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New Books Celebrate 'One Giant Leap for Mankind'!


Share Three new kids' books examine in differing amounts of detail the historic moon landing of July 20, 1969. For kids who can't imagine a day before moon exploration, these books will bring to life the excitement and the drama of the historic moment that captivated a nation and the world. The historic 30th anniversary this year is a great opportunity for summer reading -- and summer learning!


"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

It seems like just yesterday that Neil Armstrong spoke those now-famous words, but July 20, 1999, marks the 30th anniversary of Armstrong's first steps on the moon. To recognize that historic moment, several publishers have introduced new books that look back at the drama and the excitement surrounding the flight of Apollo 11. This week, Education World and barnesandnoble.com's Kids! take a look at three new books. The overviews that follow highlight distinguishing features of each book.

First on the Moon: What It Was Like When Man Landed on the Moon, by Barbara Hehner, illustrated by Greg Ruhl (Hyperion Books)

First On The Moon Cover Image Jan Aldrin was just a child when her father followed Neil Armstrong down the ladder of the lunar module to the moon's surface. Today, Janice Aldrin Schuss is married and a mother, but her memories of her father's historic moon landing are as vivid as ever.

In creating First on the Moon, author Barbara Hehner consulted with Schuss and with NASA historian Roger D. Launius. Schuss's recollections bring a unique perspective to the event, and the drama of the flight and the landing is brought to life with the actual words transmitted between the astronauts and the ground crew in Houston.

Hehner backs up from the launch of Apollo 11 to the day six weeks earlier when the Aldrin family -- including 11-year-old Jan -- toured the launch facilities in Florida. Like millions of other people around the world, the Aldrins later watched the actual liftoff and the famous first moon steps on their living room television. Schuss recalls the reporters and photographers camped out in the family's yard. They snapped photos over the fence as the kids swam in their backyard pool. One reporter even chased Schuss down the street as she biked off to a friend's house, shouting questions such as "Are you proud of your dad?" and "How's your mom holding up?"

Step by step, from liftoff to landing, from the preparation to the ticker-tape parades, Hehner details the flight of Apollo 11. Dozens of photos and illustrations record in 50 packed pages the flight and the nation's response. An epilogue brings readers up to date on the current space program, and a "Milestones in Space" timeline tracks the history of spaceflight, from the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik in October 1957 to the launch of the first components of the International Space Station in November 1998.

Race to the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11, by Jen Green, illustrated by Mark Bergin (Franklin Watts)

Race to the Moon is as much a history of space exploration as it is that of the flight of Apollo 11. Twelve informative page spreads offer both the big picture and the minutiae of space travel. Race To The Moon Cover Image

The opening spreads record the history of space travel -- from the first rockets used by the Chinese 2,000 years ago as weapons against the Mongols to the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, as each raced to be the first nation to put a man on the moon. The next six spreads detail Apollo 11 and its liftoff, moon landing, and return home. Follow-up spreads look at postflight developments in the world's space programs.

The 32 fully illustrated pages of Race to the Moon paint a surprisingly complete picture of space travel. Step-by-step, the flight of Apollo 11 is detailed -- from the countdown and the daily routine to the tricky spacecraft maneuvers and the drama. Jen Green has documented the flight in bite-sized bits that will be palatable for elementary- and middle-school age children. A glossary and an index will help readers search the text for specific information.

One Giant Leap, written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser (Henry Holt)

Originally published in 1993, One Giant Leap has been rereleased in time for the 30th anniversary in a new paperback edition.

One Giant Leap Cover Image Fraser takes young readers from liftoff to the famous first steps. Little time is spent on the history of spaceflight or on events after touchdown on the moon. Actual quotes from mission control help readers relive some tense moments in the flight of Apollo 11.

Fraser takes pains to emphasize the uncertainties and dangers that faced Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins.

She also makes a point of sharing with readers that, as exciting a moment in history as the flight was, many people felt the United States should not have poured money into the space program at a time when the country faced many problems.

The end pages of this new edition include easy-to-read "blueprint" sketches of the Apollo 11 spacecraft and its Saturn V rocket. Additional resources are included to help students understand the historic moment. A graph shows the size of Saturn V in relation to previously fired rockets. A diagram points out the many parts of an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), otherwise known as a space suit. And a "flight profile" provides an overview of the flight of Apollo 11 in 17 steps, from launch to splashdown.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1999 Education World

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07/19/1999