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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


Moonshot was brought up a few times in our discussions of  short texts that could be Newbery worthy. As commenters like Monica and Wendy have pointed out, the poetic text is full of great imagery and sound.  "High above / there is the Moon, / cold and quiet, / no air, no life, / but glowing in the sky. // Here below / there are three men / who close themselves in special clothes / who-click-lock hands / in heavy gloves…"   Make sure to read it aloud to get the homophones and near rhymes that make it so delightful. 

The rhythm isn’t fully sustained…in fact, it’s a rather longer text than the brevity of the opening would suggest.  But the voice (and there is one, even though it’s informational…think of an omniscent narrator on Sesame Street) is always conscious of its delivery, and focuses on details that will engage its audience: "it takes some skill to eat a meal. / That ham salad sandwich? Watch the crumbs! / Soup? It comes in a bag, dry as dust. / Fix the bag to the water gun, fill it, mix it, stir it up. / Cream of chicken–not too bad! / (Better than the peanut cubes.)"

"Interpretation of the theme or concept," "Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization," "Appropriatness of style,"…this does pretty well on all marks pertinent to it, even "Development of a plot" and "Delineation of setting" as Floca evokes the tension and excitement of viewers on Earth watching the first moon landing. 

I’m not sure that this would rise to the top of my list of Newbery contenders, but it does make a fascinating exercise, and I’d be curious to hear a little more from Monica or others who’ve read it to kids.  In my mind it almost bears better comparison to Marilyn Nelson’s Sweethearts of Rhythm for what it attempts to do, than to other picture book texts.

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I do think this is a book that several committees will be looking at, but I think it’s a much better bet for Caldecott–Is there a more striking spread this past year than the liftoff scene?–than Newbery or Sibert. My lackluster response to both the text of the book and the presentation of the information probably serves to underscore that it is just as hard to build consensus around picture books as it is around novel, because of the diversity of reader responses. I have this book waiting at me for the public library and I should probably look at it again before I brashly proceed to stick my foot in my mouth.

  2. It’s funny you say that, Jonathan, because while I was probably making something of a conscious effort to look only at the text of this book, I wasn’t really that impressed with the illustrations and was surprised to find out that Floca is primarily an illustrator (as I understand, anyway). I need to have a copy in front of me before I comment in detail on the text. I wasn’t as interested in the poetry/rhythm aspect as Monica and Nina (not saying it wasn’t good, just wasn’t a particular draw for me), but I thought all the necessary Newbery criteria were distinguished. More later.

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    My branch was closed yesterday for Veterans Day and they are closed today, too, so it will probably be Friday or Saturday before I can pick up the book and look at it from a Newbery perspective, but in the meantime I will share with you my initial response to the book when I read it several times months ago.

    While I did find the illustrations striking, I thought the text was merely pedestrian. The free verse poetry didn’t work for me, as I found the present tense narration a bit too cloying. It contributes to the overal tone of the book. One of the DUNDERHEADS reviews mentioned that you could almost hear the Pink Panther theme in the background, and for this book I heard “The Star Spangled Banner” crossed with “2001: A Space Odyssey” so that perfectly explains my earlier “lofty grandeur” comment that Monica questioned. This tone is very consistent throughout the book in both pictures and text, but it is very one-note, and I think the actual events may belie it. If you read the end pages (and MISSION CONTROL, THIS IS APOLLO) then you will know that there were moments of very tense drama in that flight–and none of them are captured in the main section of the book, and that borders on misleading. I disliked the fact that there was so much text on every page, and I wished that sometimes the illustrations could have carried the book. We were never given the opportunity to imbibe in the majestic space scenes alone. I didn’t like the presentation of information, either. It seemed like most of it was shoehorned into the end pages where it wasn’t explained very well. The most iconic primary source quote from this episode–“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”–is curiously absent from the text. It seems like the perfect nonfiction picture book for people who don’t like nonfiction. Is it really better than THE DAY GLO BROTHERS, JOHN BROWN, BAD NEWS FOR OUTLAWS, SO YOU NEVER HEARD OF SANDY KOUFAX!?, and REDWOODS? Hmmm.

    So there you have it. My pure unadulterated naked pettiness on display for all the world to see. It’s obvious this book was a labor of love for Floca, and I feel somewhat uncomfortable having a negative reaction so publicly, but I expect the Monica Edingers and Betsy Birds of the world to leap to its defense shortly. And, of course, these are my knee-jerk reactions, and I could change my mind on any of these points on further consideration. I’ll weigh in again in a couple days . . .

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Okay . . . well, I *thought* people would leap to its defense based on what I read both here and in the blogosphere . . .

    Like nearly all picture books we’ll discuss, the setting is carried by the pictures although there is support in the text.

    While Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong are the main characters here, there is virtually no characterization or character development in them, but that’s okay by me, because this is another plot-driven picture book.

    It’s all about the flight of the Apollo 11, as the subtitle announces. And this text provides a basic overview of that flight with additional information in the notes and further resources to explore.

    The gentle free verse poetry captures many of the sensory experiences of the trip, particularly with metaphors, similies, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and repetition. The first person narration does communicate a sense of immediacy as well as anticipation.

    The theme of exploration, of accomplishing something so far-reaching and otherworldly is captured very nicely indeed.

    I can recognize my previous quibbles as my being my own personal hang-ups just as much as they might be flaws in the book. However, that doesn’t make it any easier for me to put this in my top three. I still like THE DUNDERHEADS better and I’m still mulling some of the nonfiction picture book texts I mentioned earlier.

    Nevertheless, I do think this deserves to be in the conversation and I’m happy that people have brought it up. The text does have that Is-it-poetry-or-not? quality that reminds me of SHOW WAY, and that can only be a good thing, right?

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