We Dream of Space

by Erin Entrada Kelly

The three Nelson Thomas kids are in separate orbits in January, 1986. Cash is repeating... read more

The three Nelson Thomas kids are in separate orbits in January, 1986. Cash is repeating 7th grade and feels inadequate at everything he tries; 12-year-old Fitch has frequent angry outbursts and finds escape at the local arcade; Bird, Fitch’s twin, loves taking apart small machines and drawing their schematics. She draws the machine that is her family, too: gears that aren’t working together no matter how Bird tries to fix it. Their parents fight constantly, hurling anger and insults at each other; the siblings cope by retreating into separate spheres. At school, Ms. Salonga challenges her students to contemplate the how and why of human space exploration as she focuses on the upcoming Challenger launch in science class. Captivated, Bird dreams of becoming the first female shuttle commander and imagines conversing with Challenger astronaut Judith Resnik, who even offers thoughts on Bird being labeled “smart” but “plain” by her classmates. Bird also imagines what it would be like to have her friend Dani’s family, with parents who get along and pay attention. Bird is at the center of this story’s orbit, but Erin Entrada Kelly masterfully depicts the inner lives of all three children, who are white, as she builds to Challenger’s launch, an event Bird is watching. The tragedy of the shuttle’s explosion devastates Bird. Her brothers, unlike their parents, see their sister’s pain. In a novel rich with motifs and layers of meaning, they rise to meet it with love. (Ages 9-12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020

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