Apollo 13

On April 11, 1970, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert blasted off to the moon. But while they were flying, part of their spaceship exploded! The ship was quickly losing power and air. They had to think of something fast, or they’d be stuck in outer space forever. How would Lovell, Haise, and Swigert make it back to Earth?

Almost everyone has heard the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem” and know it refers to traveling to the moon. Apollo 13 shows how the brave astronauts were able to safely make it back to Earth. While the book focuses on the astronauts, readers will learn a host of new facts about space travel in general. The book is packed with information explaining Apollo 13’s journey including what went wrong, why it was dangerous, and how the astronauts dealt with the problems. The end of the book also has more space information, such as how a person goes to the bathroom in space.

Apollo 13 uses short chapters and explains some of the vocabulary, which makes the book accessible to reluctant readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 5 to 9 pages that show the astronauts in action. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers as well.

Readers who know little about space travel may find it difficult to get to the end of Apollo 13. Even though the astronauts had some scary moments, the story is missing a sense of suspense and action. The factual way Apollo 13 is told may put off readers who were expecting the book to read like a story. However, if you love space and/or need to research Apollo 13, you should definitely check out this book!

If you’ve ever wondered about traveling to space, Apollo 13 should be read along with several other books. Even though Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 is a picture book, it is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about Apollo 13. In addition, readers interested in learning more about space flight should also read The Race to Space: Countdown to Liftoff by Erik Slader & Ben Thompson.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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The Force Oversleeps

Victor cannot wait for his second year at the Jedi Academy! He’s ready to get back to school and see all his friends . . . only there’s a new kid in school who is on a mission to steal Victor’s thunder. As Victor deals with the jealousy of having a new kid steal so much attention, he also has to worry about his older sister Christina. For some reason, Christina’s old friends are bullying her and accusing her of going to the Dark Side. As Victor investigates, he begins to wonder if his sister is going to the Dark Side, and how he can stop her before it’s too late!

In the sixth installment of the Jedi Academy series, Victor seems to have forgotten many of the lessons he learned in the previous books. The story focuses on jealousy and not judging people based on their first impressions. Victor becomes jealous when the new student, Zavyer, gets a lot of attention from Victor’s friends. But when Zavyer is nice to Victor, even after Victor teases him, Victor begins to realize that Zavyer might be a good guy after all. The two boys learn they have a lot of things in common, and eventually become friends. Just in time, as Victor needs all the friends he can get as his sister appears to slip farther and farther to the Dark Side . . .

The Force Oversleeps is just as much fun as A New Class, but adds a mystery, sister-drama, and new-girl Elara. Elara is a positive addition to the story; she’s a little stalkerish, but also sweet and supportive of Victor. However, the story doesn’t just focus on school. Victor also has issues dealing with his step-father and he misses his dad. When Victor’s parents visit at the end, his mom says, “I must say, you were never this excited about school before.” His stepfather points out, “He just needed to find something he was passionate about.” Victor admits, he still has “some work to do in regards to my self-control,” but he continues to learn important lessons and he faces each obstacle with determination and optimism.

Told from Victor’s point of view, much of the story is written in an easy-to-read, diary format. The diary entries are frequently broken up by school newsletters, fun galaxy feeds, and space-themed comics. In addition, part of The Force Oversleeps is told in graphic-novel format. Large, often comical, black and white illustrations appear on every page. The illustrations show Victor’s range of emotions and bring the other human and alien characters to life. The illustrations break up the text, making each page accessible to most readers.

The Force Oversleeps is an entertaining story that is perfect for middle-grade readers because it deals with the topics of cyberbullying, crushes, and typical middle school drama. While the story teaches positive lessons, the tone is never preachy. Victor is a relatable, imperfect character, who shows personal growth. His story will encourage readers to be kind and not judge others based on first impressions.

Sexual Content

  • In a comic Victor draws, he is leaning in to kiss his crush when “evil droids attacked” and interrupted them.

Violence

  • Victor is attacked by a man on the Dark Side. Victor and his friends battle the man with lightsabers. A teacher shows up and arrests the man.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Victor’s sister calls him a “nerf herder.”

Supernatural

  • Victor lives in a Star Wars-inspired time, with lightsabers, aliens, starships, and more. He goes to a school for future Jedi and learns to use the Force.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Morgan Lynn

Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut

The Woman in Science Series introduces readers to Mae Jemison, who is a doctor, scientist, and astronaut. Born in 1956, Mae broke gender and racial stereotypesm because when Mae was young, science was considered man’s work. Despite this, Mae was determined to be a scientist. Watching the Gemini space mission and Star Trek encouraged Mae to dream big. On Star Trek, “the crew came from all over the world. Mae liked that Lieutenant Uhura was a woman from Africa. Uhura helped Mae believe she could someday travel to space, too.”

Mae’s curiosity caused her to spend a lot of time in the library reading. She also conducted her own science experiments. Mae’s parents encouraged her to keep experimenting and keep learning. Mae knew she wanted to know more about science, but she also wanted to learn more about her culture, so she studied both chemical engineering and African-American studies.

Mae continued to work hard and eventually became a doctor. She served in a refugee camp, joined the Peace Corps, and became the first African American woman to be accepted into the NASA training program. Eventually, Mae spent eight days on the space shuttle Endeavour. Mae also founded her own company, the Jemison Group, which seeks to encourage a love of science. “Mae Jemison hopes her work will take some of the mystery out of science for children of color and all girls. Anyone can be a scientist, Jemison says. All it takes is curiosity.”

 Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut shows how curiosity and hard work allowed Mae to become an astronaut. However, it’s Mae’s dedication to helping others that really shines. Her story is told using simple vocabulary, short paragraphs, and pictures of Mae in action. Fourteen vocabulary words are bolded in the text and defined in the glossary at the end of the book. The book ends with a timeline of Mae’s life and an experiment for readers to try.

Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut isn’t just for readers who want to be an astronaut. Her story will motivate everyone to reach for the sky and make their dreams come true. Mae’s story highlights how hard work and knowledge combined to help her reach her goals. Even today, Mae continues to help others find their love of science. Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut is an easy-to-read biography that everyone should read. Not only does it chronicle Mae’s life, but it also shows the importance of serving others.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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To Fly Among the Stars: The Hidden Story of the Fight for Women Astronauts

It’s the 1960s, and the United States and the Soviet Union are locked in a heated race to launch the first human into space. NASA selects seven men, superstar test pilots, and former air fighters, for their first astronaut class – the Mercury 7. The men endure hours of difficult tests, taunting by fellow pilots, constant media attention, and the public pressure of representing America in a whole new frontier.

But away from the media buzz, there are others quietly fighting for the same opportunity. Thirteen women, accomplished air racers, test pilots, and flight instructors, are putting themselves through those same grueling tests, hoping to defy the era’s boundaries for women and earn a seat aboard a space capsule themselves.

To Fly Among the Stars tells the story of seven men who hoped to ride rockets and thirteen women who dared ask for a fair chance to soar to the stars. Unlike many books, To Fly Among the Stars takes a look at the Mercury 7’s heroic deeds as well as their flaws. Some of the men’s partying, squabbling, and flirting ways were a stark contrast to the women’s behavior. The women had to overcome many obstacles in order to become pilots, including having to look like proper ladies as they flew. Even though these thirteen women were never able to realize their dreams, they took the first steps in breaking the glass ceiling for female astronauts.

Countless individuals worked behind the scenes to land the first man on the moon. While To Fly Among the Stars focuses on Mercury 7 and the 13 women who dreamed of going into space, the large group of characters makes it difficult to keep track of each individual. Often, a chapter will have a few paragraphs on one person and then jump to another person. The shifting topics make the story confusing.

To Fly Among the Stars highlights the brave women who dreamed of going into space and focuses on the discrimination they faced. While this is a valid point, the Mercury 7’s mistakes and bad behavior also become a focal point. The author states that “Accepting women as astronauts would mean that NASA—and all its feverish fans—would be forced to acknowledge that female aviators could do exactly what male aviators could do. And that might threaten the heroic, ultramasculine, tough-guy status the astronauts enjoyed.”

Black and white photographs help tell the story and the back of the book contains a two-page glossary. The difficult vocabulary, quickly changing topics, and the vast list of historical people make To Fly Among the Stars best for strong readers. The book would be excellent to use as a source for a research paper or a school project; however, those who are not interested in the history of flight will find the book difficult to slog through.

 Sexual Content

  • After Shepard went up in a space capsule, he had to go to a briefing. “During one interview, a pretty secretary delivered Shepard a cup of coffee. As she left, one witness reported watching ‘Shepard’s brain get up, leave the room, and follow her down the hall.’”
  • At a party, two astronauts performed a racist routine. “It was a cruel characterization of both homosexuals and Hispanics.”

