It's still hard to comprehend humans walked on that glowing globe we watch shift and change in size and shape over the course of 29.5 days each cycle. With the anniversary approaching this summer, The First Men Who Went To The Moon (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2019) written by Rhonda Gowler Greene with illustrations by Scott Brundage is a commemoration of the space program's commitment and accomplishments and human perseverance. Using verse, facts and stunning watercolor paintings, these collaborators recreate all the wonder of this monumental event.
These are the first men who went to the Moon.
Lunar Module Pilot
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin
Command Module Pilot
On July 16, 1969 the Saturn V launch vehicle lifted off at Cape Kennedy, Florida carrying Apollo 11 to the moon. With large portions of Earth covered by water, the astronauts saw it as a blue planet. In four days, the moon was reached. The moon is unable to sustain life.
On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left Columbia traveling in the Lunar Module Eagle. Once they reached the surface of the moon, Commander Armstrong uttered the now famous words,
the Eagle has landed.
First Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin stepped into the Sea of Tranquility. Many years earlier astronomers thought this area looked like water, hence the name it has today. Together the men performed scientific tasks and gathered specimens. They planted an American flag there.
Rest, the release of the Eagle to land back on the moon (unmanned) and the return flight home allowed the three astronauts in Columbia to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. They were picked up and flown by helicopter to the USS Hornet. By the middle of August thousands gathered in parades in New York City and Chicago to cheer these brave men and their achievements.
Using a premise like the cumulative nursery rhyme This Is the House That Jack Built, author Rhonda Gowler Greene introduces us to the astronauts just prior to lift-off. During each portion of the narrative she only refers to the most recent statement until the end. She then joins all her poetic lines together bringing us back to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. It is a pleasing, rhythmic, rhyming cadence capturing the wonder of those days when the entire world was watching. Facts, in smaller text, accompany each poetic portion. Here are two poetic passages.
This is Earth with oceans blue
and swirls of clouds, a breathtaking view,
seen from the spacecraft, Apollo 11.
This is the Moon, a mysterious place,
a desolate land in the darkness of space,
far from Earth with oceans blue.
A rich, deep black provides a canvas for the matching and open dust jacket and book case. On the front of the two, Neil Armstrong is planting the American flag as Buzz Aldrin works near the Eagle. The angle of this scene with Earth in the upper right-hand corner gives readers a feel for how it was to be there. Notice the reflection in the glass of Armstrong's helmet. It's interesting to see the size of the footprints increase as they move to the lower edge. To the left, on the back, commentary about the book is given by Harrison H. Schmitt, PhD, Apollo 17 Astronaut and Geologist.
The opening and closing endpapers are a crisp, clean white. On the title page artist Scott Brundage gives us a view of the moon after the astronauts have left. The flag is placed next to the Eagle. Each image, rendered in watercolor, across two pages is so realistic you expect the scene to come to life.
Scott Brundage alters his point of view to accentuate the lyrical lines. We are given a panoramic view of the lift-off, people in the foreground and the entire setting framed by palm trees. Billowing clouds of smoke and glowing flames are seen as the Saturn V launch vehicle blazes into the sky. With a page turn, it's as if we are inside the capsule, close and intimate, and looking out the window at the blue planet. The views of space throughout are breathtaking.
One of my many favorite illustrations is toward the end. We have zoomed in to the surface of the moon. Footprints moving from left to right fashion a pattern. In the center of this pattern on the far right, the lower portion of the flag pole is shown. It enhances this line:
when they stepped from the Eagle that set men down
to walk the dust of lunar ground
The blend of poetry, information and watercolor images in The First Men Who Went To The Moon written by Rhonda Gowler Greene with illustrations by Scott Brundage gives readers a wondrous introduction to this unprecedented happening. President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge in 1961 and it was met. At the close of the book are two pages of further facts, photographs, sources and other books for readers. This would be a welcome addition to your professional shelves and your personal collection if you are a space enthusiast.
To learn more about Rhonda Gowler Greene and Scott Brundage and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Rhonda Gowler Greene maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Scott Brundage has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view interior pages. Rhonda Gowler Greene is interviewed at The Mitten, The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Michigan Chapter Blog.
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the books selected this week by others participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.