Book: We Dream of Space (2020)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Genre: MG, Historical 
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.
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.
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…