Violence

  • Bill Odom, an air racer, “pushed his little green plane to nearly 400 miles per hour before losing control and punching right through a suburban home, killing not just himself but also a resident woman and her baby.”
  • Pilot James Vosyka died during an air race. “A wing on his racing plane collapsed on a hard turn, and his aircraft slammed into the ground in front of 12,000 spectators.”
  • Several times, the story talks about pilots shooting down MiG’s. For example, Wally Schirra “went on to shoot down another MiG in Korea.”
  • Many women joined the WASP in order to fly and help in the war effort. However, some men didn’t approve of women flying airplanes and played dangerous pranks on the women. After one prank, “Betty Taylor Wood’s airplane slammed into the ground near a runway, killing both Wood and her passenger. . . Someone had dumped sugar into the plane’s gas tank.”
  • During a training exercise, a pilot “ejected but died when he and his parachute slammed into the hard desert sand.”
  • Rankin had to eject during a high-altitude flight. “Immediately after exploding through the glass canopy of his cockpit, Rankin was overcome by the searing, stabbing cold. . .. His exposed skin froze almost instantly before going blissfully numb. And then the real pain started. . . His abdomen swelled. His skin stretched. Blood sprayed from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Rankin made it to the ground alive but barely.”
  • When an engineer joked about astronaut Shepard’s bad attitude, “Shepard picked up an ashtray and whipped it at the engineer’s face. He missed his target by a hair.”
  • Several astronauts were killed “during a practice launch when a spark caught inside their Apollo 1 space capsule. Three men burned to death right there on the launch pad while dozens of ground crew members sputtered and coughed and tried frantically to claw the capsule door open.”

      Drugs and Alcohol

  • John Gleen was a military pilot who had “flown angry, confident, and even–dangerously—rip-roaring drunk.
  • A woman pilot had to listen as “a drunk senator slurred his sexist judgments.”
  • A woman pilot was married to an alcoholic. While the woman was in astronaut testing, her husband called her every night. “He was drunk, angry, and cruel.”
  • Some astronauts partied at Cocoa Beach. “They drank too much alcohol and pulled elaborate pranks on one another. They flirted with women who weren’t their wives.”
  • The astronauts liked the pool at Cocoa Beach and the manager “went to great lengths to keep their parties stocked with alcohol, girls, and food, and free from the press.”
  • One of the astronauts had to convince a reporter not to print a photograph of a “drunk astronaut getting frisky with a strange woman.”
  • As training continued, “Shepard’s booze-fueled hijinks were becoming more public. . .” Shepard “was clamoring onto nightclub stages, drunkenly giggling racist jokes into microphones.”

Language

  • After a flight, a pilot “flipped the jet the middle finger.”
  • NASA was working hard “on new procedures to prevent the next guy from pulling another boneheaded screw up.”

Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • During a launch, someone “said a silent prayer for Glenn’s success.”
  • Sunsets “made Glenn think of his Christian faith and miracles and the mysteries of existence.”
  • Millions of Americans watched Glenn’s mission. As they watched, they were “praying and fretting. . . They pleaded for his safety. Oh please, oh please.”

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Retired astronaut Clayton Anderson takes readers on an A to Z flight through the alphabet from astronaut and blastoff to spacewalk and Zulu Time. Topics cover science, the history of NASA, and practical aspects of being an astronaut. In addition, A is for Astronaut has other astronaut facts that books usually overlook—such as how astronauts take out the trash while in space!

Even though younger readers may not understand all of the scientific information in A is for Astronaut, this picture book will captivate readers of all ages. Each letter has a fun poem paired with longer expository text. The main text appears in the form of a rhyming poem. Most pages have a sidebar that explains more about each topic. These sidebars have 2-3 paragraphs that use some difficult vocabulary. For younger readers, the poem will give enough information without reading the sidebars, while older readers will enjoy the additional tidbits in the sidebars.

The illustrations in A is for Astronaut are so beautiful that they would make gorgeous pictures to hang on the wall! The full-page illustrations use a kaleidoscope of color to show the beauty of space and the wonder of space travel. For example, one picture shows a child’s face, clearly captivated by a space shuttle launch which is reflected in the child’s sunglasses. Each illustration has beautiful details that show different aspects of space flight such as the planets, the astronauts, and the people on earth. While most illustrations focus on planets and astronauts in space suits, the pictures include a diverse group of men and women which will allow all readers to picture themselves in a space-related career.

Every child should read A is for Astronaut because the text and illustrations combine to show the wonder of space flight. For those who do not already love science or space, A is for Astronaut will provide a basic understanding of space flight. But more importantly, the book might just spark readers’ interest in space flight, the planets, or a career in science.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Rocket Says Look Up!

Rocket is a stargazer and an aspiring astronaut. She’s excited because a meteor shower will be visible tonight. She makes flyers to invite everyone in the neighborhood to see the meteor shower. Rocket also wants her big brother, Jamal, to see it but he’s always looking at his phone. Rocket’s enthusiasm brings neighbors and family together for a memorable sighting.

Rocket’s enthusiasm for space is catching, and young readers will be excited to enter Rocket’s world. Rocket’s imagination shines through as she makes a ship to the stars out of a box and presents her fliers to her cat and stuffed animals. While all of Rocket’s play is fun, she also is learning to defy gravity (swing) and capture rare and exotic life-forms (a butterfly). Rocket’s love of space is intertwined with her family life and the drama of annoying her older brother. Rocket is a loveable character who will teach readers the importance of having big dreams.

Rocket Says Look Up! is an engaging picture book with bright illustrations that are full of fun details. For example, Rocket’s cat wears a spacesuit that matches Rocket’s. Her brother Jamal often has funny facial expressions, but mostly he stares at his phone until he sees the meteor shower. Seeing Jamal’s face light up adds to the wonder of the meteor shower. When Rocket’s neighbors show up to watch the meteor shower, they are a diverse group of people. The story highlights how one little girl has the ability to bring her neighborhood together.

Even though Rocket Says Look Up! is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for a child to read it for the first time independently. Most pages contain 1-4 sentences, but some of the sentences are complex. Rocket gives interesting facts about “The Amazing Phoenix Meteor Shower.” These interesting facts appear in quote boxes and begin with, “Did you know. . .”

Rocket, who is African American, looks up to Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. Rocket’s enthusiasm will encourage readers to learn more about space and about Mae Jamison. Rocket Says Look Up! blends amazing illustrations with an engaging story that teaches fun facts about space. Space-loving readers who want more factual information about space should add Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed and the Mousetronaut Series by Mark Kelly to their must-read list.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier

The United States may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years for the U.S. to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trailblazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed-gender class, had the challenging task of convincing people that a woman’s place is in space. But the women soon discovered that even NASA had a lot to learn about making space travel possible for everyone.

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier follows Mary Cleave and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, among others. Many people, including Valentina’s own mother, didn’t think women were capable of becoming astronauts. Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier takes a humorous look at the gender stereotypes that women astronauts had to overcome. For example, as the first American woman in space, Sally Ride faced great pressure from the media.

Once NASA allowed women to train as astronauts, men realized women were capable of completing difficult tasks. Despite their differences, every astronaut works as a team to complete essential tasks. When Mary finally went into space, she talks about the beauty of space as well as some of the difficult aspects of space flight, such as how difficult it is to use the bathroom with no gravity. While the book has some lighter moments, it also reminds readers, “when you made a serious mistake in this job, it cost lives. We’ve lost three crews: Apollo 1 in 1967, Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003.”

Even though Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier is a graphic novel, it packs a lot of history into a short amount of text. Since the text rarely uses people’s names, keeping track of the huge cast of characters is difficult. The back of the book has several pages with pictures of different astronauts, but these pages do not include names. Younger readers may become frustrated by the difficult space language as well as the unique font that is used when the Russians speak. One example of a complicated sentence is when Mary said, “That’s because of the 1X resolver’s IMU BITE, we needed a GNC spec 1on CRT 2.”

Strong readers who have a love of history and space will enjoy being introduced to space history, astronaut training, and life in space. The often humorous artwork excellently shows the characters’ feelings through facial expressions. Most pages contain two types of text. The characters’ words are shown in white quote bubbles, while the narrator’s thoughts and basic information appear in the square, blue boxes. Each page contains 2-13 complex sentences.

Even though Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier focuses on women, the graphic novel will appeal to both girls and boys. In the end, the book shows that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, anyone can become an astronaut. The last panel shows a diverse group of women who are the “future astronauts.” Everyone who dreams of going into space should read Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Mary interviewed for NASA, she was nervous so she tried to be funny. After she got the job, she says, “I didn’t have a beer just before going to John Young’s office for my first assignment.”
  • When they first get to space, some astronauts take ScopeDex which is an anti-nausea drug.

Language

  • During a test, one of the astronauts says, “good lord, doc.”
  • When Mary joined NASA, “I got one more welcome gift. Nicknames, thanks to my assignments and my degree. Sometimes my fellow astros called me ‘Sanitary Fairy,’ sometimes ‘Crap Com.’”
  • “Oh God” and “my God” are both used once. When Mary looked at the earth from space, she says, “My god.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • While the astronauts were getting ready to go into space, someone prays, “Dear Lord, don’t let these guys screw up.”

The Sky is Full of Stars

On a clear, dark night, go outside and look at the stars. They may all look alike to you at first. But soon you will notice differences. Some stars are brighter than others, some have colors and some stars even seem to form pictures. You can find these constellations whatever the season and wherever you live if you just know where to look for them.

Anyone who wants to learn more about stars should read The Sky is Full of Stars. The illustrated book shows a diverse group of kids and a cat, who all decide to go stargazing. Not all of the pages have illustrations. However, many pages have an illustration and include 2-5 sentences. The book explains not only what the constellations are, but also the history behind them. The book has many illustrations of the night sky that show constellations. The Sky is Full of Stars’ illustrations also include some fun elements such as a cat that appears in many of the illustrations.

The Sky is Full of Stars includes directions for an art project that will allow readers to create their own constellation. The book is packed full of interesting information that is presented in a kid-friendly manner. Through both text and illustrations, readers will learn how to find the constellations in the night sky and understand why stars move.

