For children interested in space, science, STEM, history, biographies, news, communications, and a well-told story, Marty’s Mission makes an inspirational addition to home, school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110144

Discover more about Judy Young and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Miles, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Marty’s Mission Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of

One (1) copy of Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story written by Judy Young | illustrated by David Miles

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from July 3 through July 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner for each prize will be chosen on July 8.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

Apollo 11 Moon Landing Anniversary Activity

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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Coloring Pages

 

With these printable coloring pages you can follow some of the steps of the historic moon landing and the astronauts’ return home..

Blast Off! | Landing! | Astronauts on the Moon | Module Separates | Fiery Reentry

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You can find Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 25 – It’s National Reading Month and Interview with Illustrator Scott Brundage

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About the Holiday

No matter whether you live in a house or an apartment, in a city, in a small town, or on a farm, but you can travel anywhere through books. The magic of reading lies in its ability to transport readers through history, into emotional landscapes, and to far-away places – even into outer space as today’s book shows!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of The First Men Who Went to the Moon to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The First Men Who Went to the Moon

Written by Rhonda Gowler Greene | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

As Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin enter the spacecraft, they wear excited smiles and wave. “These are the first men who went to the Moon.” Panning back to where the enthralled crowd watches from across the water, watch as a rocket roars skyward, trailing flames. “This is the spacecraft, Apollo 11, that lifted off and soared through the heavens / and carried the first men who went to the Moon.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gowler Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The astronauts get a view of Earth as they reach for the blackness of space. The Lunar Module Eagle touches down on the surface of the Moon in “…the Sea of Tranquility / where the astronauts made history….” First Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin descended onto the Moon carrying an American flag. “This is their mark, a ‘leap for mankind.’ / And this is the flag they left behind / there in the Sea of Tranquility.”

In a spectacular show of human achievement, the Command Module Columbia returned in a “…splashdown that brought them home, / safe and sound from a vast unknown, / where they made their mark, a ‘leap for mankind.’” With ticker tape parades attended by thousands of people, the astronauts were celebrated in New York City and Chicago.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gowler Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In addition to Rhonda Gowler Green’s poem, many of the double-spread illustration contain facts about the mission, features of the Moon, the astronauts’ work, and splashdown.

Back matter includes information on where the Eagle and Columbia are now; more facts about the mission, the astronauts, and the equipment; resources; and a list of other books for young readers.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gowler Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mirroring the circular mission that took the astronauts to the Moon and back, Rhonda Gowler Greene’s lyrical verses build on each other, overlapping to create depth in her storytelling and awe in the scientific achievement of NASA in 1969. As the poem reverses, readers engage in the feeling of pride and relief that Americans and people all around the world experienced as they watched Columbia splash down safely into the Pacific Ocean. Greene peppers the story with beautiful images take readers from “swirls of clouds” to a  “desolate land” to “the dust of lunar ground” and helps them recapture the mystery and amazement of those days 50 years ago.

Scott Brundage’s illustrations are remarkable for their detail and ability to transport readers to the heart of the Apollo 11 mission. Today’s children, familiar with satellite images and feeds from space and who have grown up with the International Space Station, cannot fully appreciate with what wonder and trepidation the world watched the mission on television. Choosing a variety of perspectives, Brundage allows kids to watch the rocket launch from the pad in Florida, look out of the spacecraft’s window as the astronauts leave Earth behind, see the Eagle light up the Moon’s surface as it lands, and view Neil Armstrong take that first step onto the Moon. Space lovers will want to linger over every two-page spread to take in all of the minute details as well as the inspiration that space stirs in the dreams of many.

A lyrical and gorgeous tribute to the Apollo 11 mission for its 50th anniversary, The First Men Who Went to the Moon would make a lovely addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for science and space lovers, STEM lessons, and story time.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364121

Discover more about Rhonda Gowler Greene and her books on her website.

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, his art, and more, visit his website.

You can download and print a fun The First Men Who Went to the Moon Activity Sheet!

Meet Illustrator Scott Brundage

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Scott Brundage’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, the Washington Post, and many others. He is the illustrator of A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet. He lives in New York City.

Today I’m happy to be talking with Scott Brundage about capturing the beauty and mystery of space, his talent for humor, and the surprising start to his art career.

The First Men Who Went to the Moon, written by Rhonda Gowler Greene, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Your illustrations are astounding for their perspective and sense of action that captures the thrill and wonderment of the time. Can you talk about the research you did, how you approached creating these images, and your process?

Well thank you for those generous words about my work. I’m happy people have responded to the illustrations so positively. 

When researching this book, I was lucky enough to have A is for Astronaut fresh in my mind. The Apollo 11 mission is a bit more specific than A is for Astronaut, being a specific time and year, but I’d already learned a lot about how to find good NASA references. 

