(Click to enlarge.)
Today we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the first manned mission, Apollo 11, to land on the Moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it landed on July 20, and Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., became the first men to walk on the moon, while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins orbited above.
If you haven’t already seen a copy of Brian Floca’s Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, April 2009), you’re in for a big treat. And I’m going to give you a bit of a peek into the book today, since Brian indulged my over-enthusiastic request for some of the watercolor spreads from the book.
I’m stubbornly holding on to my library copy—I’m probably already in Overdues Territory—because it’s an excellent picture book. As in, I hope it sees some awards. As in, it would be just wrong if it didn’t. Yes, I’m a fan of Floca’s work, but this is a book that’s already been met with all kinds of wide acclaim: Kirkus, Booklist, The Horn Book, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and School Library Journal have all given it starred reviews. Publishers Weekly wrote that Brian’s rendition of the flight is “as poetic as it is historically resonant.” And, in the Washington Post, Kristi Jemtegaard wrote:
…while the illustrations speak eloquently of the wonders of science, the free verse text positively sings. Within a single sentence, facts (the rocket is 30 stories high and weighs 6 million pounds) and artistry (“a tower full of fuel and fire”) keep company. In this beautiful amalgam of science and poetry, words, set free from gravity, merge into images that reverberate and soar.
Michael Collins himself wrote, “Reading Moonshot gave me the feeling I was back up in space.” Man, that has just GOT to feel good to Brian Floca. Really good.
Take a look at this spread. I mean, really look. Be sure to click, and you can enlarge. The panels, the composition, the tension Floca builds with the two, the lines, the perspectives, the sideways glance of both fear and elation that we get from that astronaut closest to us in the bottom panel: It’s all simply perfect. (Of course, it’s followed by what Jemtegaard called the “shattering double-page spread at ‘LIFTOFF!’”, the stunning one opening this post.)
And spreads like the one below must be what Alan Bean (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 12) is referring to, when he wrote, “the art is very accurate, in fact more accurate than I can remember seeing anywhere else. There is little that is not complex and confusing about space hardware, yet Moonshot gets it right….” The first time I read the book, I must have spent about ten minutes on this one spread (which you can also click to enlarge):
Speaking of Floca’s accuracy and details, he writes this at “Moonshot Notes,” a fairly recent addition to his website:
I had two goals while researching and writing Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11.
First, I wanted to find the information that I needed to make an accurate book.
Second, I wanted to keep from beating the reader over the head with all that information. I wanted to be accurate but to evoke the mission, not exhaustively detail it.
So, what has he done? At that page of his site, “Moonshot Notes,” he has provided additional information about the book, the choices he made in writing and illustrating it, and fun facts for those who have read Moonshot and are full-to-bursting with questions about little details. As he puts it, it’s a resource for those of us who love annotated editions of our favorite titles, director’s commentary tracks on our favorite films, and footnotes.
And, as a picture book nerd, I love it and now wish that more picture book creators did that. Perhaps Floca can start a trend? A girl can dream. Yes, I’m an annotation geek.
So, take a look. “Moonshot Notes” is here.
I’m going to close the Moonshot-portion of the post with one of the final illustrations from the book (which will enlarge slightly if you launch the image itself). Floca’s ability to capture the emotions of what it must have felt like to see this event on television in 1969 is spot-on. Look at the father: Exhaustion. A bit of disbelief at the magnitude of the event? Maybe some tears? The mother: Wonder. Awe. The children: Jubilation. Perfect.
‘Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.’
Armstrong is calm — but on Earth they cheer!”
I hope you get to see a copy of the book, since these are just a few spreads here I’m showing you today. There’s much more beauty. The endpages alone make it worth a read, and then there’s the spread of “the good and lonely Earth, / glowing in the sky.” Oh, I could go on…
Thanks to Brian for sharing his artwork today.
I’m going to close today with a poem from Debbie Ouellet. (Remember this?) This comes from Earth to the Moon, a poetry anthology (Hidden Brook Press, April 2009), which Debbie edited and which celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the moon-walk. This is Debbie’s “Footprint”:
“That’s one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind.”
– Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969
* * * * * * *
I think I know how Armstrong felt
walking in a Teflon skin—
a stroll between the spaces.
That first step
might as well have been a leap
of faith or lunacy.
(The sixties were like that.)
And he on the cusp
of knowing what we could only imagine.
Digging into the old girl’s secrets
cradled in a tranquil sea,
where no wind sings her mystery,
and coming up with forty-six pounds of rock.
To gaze upon her earth sister
like she was a new girl
decked out in her blue dress,
an emptiness between them
frigid as a lunar night.
Like the Eagle stranded, wingless,
we left our wonder there
haunting the shadow of his bootstep.
All artwork courtesy of Brian Floca. All rights reserved.
MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11. Copyright © 2009 by Brian Floca. Published by Richard Jackson Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, NY. Reproduced by permission of the author.
“Footprint” copyright © 2009 by Debbie Ouellet. All rights reserved.