Readers will enjoy learning both the history and the science behind the stars. Readers may have difficulty pronouncing the stars’ names. The book explains that “some of the names of stars sound strange to us. That is because they are not English words. Hundreds of years ago the Arabs and Persians named many of the stars. Today we still use many of those names.” The Sky is Full of Stars is designed for primary-grade readers who are ready to explore more challenging concepts. The Sky is Full of Stars uses an entertaining format that helps readers understand more about science.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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There Was An Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon!

In this space-themed Old Lady Book, an old astronaut takes off into space and “swallowed the moon. I don’t know why she swallowed the moon, it happened at noon.” In between the old lady swallowing different space objects, two characters ask and answer space questions. For example, a girl asks, “How does the moon stay in the sky?” Her friend answers, “Gravity’s force keeps it up high.”

The only positive aspect of the story is that it teaches some space facts. The end of the book has two pages of space facts and the illustrations contain hidden objects. Unlike The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly, There Was An Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon doesn’t have the same silly rhyme scheme that gives the words a fun flow. While the space facts are interesting, they are oddly placed and they break up the rhyme and repetition.

The story is illustrated with bright colors on top of space’s blackness. The illustrations have the same grainy aspect as a chalkboard. Some of the illustrations are funny, but others leave the reader wondering how the old astronaut swallows a comet, a rocket, and still has room for a satellite. In the end, the reader finds out that the old astronaut is actually in a planetarium and was only pretending to swallow the space objects. However, instead of being humorous, the ending falls flat.

There Was An Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon is a picture book with 1 to 2 sentences per page. However, the story is not intended for children to read it for the first time independently. Younger readers may enjoy the story’s silliness, but parents may want to leave this Old Woman Book on the shelf. Unfortunately, the lack of rhyming, the odd illustrations, and the space facts do not blend well together.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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A New Class

Victor is thrilled when he is accepted to study at the Jedi Academy! His old school wasn’t a good fit for him, as his overenthusiastic use of the Force often got him in trouble. But at his new school, Victor is sure he will become a great Jedi Master. The only trouble is, Victor’s awesome new friends may not be as awesome as they appear. Victor also struggles to focus in class and he suspects his roommate is a Sith in training. As his grades suffer, Victor can’t stop getting into trouble. He’s warned if he doesn’t improve both his grades and his behavior, he may be sent home from the Jedi Academy – permanently.

A New Class teaches the importance of being true to yourself and shows the difference between true friends and those who are friendly simply because they want something from you. For instance, Zach tries to tell Victor, “if you want somebody to like you, you just need to completely change who you are.” But Victor insists, “my mom told me that if people didn’t like me for who I am that was their problem, not mine.”

By the end of the story, Victor realizes Zach isn’t a true friend at all. As he gets more comfortable with himself and stops trying to be cool, he discovers his true friends were right in front of him the whole time. Victor realizes, “I was looking for friends in all the wrong places. I was looking in places that just weren’t ME!”

Victor is an extremely relatable character for young readers because he struggles to focus in class and accidentally gets into mischief. His friends are diverse and supportive, and they challenge Victor to grow in positive ways. Victor’s teachers range from supportive to silly to strict, which adds an enjoyable aspect to the story. As Victor learns self-control and how to focus, his grades start to improve.

Told from Victor’s point of view, much of the story is written in an easy-to-read, diary format. The diary entries are frequently broken up by school newsletters, fun galaxy feeds, and space-themed comics. In addition, part of A New Class is told in graphic-novel format. Large, often comical, black and white illustrations appear on every page. The illustrations show Victor’s range of emotions and bring the other human and alien characters to life. The illustrations break up the text, making each page accessible to most readers. A New Class is listed as the fourth book in the Jedi Academy series, but it starts a brand-new storyline with a new main character. The previous books do not need to be read in order to enjoy and understand A New Class.

 A New Class is chock-full of fun, with Star Wars references galore and plenty of fun twists and turns. Parents will love the positive messages about friendship, while readers will enjoy the silly adventures. With loads of amusing pictures, humor, and middle school drama, A New Class is sure to delight tweens.

Sexual Content

  • When Victor joins Drama Club, he “had these visions of sharing the spotlight with Maya on stage. Maybe there would even be a scene where we got to kiss!”

Violence

  • Victor draws a comic where he “easily destroyed the evil droids” with a lightsaber.
  • When Victor sneaks away from a school field trip, he is attacked by an enormous gorax. His classmate, Artemis, uses the Force to pull Victor out of harm’s way, then cuts a tree trunk with a lightsaber. The tree tips over and falls on the gorax’s head, and the boys run away.
  • When Zach gets angry, he punches a locker and calls a droid a “hunk of junk.”
  • Zach shuts Victor’s new friends in a locker. When Victor tries to save them, Zach uses the Force to throw a droid. Then, Victor attacks Zach with his lightsaber. They duel until Victor’s sister saves the day, using the Force to throw Zach and free Victor’s trapped friends.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Zach calls Victor’s new friends “dweebatroids.”

Supernatural

  • Victor lives in a Star Wars inspired time, with lightsabers, aliens, star ships, and more. He goes to a school that trains future Jedis, and he learns to use the Force.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Morgan Lynn

Grama’s Hug

When May comes to live with Grama, they become an unstoppable team. Together they create art, birdwatch, and prepare inventions for the annual space fair. And they never, ever say goodbye without a hug. But when May wins the opportunity of a lifetime and gets ready to take off—literally—on her own, Grama worries: will May leave on her longest adventure yet without a hug?

May wants to “soar” just like the birds. With Grama’s help, May makes bird wings so she and Grama can go on adventures. “May wanted to take off to the stars one day. So, every year she prepared for the space fair and Grama eagerly assisted.” With the help of illustrations, the reader is able to see May’s science fair projects win year after year.

The relationship between May and Grama is sweet, and the two clearly love spending time together. The story begins with May going to live with her Grama. However, the reader does not know why. Readers will enjoy both May’s imagination and her love of science. While several pages show May receiving awards at the annual space fair, the story skips the hard work that goes into each project and unrealistically shows May winning the space fair five years in a row.

The whimsical illustrations are full of color and add beautiful details that children will enjoy looking at over and over. Birds appear in many of the pictures, which help reinforce May’s desire to fly. Grama and May even make their own wings and pretend to fly off to find a new planet. Several illustrations show May with a group of children from diverse backgrounds which shows that science isn’t just for one type of person, but is for everyone.

While children may not understand all the story’s themes, they will understand the importance of imagination and having big dreams. The story is a little disjointed and has some unrealistic parts, but the main theme is clear—everyone can make their dreams come true. Grama’s Hug is a picture book with 1 to 3 sentences per page. Some of the sentences are complex and will require the story to be read by a parent before it is read independently. Grama’s Hug allows readers to see the importance of hugs and saying goodbye and will inspire readers to dream big. Space-loving readers should also check out Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly and Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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The Race to Space Countdown to Liftoff

Step back in time, beginning in 1232 when a Chinese alchemist accidentally discovered gunpowder, after which the Chinese created rockets for the battlefield. Since then, many have worked to advance rocket science. While some men dreamed of using rockets to travel into space, other men used rockets to win wars.

Then flashforward to the 1920s, when Wernher von Braun began creating a liquid-fueled rocket ship but was soon creating bombs for the Nazis. After the war, von Braun worked for the US Government. “Although von Braun wanted to achieve the means for space exploration, he once again found himself building weapons.” During this time, the Russians and Americans raced to create weapons as well as to send a man into space.

Finally, it’s 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite into orbit, America had barely crossed the starting line of the great Space Race. Later that year, the United States’ first attempt at a similar feat was such a failure that the media nicknamed it “Kaputnik.” Yet American scientists and engineers refused to give up. With each failure, they gleaned valuable information about where they went wrong and how to avoid those mistakes in the future. Neil Armstrong may have made it look easy when he set foot on the lunar surface, but America’s journey to the moon was anything but simple.

The Race to Space Countdown to Liftoff is packed full of interesting historical information and explains how the Cold War spurred the United States into developing the first spacecraft. Instead of overlooking the many failures that occurred, the book explains how those failures were used to gain knowledge. For example, “The Apollo 13 mission is considered by NASA to be a ‘successful failure,’ meaning that the crew had failed to land on the moon. But NASA had learned so much during the operation, including techniques that would go on to aid in the development of new mission protocols and better technological advancements for future missions.”

Readers will learn new vocabulary and mythological references. Some readers will struggle with the advanced vocabulary words, such as diametrically, infiltrating, propaganda and détente. Even though some vocabulary is defined, a glossary would have been helpful. Despite the difficult vocabulary, The Race to Space Countdown to Liftoff breaks the text into manageable parts and uses subtitles, which make transitions to different topics easy. Both historical pictures and cartoonish, black and white illustrations appear on many pages. These illustrations show various acts of space travel and add humor.

The Race to Space Countdown to Liftoff uses a conversational tone that makes learning about history fun. The best part of the book is that it highlights events that could have been seen as “epic fails.” However, each failure was a learning opportunity that advanced space travel. The Race to Space Countdown to Liftoff shows how hard work, dedication, and perseverance can help everyone reach for the stars.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In 1969, three men died when a spark created a fire. The spark became a “fire that spewed thick black smoke through the cockpit. The crew, still strapped into their seats, were unable to eject through the hatches before they succumbed to the smoke and fire.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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The Gravity of Us

Cal has his life figured out. He loves living in Brooklyn, where he has friends and a plan. He’s gaining views for his live reporting on the social media app FlashFame, and his journalism career is about to take off with a major internship. But all of this turns upside down when his father—Cal Senior—receives word that his application to NASA has been accepted. Cal’s father is slated to be on the upcoming Mars mission, and their family must relocate to an idyllic small town in Texas where all the astronaut families live.

