Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Momentous Decision

Each evening after dark, regardless of the weather, when many people are finally relaxing, I am outside with my canine companion.  Consequently, things are seen, heard or smelled which might otherwise be missed.  After a quick glance at our surroundings, my eyes always lift to the sky.  Stars wink in familiar constellations.  If it's partly cloudy shadows shift as those clouds move across the glow cast by the moon in its phases.

Although some things remain the same, nature is full of surprises. Glimpsing a falling star or gazing breathlessly at the northern lights deepens your appreciation for this planet.  Earthrise: Apollo 8 And The Photo That Changed The World (Owlkids Books, October 15, 2018) written by James Gladstone with illustrations by Christy Lundy recreates a time in history when our view of our planet changes forever.

It was a year of unrest.  Many nations were at war.  People around the world marched for peace, fairness, freedom.  They struggled to find the best way to live together.

 People on planet Earth were about to get a surprise as the year drew to a close.  Three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, were boarding Apollo 8 with the Moon as their goal.  If you were near a radio or television, you were listening or watching as the Saturn V rocket roared to life and headed into space.

Now in Earth's orbit, these three men would be the first leave it and journey toward the Moon.  Soon the Saturn V rocket left the spacecraft and it continued alone.  The view of the planet, getting smaller and smaller, was stunning.

On day three, the astronauts sent a black and white picture of the Earth so we could see ourselves.  They cruised into orbit around the Moon taking more photographs to be used in studies of the Moon and to prepare for further exploration.  It was on this day, on their fourth trip around the Moon, they looked again toward Earth.

In space, Earth was rising in the darkness like a treasured gem.  In that moment a decision was made. Captured in color, it was and is a view of this precious planet never to be forgotten.

Every sentence written by James Gladstone creates a vivid picture of each significant moment building toward the taking of the Earthrise photograph. His skillful use of language, his verb and adjective choices, brings us into this historic event. The insertion of conversations lends itself to authenticity. It's as if we've stepped through a portal into 1968.  Here are two passages.

There was sound like thunder---rumble and roar!  The crowd stood their ground, while all the ground shook.
The Saturn V engines had burst into life!

Then---just as planned---the Saturn V engine shut off
and broke away from Apollo 8.
Now the spacecraft was coasting on a human dream,
speeding the crew off to another world.

The limited color palette seen on the opened and matching dust jacket and book case is an excellent choice to heighten the superb quality of the graphic design and layout.  On the right and left, front and back, we are inside Apollo 8 looking toward Earth.  In the first, we are with the astronaut.  In the second the Earthrise photograph is placed amid the instrument panel.  On the front the text and Earth are varnished.  On the back only the photograph is varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers we have a view of the starry expanse of space.  After the title and verso pages, Christy Lundy begins her pictorial enhancement.  Opposite the verso page a young girl holding a toy rocket ship is running toward the right side of the page.  During the introduction she is looking out a window at the peaceful demonstrations mentioned.

Christy Lundy alternates between double-page pictures and full page illustrations to heighten the text and to elevate pacing.  She entwines the child and her family with the story of Apollo 8.  Her family is watching it unfold on their 1968 television.  The little girl places newspaper and magazine articles about the space flight on her bedroom wall.

As surely as the world's perspective of planet Earth changes after the Earthrise photograph, Christy Lundy changes her point of view page turn by page turn.  We see the three astronauts walking toward the Saturn V rocket and Apollo 8 in the distance.  As the rocket launches we are treated to a huge panoramic view with cars, trucks, other vehicles and people much smaller along the bottom of the image.  We move in closer as if we are seated with the astronauts in the space craft.  She connects us emotionally to each instance.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a full page.  Seven people, a mix of children and adults, are standing in front of a television and radio shop.  Their backs are to us.  The picture window is filled with television sets all showing the black and white view of planet Earth first sent.  The people are bundled in warm clothes as it's Christmas Eve.  A radio broadcaster is speaking on a radio.

There she is, floating in space!

Christmas greenery is draped at the top of the window with red bows. One television set costs 299.99.

Earthrise: Apollo 8 And The Photo That Changed The World written by James Gladstone with illustrations by Christy Lundy is a book to read repeatedly.  Every portion of this space flight, especially the Earthrise photograph, is presented with excellence by weaving facts into a beautiful narrative and depicting its history vividly in illustrations.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal book shelves.

To learn more about Christy Lundy and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  James Gladstone and Christy Lundy maintain accounts on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  You can read more about this space flight and hear an audio message from the astronauts at NASA.  

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher and read about the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. 

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