I faced the same challenge as last time: since NASA’s photography is public domain and already gorgeous, what could I bring to this book that hasn’t been seen already? I couldn’t riff as much as last time, but I could at least try to capture what it might have been like to be in the Apollo 11 crew’s shoes (space boots?). Some illustrations  also were simply trying to capture the emotion that Rhonda Gowler Greene was expressing with her words. The moon is beautiful, but distant, cold and still. I wanted to show all of that if I could.

Which illustration in the book is your favorite and why?

I think the spread on pages 22-23 is my favorite, the one depicting all the footprints in the shadow of the planted flag. I like when I can get away with not quite showing the subject of a painting, but the audience knows what they’re seeing. And without getting too

artsy, I thought it was a good metaphor for the book itself. We went to the moon, left our mark, and came back. The footprints are still there on the cold surface in the shadow of our flag.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gower Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What were your favorite books as a child and whose art or illustration work did you admire growing up?

I had to ask my mom for this answer. I don’t remember having a favorite, all I could think of are cool picture books I appreciate now as an adult. Turns out, according to my mom, I much preferred to just look through our encyclopedia and then report dinosaur facts to whoever would listen. 

How did you get into illustrating children’s books and what do you enjoy most about the work?

I got into picture books relatively organically, having touched on almost every other type of illustration market first. I started out doing small illustrations for magazines and newspapers. That slowly led me to book covers and middle grade chapter books that had a lot of interior black and white illustration. Along the way, I would help a couple independent authors with their self-published picture books. After a while, I just had a stack of children’s picture book illustrations in my portfolio. So when my agent asked if I was interested in doing a picture book with a real publisher, I was more than ready to jump in. 

Picture books are great because you can really chew on a subject or set of characters way longer than you can for a book cover or spot illustration. I know way more about how space suits work, I’m familiar with a weird number of features on the International Space Station, and know exactly what color suits the Apollo 11 crew were wearing in their ticker tape parade. It’s really fun to get that deep for a book. 

Is it true you got your start professionally by designing a bicycle helmet? How did that come about? What was your design?

This is true. My first paying gig was a Bell Helmet’s kid’s helmet design. My art school instructor, the great children’s book illustrator Brian Biggs, had a contact with the designer at Bell Helmets and set up a contest among his students to submit designs for a possible helmet. They’d pick the winner and see if it could get produced. I send in two designs, one of happy robots on an alien landscape, another of cute little lizards attacking a city. Somehow both designs won the contest  The timing, however, was a little unfortunate for the lizards attacking the city since it was just after 9/11, but the robots ended up adorning the heads of dozens of kids nationwide.

I was fortunate enough to review A is for Astronaut: Blasting through the Alphabet—your picture book with author and former astronaut Clayton Anderson. I was blown away by the stunning details—including spacecraft, the NASA control room, and space itself—on every page. What kinds of choices did you make in creating the illustrations to make the information come alive for kids? 

A is for Astronaut was a blast to work on. I had a bit of freedom in interpreting each chapter, so a lot of it was figuring out I could make an image portray the idea of each letter clearly. For the more straightforward words like galaxy or blastoff, showing how it is to be a kid experiencing those awe-inspiring event/sights for the first time. And, when possible, if I could find a way to blend two words/ideas into a single spread, that was even more fun. 

Your editorial illustrations have appeared in magazines, newspapers, and other publications, and you’re now working as an animator for the Showtime series Our Cartoon President. Do you have a natural knack for humor and infusing it into your art or how did that develop? 

When I was in school, I was really into dark scary artwork and literature. Loved creepy drawings and painting, reading horror stories, listening to dark music. I tried my hand at doing some moody paintings in oil about serious subjects. But, my personality is that of a very silly man. And if you looked at my sketchbooks at the same time, it was all goofy drawings to make myself and others laugh. Eventually I realized I should just lean into what came naturally, and that was the funnier whimsical stuff. I’m definitely much more suited to making a weird face, taking a photo of myself, then applying that face to a character than I am at trying to scare someone.

What’s up next for you?

I’m just starting up a new picture book about a guy and his dog. No astronauts this time around.  

And I’m also working on the second season of Our Cartoon President. 

Thanks, Scott! It’s been so great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with The First Men Who Went to the Moon and all of your work!

You can connect with Scott Brundage on

His website | Twitter | Instagram

The First Men Who Went to the Moon Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of The First Men Who Went to the Moon written by Rhonda Gower Greene | illustrated by Scott Brundage

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from March 25 through March 31 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

National Reading Month Activity

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Rocket to the Moon! Maze

 

Help the rocket find its way through space and land on the moon in this printable puzzle!

Rocket to the Moon! Puzzle | Rocket to the Moon! Solution

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You can find The First Men Who Went to the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Books

Picture Book Review