While he’s upset to lose his internship, Cal soon realizes that he still has the chance to hone his journalism skills. A reality TV network called StarWatch has exclusive control over the narrative around the space program—and therefore the related public interest and government funding. Instead of focusing on the fascinating science of the upcoming Mars mission, StarWatch documents the lives of the astronaut families solely for manufactured drama. When Cal decides to keep live-streaming his own experiences, he becomes an opponent of StarWatch, who are obsessive about their tight control over the astronauts’ public images. Soon, Cal finds himself caught up in the world of high-stakes publicity. He tries to portray his family and the rest of the astronaut families truthfully and honestly, while multiple media forces vie for public interest.

Romance happens when Cal meets and immediately is enamored with another astronaut’s son, Leon. Leon, an ex-star gymnast, suffers from depression and is reluctant to enter into a relationship with someone who thinks he can “fix him.” Cal and Leon immediately have chemistry, but before they finally instigate a real relationship, they try to understand each other and respect each other’s needs.

The Gravity of Us promises a space-centered story but delivers a story that’s more focused on PR and social media journalism than a future Mars mission. While Cal is determined to make the public care about NASA for the science, readers may find that they still don’t get to see as much science as they want. Readers looking for an ultra-realistic view of NASA’s operations, like in The Martian, will be disappointed. Many fascinating logistical aspects of space missions—such as astronauts’ rigorous psychological testing and training—are swept aside or ignored.

The romance is cute but hollow. Cal and Leon have no barriers separating them except for Leon’s depression, which is never really given the attention it needs to be a fully effective aspect of the plot. The main conflict between them is that Cal is concerned that Leon doesn’t know what to do after he graduates from high school. In the end, Leon tells Cal that he’s figured out what he wants to do. It’s anti-climactic and may disappoint readers who want reassurance that they don’t have to have their lives figured out at eighteen.

Overall, The Gravity of Us has little of the gravitational pull promised. While it draws on the images of outer space in its title and cover, the book uses a vague portrayal of NASA to show an ordinary teen romance.

Sexual Content

  • Cal recalls interviewing a Republican Senate candidate and grilling him about “charges of sexual harassment.”
  • Cal says his mom is cautious when entering his room because “she’s always afraid she’ll catch me doing ‘something,’ and we all know what that ‘something’ is, but I’m also not an idiot and can figure out how to do ‘something’ twice a day having never been caught thank you very much.”
  • Cal recalls an old romantic fling with a boy named Jeremy, where he “sunk into his lips, the taste of Coors Light on our tongues.” Jeremy “was new and exciting, and he was there as I took a self-guided tour of my own queerness—something I may never fully find the right label for.”
  • When Cal is with Leon, “I get the urge to kiss him . . . nowhere in my perverse mind do I think he needs this kiss to fix him. I want him, and I want to do it for me. And humanity, even. I want the world to be that much better because of our lips touching and his hand in my hair and…”
  • Cal and Leon kiss. Leon’s “lips are soft and perfect and tug at mine like he’s been waiting for this moment forever. Like he’s been waiting for more than just a week to be with me like this. In seconds, our mouths are on each other and his hand is behind my neck. And my heart’s about to beat out of my chest. It’s too fast and not nearly enough.”
  • Cal and Leon kiss again. “This one isn’t as passionate, it isn’t as hungry, but it makes my insides jump the same way. There’s a caring force in the tug of his lips, and in his bite, I lose control of my body and feel light-headed.”
  • During a makeout session between Cal and Leon, “We’re pressed into each other, and there’s nothing on my mind but his taste. His tongue slips into my mouth, and I press mine against his. I moan softly because it feels so right. So perfect . . . just keep kissing him. We keep celebrating our closeness in muffled moans and gasped breathing.”
  • When Cal and Leon are alone in a hotel room, “We pull off our shirts, and I press his body into mine. His breath hits my neck as our legs hook around each other. We’re a mash of tongue and teeth and warmth.” They stay the night together, but the book doesn’t go into detail about what else they do.
  • Cal brings Leon over to his house because it’s “definitely empty,” with the implication that this is an opportunity for sex. “His face is pressed to mine as I get my key out and unlock the back door . . . and we push through the dark house.” The scene ends soon afterward without revealing any more detail.

Violence

  • When Cal sees how upset his mom is, “I scan her for bruises, for covered arms, for anything—though I know Dad would never hurt her like that.” His suspicions are unfounded—although Cal’s parents argue often, they never get violent with each other.
  • Cal says that the sound of his friend’s parents fighting in a neighboring apartment scares him. “The echoed sound of a fist breaking through a particleboard door settles in my head.”
  • A man looks like “his whole body might be made of stone.” Cal says, “I have a feeling that if I were to punch him in the gut, I’d be the one hurting.”
  • The characters wait anxiously for news about a jet, which was carrying NASA astronauts, that wrecked. One astronaut is killed and several are injured, but the crash isn’t described in detail.
  • An unmanned NASA launch “explodes in the sky.” Cal describes being “barely knocked back by the blast, like a strong but very warm gust of wind.” Then the spacecraft “becomes nothing but some smoking ash.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When he gets into the astronaut program, Cal’s father pours champagne for the whole family—“Even for you, Cal. It’s a special occasion.”
  • Cal’s friend says that she likes “watching astronauts get drunk off champagne before falling face-first into a bush.”
  • At an astronaut party, Cal sees “bottles of champagne sitting in a copper tub full of ice.” He notes that “no one would notice a bottle—or ten—missing from this supply.”
  • Cal and Leon steal a champagne bottle from the party and go out back to drink it. Cal drinks the champagne. “The tart, fizzy liquid burns my throat as I swallow it down. The taste isn’t great, but I could get used to it.”
  • Someone gives Cal gum “to cover that champagne breath.”
  • Cal’s mother manages her chronic anxiety “with her therapy appointments and an assortment of low-dosage medication.”
  • Cal steals some champagne from his parents and pops the bottle when he’s alone with Leon. They drink from it together. “I pull the bottle to my mouth and take a sip of the bitter foam.”
  • Cal says, “I start to understand why people celebrate with champagne. It lifts me up, it celebrates my own energy.”

Language

  • Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes: damn, hell, shit, and fuck.
  • “Oh my God” and “Jesus” are frequently used as exclamations.
  • Cal refers to Clear Lake, Texas as “literal hell” because of its hot weather.

Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • The Mars mission is named Orpheus, after the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology. A character explains how “Eurydice dies; Orpheus takes his magical lyre and travels to Hades to save her. He plays his lyre for Hades, who promises to return Eurydice under one condition: she would follow, but if he turned to look at her, she’d be gone forever.”

by Caroline Galdi

Alien Scout

Harris is the only person who knows Zeke’s secret—Zeke is an alien. When Harris decides to go on a Beaver Scout wilderness trip, he wants Zeke to go with him. Zeke is confused about all of the fun activities that will happen at camp, but he is excited to spend time with Harris and learn more about humans. The only problem is that Zeke is a little careless with his powers. When one of the other scouts becomes suspicious of Zeke, Harris isn’t sure how to keep Zeke’s identity a secret from the other scouts.

Zeke and Harris go on a fun adventure where Zeke learns all about scout camp. During most of the activities, Zeke isn’t shy about using his alien powers. For example, he floats to the top bunk, and he rows a canoe with his mind. Despite knowing the importance of hiding his true identity, Zeke continues to use his powers, especially to help others. When one of the scouts falls into a raging river, Zeke jumps in and saves him. The only suspense in the story comes from one camper who is suspicious and thinks that Zeke is different.

Even though the plot lacks suspense, seeing human activity from an alien’s point of view is entertaining, especially when Zeke gets confused by human speech. For example, when a camp counselor says, “Time to hit the hay,” Zeke wonders, “Why would I want to hit hay?” While Alien Scout isn’t as entertaining as the previous books in the series, readers will enjoy the relationship between Zeke and Harris.

Besides the fun topic, Alien Scout has a variety of other elements that are perfect for readers who are transitioning to chapter books. Each page contains a large black and white illustration that helps break up the text. The illustrations will help readers understand the wide range of emotions each character feels. The large font, simple vocabulary, short chapters, and dialogue make Alien Scout a fun book to add to a beginning reader’s book list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • At camp, someone tells a scary story about a witch. Two kids find her at their house and the witch says, “So you’ve decided to have dinner at home. Excellent. In fact, I just finished eating my appetizers, though you knew them as Mom and Dad.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

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Supernatural

  • Zeke is an alien. He can float, heat objects, and project what he sees in his head onto screens.
  • When the camp bus gets a flat tire, Zeke fixes it. “I’m redirecting energy from the Earth’s sun through my hands to heat the rubber enough so it’ll melt and seal the hole in the tire.”

Spiritual Content

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Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 mission. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned home safely?

As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps to the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink—everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as possible about math and about the universe.

From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of the moon landing but saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.

In a time when women could not find jobs as research mathematicians, Katherine took a job as a teacher. However, the “space race” gave Katherine and other women an opportunity to work at NASA. Because of Katherine’s accuracy and strong leadership skills, astronaut John Glenn and others relied on Katherine’s mathematical calculations. Counting on Katherine explains how Katherine Johnson helped determine a spaceship’s trajectory. Katherine’s life shows that with hard work and determination, dreams do come true.

