Review / We Dream of Space

20210103ma_0014Book: We Dream of Space (2020)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Genre: MG, Historical [1986]

Basic plot: It’s January 1986. The whole school is preparing to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Cash, Fitch, and Bird are three siblings, each with their own troubles. Cash breaks his wrist and has to deal with being held back due to his poor grades. Fitch struggles with the teasing of his friends and trying to avoid a certain girl who keeps calling him by his real name, Henry. And then there’s Bird, the good student who wants to be an astronaut herself but begins to doubt she has what it takes. As the days count down to the shuttle launch, the lives of the three kids seem as doomed as the tragedy that’s about to happen… 

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Rocket launch. Shuttle launch. Pretty much anything to do with the history of NASA and you got my attention. This book reminded me of Planet Earth is Blue, but it’s also so different. Yes, they’re both set during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, but their focus is different. I enjoyed both very much.

2) I probably identified mostly with Bird, and not just because she’s the only girl in the sibling trio. I got her interest in the topic of the day and her big dreams. I loved her “conversations” her hero, astronaut Judith Resnik. Of course, she not really speaking with the astronaut, but it’s Bird’s way working out what’s true about her own life and situation. Particularly poignant is a quote from near the end of the book after the (Spoiler!) the space shuttle explodes and Resnik, as well as the other astronauts, die. “Is it okay to cry for people you don’t know?” Bird didn’t know Judith Resnik, but that’s how close she felt to the astronaut. (End Spoiler) 

3) I absolutely loved Cash’s character arc in this book. He’s the one who loves basketball but realizes he’s not very good at the game. So, he tries other things, like cooking… until, finally, he figures something out. (I won’t spoil it here.) I loved the scene with his coach near the end of the book.

4) And then, there’s Fitch. He’s Bird’s twin brother (more on that later). He was the hardest of the three (for me at least) to like and understand. And yet, I still enjoyed seeing him develop and grow over the course of the book. In some ways, he has the most courageous arc of the three.

5) My favourite scene (early on in the book) was when the teacher, Ms. Salonga, has the class imagine they are going through the steps of a shuttle launch; that they are the astronauts taking a last minute simulation. This particular chapter is told through Bird’s POV, so we get her imagination full-on. Wonderful scene. Which is, of course, interrupted by one of Bird’s classmates (Dani) bringing her straight back to Earth. My other favourite scene (from near the end of the book) is the picnic. Which I won’t spoil.

6) I though Erin Entrada Kelly did an amazing job of bringing out the era of 1986. Everything about the story (from the basketball references to the video games to the music, etc.) let us know that this was happening in a decade gone-by. 

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Okay, two little things. Fitch and Bird are twins. But I didn’t figure this out until page 77 when we’re told this. And prior to that, they didn’t feel at all like twins. Granted, I’m not a twin myself, but I have taught several sets of twins, and there’s one thing I’ve noticed. There is this bond that happens between twins. A protectiveness. I didn’t see that in Fitch and Bird, at least not in the first part of the book. It’s hinted at a little maybe in some of the car scenes, but those scenes came rather late in the book. Not a huge thing, but a little thing that bothered me.

2) The parents. Oh, boy! I had a hard time with these parents. By the end, I was hoping for some redemption for Mom and Dad, but there was none. The parents just made me really sad.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book and the historical journey it took us on! Overall, it’s a hopeful book, and I’m glad about that (especially in light of the historical events). I highly recommend this book, especially to anybody who likes NASA stories or even just historical fiction. 

*Note: This week (January 28th) marks the 35th anniversary of what happened to the Challenger. I have vivid memories of seeing the footage play out on the TV. I don’t remember if we watched in it real time or not, but that image certainly seared itself on my young brain.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

24 thoughts on “Review / We Dream of Space

  1. This book sounds so lovely! I really wanted to be an astronaut when I was younger, so this book definitely would have appealed to me. I think stories about discovering you’re not so good at something and finding something new to try, even though you loved the old thing, is such an important theme that really isn’t told enough! And the fact that it is all linked back to the Challenger, this really seems like a wonderful read. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, I just saw that! Congrats to Erin Entrada Kelly!!

      (Note: The timing of this post was not done on purpose. I did wait to post this this week, but that was because the annivesary of the Challenger is on Thursday…)

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  2. I’ve been meeting to read this one since I enjoyed Hello, Universe. I think the depiction of the twins could actually be a plus because a lot of authors tend to stereotype twins (either they’re super close and finish each other’s sentences, or else they are polar opposites). Twins are just people, too. I think there’s plenty of room for characterization there that doesn’t fall into yet another stale literary device.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point about the twins.

      However, I don’t think she really needed it to be twins. She just wanted all three kids in the same grade. (I can think of other ways to achieve that. One of them could have skipped a grade. I know a few kids who skipped grades back in the 80s.)

      Thanks for weighing in! I hope you enjoy the book…

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      • Well, I would say that if an author includes twins in a story it should be because twins are people, too, and thus should get to be represented in books. They’re not just a plot device for when an author needs something cutesy or needs two characters to be in the same place at the same time or needs two characters who act a certain way.

        I guess I see the representation of twins in books as still a bit weird and uncomfortable much of the time. The publishing industry is all about representing different types of people and different experiences, but twins still get boiled down to stereotypes who act a certain way and

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  3. So happy to see this novel a Newbery honor book! I love realistic stories that take readers on a historical journey. It’s been on my list to read. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed your review — especially how you structure your thoughts! Perfect pick today!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember my teacher in tears coming into to tell us about the explosion. This sounds like a fascinating book. I’m still surprised that events that happened when I was a kid are considered history!
    I’m not one for parents who don’t learn a lesson/get better, but otherwise this sounds really good.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a prophetic selection, considering this book was announced as a Newbery Honor just this morning! It really does sound excellent, and I appreciate your thorough thoughts on the characters and writing. Thanks for the great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Newbery Verdict: When You Trap a Tiger | Of Maria Antonia

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