Counting on Katherine’s realistic illustrations add beauty and emotion to the story. The artwork also portrays how Katherine’s life was filled with mathematics. The artwork also helps explain how mathematics is essential to space travel. The story shows how “sending a rocket ship into space is like throwing a ball in the air.” Through both text and illustrations, Katherine’s advanced mathematic equations become understandable to younger readers.

Counting on Katherine explains many of the difficulties that Katherine had to overcome, including segregation and the belief that women could only do “tasks that men thought were boring and unimportant.” Even though Counting on Katherine is a picture book, the story has wide appeal for all readers. Counting on Katherine only has 1-6 sentences per page, but younger readers will need help with the story’s advanced sentence structure and vocabulary. Readers who want to read additional inspiring space stories should read Mousetronaut by astronaut Mark Kell and Mae Among The Stars, a picture book that was inspired by the story of Mae Jemison, the first African American in space.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Paw Patrol: Chase’s Space Case

Ryder and the pups see a spaceship in the sky. A space bubble comes from the ship and tries to trap a cow and Mayor Goodway. Chase has to find a way to save them. When the alien sees Chase, he tries to trap Chase in a bubble, but Chase is able to free himself.

Chase and the pups help the alien. He is trying to get home because he misses his mom. Rocky fixes the alien’s spaceship. Before the alien flies home, he gives Ryder and the pups a ride in his spaceship. In the end, everyone is happy.

Fans of Paw Patrol will enjoy seeing familiar characters. The story doesn’t explain why the alien was trying to catch the cow and Mayor Goodway in a bubble. However, Chase is able to save everyone, even the chicken that was in the bubble with Mayor Goodway. The alien is cute and his expression clearly shows that he is worried and scared. Ryder and the pups do everything they can to help the alien. The story shows how the pups can be friends with someone who is different from them.

Paw Patrol: Chase’s Space Case uses familiar characters and full-page illustrations to engage young readers. The story is intended for preschool through kindergarten readers, but older readers will also enjoy the story. Each page has three to thirteen simple sentences, which make the plot easy to understand. The colorful illustrations will help readers understand the story’s events. Even though the plot is not well-developed, readers will be excited to see Ryder and the pups meet a new friend.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Spaceman (Adapted for Young Readers): The True Story of a Young Boy’s Journey to Becoming an Astronaut

From the time he was seven years old and saw Apollo 11 land on the moon, Mike Massiamo dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But Long Island is a long way from space. Kids like him, growing up in working-class families, seldom left the neighborhood. But with the encouragement of teachers and mentors, Mike ventured down a path that took him to Columbia University and MIT.

It wasn’t easy. There were academic setbacks and disappointments aplenty—and NASA turned him down three times. Still, Mike never gave up. He rose to each challenge and forged ahead, inching closer to realizing his boyhood dream. His love of science and space, along with his indomitable spirit and sense of teamwork eventually got him assigned to two missions to fix the Hubble Space Telescope as a spacewalker.

Growing up, Mike didn’t know anyone who could tell him how to become an astronaut. “There was no science club at school where we could build and launch rockets. None of my friends were into space; it was something I did on my own. I had my spaceman costume, my Astronaut Snoopy and my library books, and that was it.” However, Mike learned that “being the smartest isn’t always the most important trait in school or in life; working hard, having a positive attitude, and getting help when you need it can be more important.” Mike chronicles his life’s failures, his successes, and the people who help him along the way.

Mike tells his story as if he were sitting down to coffee with a friend. His conversational tone and plenty of life lessons make his story even more interesting. He doesn’t leave out the difficult decisions he had to make, or the mistakes he made along the way. Mike says, “I don’t know if there are any lessons to take from this except to realize that the things you think are mistakes may turn out not to be mistakes. . . if you make the most of what you’ve got, you can find a way to keep moving forward.” In the end, what makes Mike stand out is his determination to find a way to overcome life’s obstacles.

Throughout Mike’s journey, he shows how people at MIT and NASA work together as a team. People helped Mike not to get something out of it, but “because that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s how a team works. You help the people around you, and everybody’s better off for it.” Despite receiving help from others, Mike didn’t always know what to do, and he wasn’t always confident in his abilities.

Many of the lessons in Spaceman are told in such a matter-of-fact way, that it sounds like advice from a big brother. Mike reminds readers that, “If you get caught up worrying about things you can’t control, you’ll drive yourself crazy and waste valuable time. It’s better to focus on the things right in front of you that you can control.” Throughout his time at NASA, Mike’s experiences changed his perspective. To Mike, one important aspect of space travel is that “every person who goes to space, every person who gets to peek around the next corner, is someone with the potential to help change our perspective, change our relationship with the planet, change our understanding of our place in the universe.”

While Spaceman is full of encouraging advice, life lessons, and interesting anecdotes, younger readers may have a difficult time understanding the significance of Mike’s experiences. The ending’s pace is slow and uneventful because it explains how the termination of the space program affected Mike. However, anyone who loves space should read Spaceman. In addition, high school readers would greatly benefit from reading Spaceman because Mike shows how hard work and determination can help a person fulfill their dreams.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • When Mike went to work for NASA, he loaded up his car and “prayed I didn’t break down in the backwoods of Appalachia along the way.”
  • When Mike interviewed for a job as an astronaut, he worried that he couldn’t pass the eye exam. He “was praying for something so far out of my control that I could throw up my hands and say, ‘Well, that’s life. Nothing I can do.’”
  • When Mike reapplied to be an astronaut, he “prayed I’d be ready in time.”

Astronaut PiggyWiggy

 PiggyWiggy dreams of being an astronaut. Along with his faithful friend and companion, Teddy, he boards a rocket dressed in his special space suit and blasts off to explore the wonders of the planets. What will bring PiggyWiggy down to earth again?

PiggyWiggy’s imagination comes to life in illustrations that use bold colors. While the pictures are simple, they do have some cute details that children will love, such as a parade of animals carrying space helmets. Each two-page spread has one sentence that is written in large print. While in space, PiggyWiggy meets some colorful aliens and puts a flag on another planet.

PiggyWiggy’s adventure has a simple plot with 5 to 17 words on each two-page spread. Even though Astronaut PiggyWiggy is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for a child to read it for the first time independently. The short story will entertain younger readers who have a short attention span. Astronaut PiggyWiggy will teach a few facts about space. Space-loving readers will also enjoy Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship by Susanna Leonard Hill. Both books are imaginative stories that introduce young readers to space.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship

The Moon shines brightly in the night sky. She watches the Earth and wishes someone would come visit her. As the Earth changes, the Moon wonders why the animals don’t look up at her. In order to get people to notice her, she shows off by spinning and twirling. The moon is excited when people start trying to fly. But they still have a long, long way to go. Will anyone come visit the Moon?

Moon’s First Friends begins with the time of the dinosaurs and goes through man’s first steps on the moon. The story shows mankind’s important feats, including the building of the pyramids, modes of transportation, and finally the construction of the Apollo spaceship. Through it all, the Moon watched and hoped someone would come visit her.

Little readers will empathize with the Moon, who just wants a friend. The Moon’s plight comes alive in beautiful, imaginative pictures that bring the Moon’s personality to life. The Moon’s facial expressions are adorably cute and expressive. As the Moon watches people build the first fire, the Moon looks on with wonder. The Moon patiently watches the events down on Earth and tries to get the attention of those down below. The story ends with the astronauts landing on the Moon, and the moon gives them a gift of moon rocks and dust. In return, the astronauts leave her a “handsome plaque” and a “beautiful flag.”

Hill takes an imaginative look at the first Apollo moon landing, gives factual information that will fascinate readers and inspires them to want to learn more. The end of the book includes nonfiction information about the mission to travel to the moon, moon cycles, and other information about the Apollo mission. Readers can also scan a QR code and listen to Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon.

Moon’s First Friends will appeal to any child. The brightly colored illustration beautifully shows the Earth’s history and shows how the Moon and man become friends. Little readers who are interested in space will also enjoy Mousetronaut Goes to Mars by Mark Kelly and Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed.

 Sexual Content

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Violence

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Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Mae Among The Stars

When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering. Mae learns that if you can dream it and you work hard for it, anything is possible.

Mae Among The Stars was inspired by the story of Mae Jemison, the first African American in space. When Mae tells her parents about her dream, they tell her, “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” However, not everyone believes that Mae’s dream of being an astronaut is realistic. Her teacher tells her, “Mae, are you sure you don’t want to be a nurse? Nursing would be a good profession for someone like you.” Despite her teacher and classmate’s disbelief, Mae makes her dream come true.

Even though the story was inspired by Mae Jemison, the story doesn’t incorporate many facts about Mae’s life. The story repeats the refrain, “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” However, the story doesn’t explain what Mae did to make her dream come true. The end of the book only has one page about about Mae Jemison’s education, when she traveled to the moon, and some other information.

The picture book is comprised of bright, cartoon-like pictures that show Mae’s interest in space. Even though Mae Among The Stars is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for a child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 2-4 sentences; however, some of the sentences are complex. Mae Among The Stars encourages readers to work hard to make their dreams come true. Parents may want to use the story to begin a conversation about working hard to achieve one’s dreams.

Younger readers who are interested in space will want to add Mousetronaut and Mousetronaut Goes to Mars by Mark Kelly to their reading list.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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The Star Shepherd

All Kyro wants is to be a Star Shepherd, like his dad, Tirin. Star Shepherds are the heroes that save the stars that fall to the ground. Without them, the stars would fizzle out and die.

Star shepherding is hard enough when Kyro is just trying to impress his dad, but when clusters of stars all begin to fall at once, Kyro realizes something is very wrong. His father goes out to investigate but never comes back. Now, with only his dog, Cypher, and his friend, Andra, Kyro must journey across the land to find out what’s happening to the stars. He may become the Star Shepherd he always dreamed of being, but it won’t be easy.

Focusing on Kyro, the story unfolds from his perspective as he journeys around the land trying to find his father and solve the mystery of the falling stars. Kyro is a likable character who works to overcome the many obstacles in his way. He has many fears, including the fear that he isn’t good enough to be a Star Shepherd, and the fear that his father may be too obsessed with saving stars to love Kyro anymore. However, Kyro not only overcomes these fears but strives to protect even Star Shepherds who don’t help him and those who hate Star Shepherds.

One of the best aspects of the story is Kyro’s relationship with Andra, his only friend. Even though the townspeople do not like Kyro, Andra doesn’t care. She is a steadfast and loyal friend who believes Kyro when no one else does. When Kyro is abandoned by the townspeople and by the other Star Shepherds, Andra takes it upon herself to support Kyro. Without Andra, Kyro might not have found the strength to see his journey through to the end.

Even though the story has some difficult vocabulary, the plot is easy to understand and the writing flows well. Young readers will enjoy watching Kyro journey from place to place through the well-thought-out world, especially as more fantastical parts of the story are revealed. While there are moments of potential violence, the scenes are done tastefully, never going too far. Also, there are illustrations within the book, one at the start of each chapter. These illustrations are in black and white and illustrate the characters and creatures in the novel. These illustrations usually take up half a page, though a few take up entire pages.

Overall, The Star Shepherd is a great read for middle schoolers. The unique setting will engage readers because it includes mythical creatures, ancient robots, and stars. Readers will root for Kyro, who fights for what he believes in and ends up succeeding in the end. Throughout the story, Kyro gains confidence and learns more about himself.  The Star Shepherd is more than an adventure story; it shows the importance of communication, the effects of grief, and the importance of friendship.  With a well-paced story, fun characters, and an interesting plot, The Star Shepherd would be a great book for any middle school reader who love fantasy.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Stars fall from the sky every so often. If a Star Shepherd can’t return a star to its rightful place in the sky, then the star dies. “When one fell, it was the Star Shepherd’s job to bring that family member home. If one died, they were separated forever.” Kyro hates to see a star die, “He never again wanted to see one die in a vissla’s hands like he had a week ago.”
  • Many of the stars that fall down are intentionally cut down. Kyro tells Andra, “Since then, I’ve discovered someone isn’t just taking the stars; someone is cutting them down. See?” Since the stars are being cut down, clusters of them all fall at once. Andra’s father says, “A whole slew of them crashed right here in the market. Set the rooftops ablaze. We’re lucky no one was killed.”
  • Kyro is attacked by a giant, insect-like creature in a desert. “It opened its maw and let out an earsplitting scream, then lunged toward them. Kyro ducked to the side, narrowly avoiding one of the terrible pincers, then jumped out of the way of the thing’s tail.”
  • The vissla are evil creatures that haven’t been seen in hundreds of years. Kyro describes his encounter with one. “It was cold, like it radiated pure evil. One of them got to a star before me, and the vissla killed it.”
  • Andra’s father, Bodin, blames all of the village’s misfortunes on Kyro and his father. Therefore Bondin continually puts Kyro down. A ship captain reprimands Bodin for badmouthing Kyro, saying “I didn’t expect to find you bullying a mere boy.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Tirin, Kyro’s father, isn’t well-liked by the villagers of Drenn. When Tirin goes into town to pick up a fallen star, the village leader says, “You are a fool.” That animosity extends to Kyro as well. Bodin tells Kyro, “You two fools have done more than enough damage to our village.”
  • The Star Shepherd council accuses Tirin of being a traitor to the Star Shepherds. Kyro defends him by saying, “He is not a traitor!”
  • Kyro tells a ship captain that the Star Shepherd council banned him from saving the stars. The man responds, “Then they’ve grown stupider with age.”

Supernatural

  • If the stars fall to the ground, they can die if they aren’t sent back into the sky. Kyro fails to save a star. “The sun rose, its rays bursting over the sky. The molten star’s light sputtered out, leaving only a gray rock cooling in Kyro’s hands.”
  • The stars hold back evil creatures called vissla. Kyro meets a vissla in a forest. “Shrieks began to echo from all sides. The cold wormed all the way into Kyro’s bones, making him completely numb.” Kyro thinks about the legend of the star net, “When the stars were first hung and the starlight net formed by interconnected beams of light, the dark creatures were banished underground and to the darkest corners of the world.”
  • The stars can be used to attack the vissla. However, the vissla can also destroy the stars. Kyro thinks, “But the vissla could destroy a star if it wasn’t being actively used against them. The creature had done the deed quickly, as though it couldn’t stand to touch the star for too long.”
  • Star Shepherds can collect stardust from fallen stars. Tirin gives Kyro some. “His father picked up two large vials of sparkling powder from the kitchen table and shoved them into Kyro’s hands.”
  • During the final fight with the vissla, Kyro merges with a star to keep the darkness away. “Suddenly, warmth flooded his veins. Brilliant light flared, pouring from his eyes and mouth. Everything was bright as day despite the late hour.”
  • The giants are said to be the ones that hung the stars in the sky hundreds of years ago. Kyro and Andra eventually meet the fabled giants. One of the giants tells them, “We wove the star casings, Stitchers sewed the pieces together, and Framers crafted the hooks to hang them in the night sky.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jonathan Planman

Satellite

Named after constellations, Leo, Libra, and Orion have been trapped since birth on Moon 2, a space station orbiting Earth. Not old or strong enough to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the teens have been parented by teams of astronauts, training their entire lives to one day return home. Each teen anxiously awaits their sixteenth birthday, the day they would be declared strong enough to return home. They meticulously plan out their bucket lists for Earth while Earth taunts them from outside their windows.

However, after mechanical errors send them hurtling back to Earth earlier than expected, the group of teens soon find their new environment hard to adapt to, despite all its wondrous beauties. To survive, the friends must defy unimaginable odds while facing a dangerous monopoly, a new and strange world, and their own self-identity problems. Their bonds of friendship and their definition of home and family will be put to the test. Going back home will not be as easy as they thought.

With its text-speech writing style, futuristic setting, and an incredible amount of space facts, Nick Lake tells an extraordinary tale. Lake explores the meaning of home and family, the definition of love, and the search for one’s self-identity. Lake’s use of interludes and first-person narration makes Leo come alive on the page, causing readers to empathize with the teenager searching for a place to call home. Riddled with space politics, action, and references to our own modern-day culture, the fast-paced story is a page-turner from start to finish. A diverse set of characters will leave readers crying at the end.

Satellite has a unique plot with the perfect mix of action, space, suspense, and drama. The well-developed characters, who are all distinctly different, act like real people. Even though Leo has a secret crush on Orion, the story does not go overboard on the romance. Instead, the story focuses on Leo’s relationship with his grandfather and his mother as he strives to find out who he really is. Through Leo’s experience, the reader will be forced to look at Earth in a new light. When Leo gets to earth, he is overcome with wonder when he sees birds, fire, and even the simple act of throwing a ping-pong ball for the first time while other characters think of their surroundings as “just Nevada.”

Often called Andy Weir’s The Martian for teens, Satellite is so much more. It explores some of the true moral questions young adults have about life, and it seeks to answer these questions by teaching readers about the value of home and family. However, due to the constant cussing by the characters during stressful times, this book is best suited for older readers. The story’s text-speech, which mimics those of NASA commands, does not demonstrate proper grammatical concepts, which may frustrate some readers. Nevertheless, it is a must-read – not only entertaining young readers but teaching them not to take their everyday lives for granted.

Sexual Content

  • At the beginning of the novel, Leo describes how both he and the twins ended up being born in space and how they were conceived. Leo says, “1 of the results of the experiment was unexpected: if u put male and female astronauts in a confined space for 2 years, they will eventually have sex.” Leo also describes his own conception saying, his mother “had a fling a few nights before she launched.”
  • Throughout the book, Leo has constant feelings for Orion and Soto, which he recounts in detail saying, “he stands still while i get up, & i put a hand on his shoulder. i feel the strength of his muscles thru his shirt. a little electric current goes thru me. i feel something happen, in the center of me.”
  • Just before Orion dies due to his inability to live in 1g, Leo says, “u can’t go anyway u can’t … u can’t because I always thought my first kiss would be with u I always dreamed of it anyway and u can’t go because I haven’t had my first kiss, so u can’t go u can’t go u can’t go.” Orion and Leo kiss while Orion imagines Leo as Leo’s mother.

Violence

  • Wile e Coyote and the Road Runner are mentioned continuously throughout the book along with the various ways the main characters can die during space travel including burning to death, exploding, splattering, and suffocating.
  • When traveling through a ghost town in Sonoma County California, Leo notices that there are long lines at both the bank and multiple gun stores while other businesses have no activity. Leo asks his grandfather why, and Grandpa says, “hard to make a living these days. So people want to keep their money liquid. & they want guns to protect it.”
  • Grandpa is a rancher and during the book, Leo watches as they send cows to slaughter. Although not explicitly stated in the book, Leo ponders how his grandfather’s cows are raised only to die.
  • After discovering Leo’s location, a group of rebels against the Company tries to rescue Leo by attacking the ranch. When Leo’s grandfather walks in and sees one of the mercenaries pointing a gun at Leo, Leos says that his grandfather “doesn’t hesitate for a moment. He fires as easy as breathing, and the man is thrown back against the wall, a spray of blood, an arc of it, his head hitting the wood with a thud.” All three mercenaries die, Leo sprains his wrist, and Leo’s mother dislocates her shoulder during the fight.
  • While escaping Mountain Dome, Leo glances back and sees the muzzle flare and hears the “whistling sound” of a bullet as he notices one of the facilities guards shooting at them. None of them are injured.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Virginia describes Commander Boutros when she says, “get him drunk, he’s a whole different person.”
  • Before their launch, Grandpa, Yuri, and Leo all drink vodka mixed with rocket fuel for good luck. Yuri, of course, leaves out the vodka for 16-year-old Leo.
  • Medications are used frequently throughout the book, such as acetaminophen used to treat Leo’s fever and painkillers used to relieve the pain in Leo’s mother’s dislocated shoulder.

Language

  • Profanity is used in the extreme. Almost all the characters at one point in the novel use it. Profanity includes: shit, fuck, fricking, bitch, ass, piss, oh my god, and goddamned.
  • Leo’s grandfather bets Leo that he cannot play catch on Earth because “gravity is a bitch.”
  • After astronaut Brown dies, Virginia responds with “fuck. what went wrong with the program? what did I do?”
  • After realizing that they will place a huge reliance on the boosters of Moon Two to maintain attitude instead of using their gyros, engineer Singh says, “shit.
  • After realizing they will never be able to survive on Earth outside of a hospital, Orion says, “well, this sucks ass, doesn’t it.”
  • Grandpa describes Kazakhstan as “a bit of a shithole.”
  • After seeing a Soyuz rocket, Grandpa says, “holy shit.” Later, he fights with Yuri about the legitimacy of their mission saying, “we can’t fly a Soyuz either! It’s a goddamned rocket.”
  • Former cosmonaut Yuri and former astronaut Freeman are “piss brothers for life” after their many adventures in space together.
  • After the Soyuz rocket fails to detach from Moon 2’s peripheral system, astronaut Sara says “dammit.” Later, astronaut Sara does her first EVA and describes space as “in-fricking-sane.”
  • When Leo saves Sara from dying by using his EVA suit rockets, he says, “I can hear her still in my helmet saying oh my god oh my god like all other words have been wiped from her mind.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Libra loves plants and dreams of being a botanist. While at Mount Dome, she spends most of her time in one of the company’s projects where they attempt to create perfect biodomes for construction on earthlike plants. The project is entitled Creating Eden.
  • The book references an EE cummings poem with the starting line of “I thank You God for most his amazing day.”
  • Throughout the book, Leo, Orion, and Libra are referred to as angels returning to Earth from heaven, and when Leo returns to Moon 2, he is like an angel returning to heaven once more.

by Matthew Perkey

 

Ender’s Game

Earth has been attacked twice by the Buggers—aliens attempting to colonize Earth’s solar system. The whole world waits with bated breath for the Third Invasion and sends its best and brightest children to Battle School when they are six years old to be trained in strategy and warfare. Eventually, these children will become the pilots, commanders, and soldiers that will save the human race from extinction.

Ender is a governmentally approved Third child in a world with a strict two-child rule. He was allowed to be born in the hopes that he will be a genius like his two older siblings, but with the correct temperament for Battle School. The experiment succeeds, but Ender doesn’t want to go to Battle School. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He especially doesn’t want to leave behind his beloved sister Valentine, though he will not miss his psychopathic brother Peter. But Colonel Graff tells Ender that the world needs him, and Ender believes him.

What follows is Ender’s journey through Battle School, where his brilliance generates both respect and hatred from the other children. As the children study how to fight, Ender finds himself at the center of an immense web of manipulations, all designed to turn him into the Commander that Earth needs to defend itself. It doesn’t matter that Ender doesn’t want to kill anyone; it’s what he is good at and will become great at with the right push. And push him, they do.

Ender’s Game is a masterpiece, which is why it is required reading at many high schools. There is heavy content that is inappropriate for younger and sensitive readers: profanity and name-calling are used often, there are bouts of violence (including attempted murder), and there is a thematic question of whether cruel, immoral means are justified by an end that benefits humanity.

These masterfully woven questions will keep readers up at night, and readers will relate to Ender and his struggle to define himself. Is he a monster like his brother Peter? Is he a killer like the teachers want him to be? It is Ender’s emotional turmoil of self-loathing, loneliness, and despair that will haunt readers long after they read the last page—more than the aliens, the fights, and even the theological questions. Ender’s Game will leave readers desperately wishing that Ender’s life had not been so hard. Readers will forget that Ender is just an ink-and-paper boy from a story, and not the son, brother, or friend that they have fondly come to know him as.

Sexual Content

  • When Valentine says she has an oral exam at school, her brother says it could be worse. “It could be an anal exam.”
  • Dink says, “Hey, look! Salamander’s getting babies now! Look at this! He could walk between my legs without touching my balls!”
  • When Valentine is offered a weekly column in a newspaper, she says, “I can’t do a weekly column…I don’t even have a monthly period yet.” Later in the same argument, Peter asks her, “Are you sure you’re not having a period, little woman?”
  • When Peter is also asked to write a column, he says, “Not bad for two kids who’ve only got about eight pubic hairs between them.”
  • After a bully makes fun of another boy’s butt, “Look how he shimmies his butt when he walks,” the other boys start calling the bully, “Buttwatcher.”
  • One of the commanders “had programmed his desk to display and animate a bigger-than-lifesize picture of male genitals, which waggled back and forth as Rose held the desk on his naked lap.”
  • Ender jokingly calls his friend, “you circumcised dog.”
  • When the Buggers procreate, “each male in turn penetrated the larval queen, shuddered in ecstasy, and died, dropping to the tunnel floor and shriveling.”

Violence

  • Ender is attacked, and he beats the main bully thoroughly, to make sure no one is ever bold enough to attack him again. “Ender walked to Stilson’s supine body and kicked him again, viciously, in the ribs. Stilson groaned and rolled away from him. Ender walked around him and kicked him again, in the crotch.”
  • Ender’s older brother threatens to kill him. Peter “knelt on Ender, his knee pressing into Ender’s belly just below the breastbone. He put more and more of his weight on Ender. It became hard to breathe. ‘I could kill you like this,’ Peter whispered. ‘Just press and press until you’re dead. And I could say that I didn’t know it would hurt you, that we were just playing, and they’d believe me, and everything would be fine. And you’d be dead.’”
  • A boy hits Ender repeatedly when they are on a space shuttle. “Just as the next blow was coming, Ender reached up with both hands, snatched the boy by the wrist, and then pulled down on the arm, hard…The boy sailed through the air, bouncing against the ceiling, then down against another boy in his seat, then out into the aisle, his arms flailing until he screamed as his body slammed into the bulkhead at the front of the compartment, his left arm twisted under him.”
  • Two teachers mention a prior student’s suicide in passing. “Everybody looks like Pinual at one time or another. But he’s the only one who killed himself.”
  • Ender plays a computer game that sometimes has gruesome deaths. One time, “the Giant cut him open along the spine, deboned him like a fish, and began to eat while his arms and legs quivered.” Another time, “He jumped at the Giant’s face, clambered up his lip and nose, and began to dig in the Giant’s eye. The stuff came away like cottage cheese, and as the Giant screamed, Ender’s figure burrowed into the eye.”
  • A commander slaps one of his soldiers. “Madrid stepped closer to the girl and slapped her across the face with the back of his hand. It made little sound, for only his fingernails had hit her. But there were bright red marks, four of them, on her cheek, and little pricks of blood marked where the tips of his fingernails had struck.”
  • Ender’s commander hits him after Ender disobeys orders. “Suddenly Bonzo swung at him, caught his jaw with a vicious open-handed slap. It knocked Ender sideways, into his bunk, and he almost fell. Then Bonzo slugged him, hard, in the stomach. Ender dropped to his knees.”
  • Ender and his friends are attacked by an older group of guys in the Battle Room. “Someone caught Ender by the foot. The tight grip gave Ender some leverage; he was able to stamp firmly on the other boy’s ear and shoulder, making him cry out and let go. . . the boy had hung on too well; his ear was torn and scattering blood in the air, and Ender was drifting even more slowly. I’m doing it again, thought Ender. I’m hurting people again, just to save myself. Why don’t they leave me alone, so I don’t have to hurt them?
  • Ender gets picked on several times during Battle School. “So Ender got knocked down in the shower that morning. One of Bernard’s boys pretended to trip over him and managed to plant a knee in his belly.”
  • Valentine, “had seen a squirrel half-skinned, spiked by its little hands and feet with twigs pushed into the dirt. She pictured Peter trapping it, staking it, then carefully parting and peeling back the skin without breaking into the abdomen, watching the muscles twist and ripple.”
  • Bonzo tries to kill Ender. “Bonzo’s tight, hard ribs came against Ender’s face, and his hands slapped against his back, trying to grip him…instead of kicking, he lunged upward off the floor, with a powerful lunge of the soldier bounding from the wall, and jammed his head into Bonzo’s face. Ender whirled in time to see Bonzo stagger backward, his nose bleeding.” The fight takes place over two pages.
  • “Late one night [Ender] woke up in pain…He saw that in his sleep he had been gnawing on his own fist. The blood was still flowing smoothly.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Bastard” is used often. Peter tells his brother, “No, no, I don’t want your help. I can do it on my own, you little bastard.” Another time Colonel Graff says, “We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive.”
  • “Hell,” “asshole,” and “ass” are used several times. Valentine says her older brother is “The biggest asshole.” Graff tells a teacher, “your ass is covered, go to hell.”
  • “Damn” is used a few times. Graff tells Ender, “I told them you were the best. Now you damn well better be.” Another time a student says, “I be the best soldier I can, and any commander worth a damn, he take me.”
  • Another student tells Ender to “kiss butts if you’ve got to.”
  • Variants of “piss” are used several times. One boy in the Game Room tells Ender, “Beating you…would be as easy as pissing in the shower.”
  • At Battle School, the boys’ slang includes frequent name calling. For example, Graff says, “Scumbrains, that’s what we’ve got in this launch. Pinheaded little morons.” Other variants include pisshead, fartface, etc.
  • “Son of a bitch” is used once. “I’m a pilot, you son of a bitch, and you got no right to lock me up on a rock!”
  • “There was a myth that Jewish generals didn’t lose wars.” The commander of Rat Army is Jewish, so it, “was often called the Kike Force, half in praise, half in parody of Mazer Rackham’s Strike Force.”

Supernatural

  • An alien race, called “Buggers,” invaded Earth’s solar system twice before. All of Earth is preparing for the Third Invasion.

Spiritual Content

  • When talking about how humans won the last war, Graff says, “Call it fate, call it God, call it damnfool luck, we had Mazer Rackham.”
  • Graff says if Ender is not the one, “then in my opinion God is a bugger. You can quote me on that.”
  • After a battle, Ender saw that some people “knelt or lay prostrate, and Ender knew they were caught up in prayer.”
  • An admiral says piloting is “a god. And a religion. Even those of us who command by ansible know the majesty of flight among the stars.”
  • Speaker for the Dead is a book that became “a religion among many religions” on Earth. “But for those who traveled the great cave of space and lived their lives in the hive queen’s tunnels and harvested the hive queen’s fields, it was the only religion.”

by Morgan Lynn

 

 

Dragon Pearl

Thirteen-year-old Min lives an ordinary life. No one knows that her family comes from a long line of fox spirits. Her family hides their powers, and Min’s mother doesn’t allow any of them to use fox-magic. Instead of shape-shifting and using Charm, Min always appears as a human.

Min dreams of leaving her dust-ridden planet and joining her brother Jun in the Space Forces. When Min gets older, they hope to see more of the Thousand Worlds together. Then an investigator appears and informs the family that Jun has deserted. The investigator thinks Jun is searching for the mythical Dragon Pearl that is rumored to have tremendous power.

After reading a strange message from Jun, Min knows that something is wrong. Min runs away to search for her brother. During her journey, she will meet gamblers, pirates, and ghosts. She will have to use deception, sabotage, and magic. Min will need all of her courage to complete her journey. Will she be able to find the answers she needs to find her brother?

Sci-fi enthusiasts will enter an imaginative world that includes Korean mythology. The Korean mythology is seamlessly integrated into Min’s story and helps create an interesting world. The story is a perfect blend of mystery, action, and space travel. Although most of the story is fast-paced, parts of the story are difficult to read because of long descriptions.

Dragon Pearl is told from Min’s point of view, which allows the reader to understand her thought process as she searches for her brother. Middle school readers will enjoy reading about Min because of her daring actions and can-do attitude.

Although Min has spent her life hiding her magical abilities, once she leaves her house, she consistently relies on Charm. Readers may question how she can be so skilled using her Charm when she has had no practice. Another bothersome inconsistency is that Min notices when other supernaturals use their powers, but no one notices when Min uses her Charm. Even though Min uses her Charm to deceive others, she is still a likable character. At the end of the book, Min realizes that she should rely less on magic, but it would have been nice to see Min use her brain to solve some problems throughout the story, instead of always using Charm.

The ending is a little predictable, but there are enough surprises to satisfy readers. Middle school readers who are interested in mythology may want to begin with the Percy Jackson Series or Aru Shah and the End of Time, which have better character development as well as humor. Overall, Dragon Pearl creates an interesting world filled with magic. The danger, magic, and mystery will draw readers into the story and keep them engaged. However, some readers may struggle with the long descriptions and difficult vocabulary.

Sexual Content

  • Some people wear “a small symbol next to the name that let me know they should be addressed neutrally, as neither female or male.” One of the characters, a goblin, is gender neutral and referred to as they.

Violence

  • When an investigator finds out that Min is a fox, he “snatched me up by the throat. I scrabbled for air, my fingernails lengthening into claws, and tore desperately at his fingers.” Min turns into a block of metal and fell on the man’s foot. When he lets her go, “I snatched a saucepan and brought it crashing down against his head. He fell without a sound.”
  • Mercenaries attack the ship that Min is on. Min “cried as a burst of violet fire hit us in the side.” The scene takes place over nine pages. Someone pulls Min “behind the copilot’s seat. Great timing: A bolt sizzled over me, where my head had been just a second earlier. . . Two more bolts flew over my head. I peeked around the side of the seat and fired once at the first shadowy figure I saw. I heard a yelp.” Min is hit and “slid out of consciousness.” Later, Min discovers that one cadet died.
  • A person accidently crashed into Min, who is appearing as a boy. Min “emitted a strange yell when the person’s knee accidently connected with my crotch. I was going to have to be more careful about guarding that part of my body!”
  • A space ship is attacked, and the Goblin is injured. “Sunjin jumped back from their workstation, clutching their side. An enormous burning line of light had seared the goblin from the neck all the way to their waist, as though someone had slashed them with a whip of fire. . .”
  • Min discovers that the colonist, “stopped making offerings to the pox spirits, and the spirits took their vengeance by wiping out the colony.”
  • Min helps two mercenaries escape. They get on a ship and the pilot, “blew open the hatch with a missile at short range. . . Acceleration slammed us sideways as our ship veered hard to starboard, then rolled.”
  • Min turns into a bird, and someone shoots at her. “Fire pierced my right wing. . . I plummeted, struggling. . . The pain made me light headed.”
  • A man grabs Min. “I stifled a gasp as his fingers dug into my flesh and he yanked me toward him, wrenching my injured shoulder.” The ghost helps Min escape.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Min knocks the investigator unconscious, her family discusses using a “subtle poison” to kill him.
  • Min questions a guard, who tells her that he got his information from a “drunk spacer who was spilling secrets last night.”
  • Min meets a guard who had, “the flushed skin of someone who had been drinking too much cheap wine, and he reeked of the stuff.”
  • For a few hours, Min works in a gambling hall where she serves wine and uses “Charm to encourage customers to relax.” While working, she gives wine to customers.
  • When Min is injured, she is given a dose of painkiller.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The main character is a fox spirit, who lives as a human. A fox spirit can, “shape-shift into whatever she wants: human, animal, even a dining room table.” Fox spirits can choose to be female or male. Fox spirits can also use Charm “to manipulate human emotions and make people see things that aren’t there.”
  • Besides fox spirits, there are other supernatural creatures, “such as dragons, who can control weather, and goblins, who can conjure things out of thin air.”
  • Shamans can communicate with ancestors and spirits.
  • Throughout the story, Min uses Charm to disguise herself. The first time, she made, “myself plainer, drabber, harder to see.” She also uses Charm to turn into an inanimate object several times. The majority of the story, she disguises herself as a cadet who had been killed. The cadet is a ghost and gave Min permission to pretend to be him.
  • The story revolves around the Fourth Colony, “whose entire population had perished when they’d angered disease spirits a few centuries ago.” The ghosts of the colonists haunt the planet.
  • A ghost is one of the supporting characters. “Ghosts weren’t necessarily unfriendly, but many of them became vengeful over time, especially if the unfinished business that bound them to the world of the living went unresolved.” Later in the story, the reader learns that “most ghosts were bound near the site of whatever had felled them.”
  • Ghosts can be dangerous because, “wrongful death warped people’s souls and made them vengeful toward the living.”
  • Several times, the goblin uses his magical sport to create food. The first time the goblin uses the magic, “Sunjin waved the sport, and a box of chocolate-dipped cookies magically appeared.”
  • People are looking for the Dragon Pearl, which could, “transform an entire barren world, give it forests and seas and make it suitable for habitation, it could just as easily destroy a world, turn it into a lifeless desert.”
  • Both people and space ships have an energy flow, which affects luck. “Just like you could have flows of good or back luck in a room, depending on how furniture and ornaments were arranged, there could be flows of good or bad luck across star systems and beyond.”
  • Min meets her brother’s ghost. “Through the disheveled locks I recognized the face—what remained of it, anyway. Half of it flickered with ghostly flames, as though he were on fire. Between that, and the hair, I could barely see his surviving eye.”
  • A shaman was “going to rid the Fourth Colony of its ghosts by singing us into the underworld.” The ghosts stop her.
  • Min uses the Dragon Pearl to give the ghosts a proper burial. “The ghosts shimmered, and I could sense their joy.”

Spiritual Content

  • A pilot whispers a “spacer’s prayer that heaven would see us safely through the gate.”
  • When Min’s escape pod crashes, she “prayed to every ancestor I knew to watch over us.”
  • Min sees that the dead colonist “didn’t have gruesome lesions of smallpox, the disease that gods had once wielded to teach humankind respect. . .”

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