Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon

by Suzanne Slade (Author) Thomas Gonzalez (Illustrator)

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
Powerful free verse and stunning illustrations tell the true story of the American effort to land the first man on the Moon. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would try to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. During the two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine days that followed his speech, eighteen astronauts climbed into spaceships; three of them died before even leaving the ground. Eight rockets soared into space. And four hundred thousand people--engineers, technicians, scientists, mathematicians, and machinists--joined Project Apollo in hopes of making the dream a reality. Award-winning author and former mechanical engineer Suzanne Slade joins up with New York Times best-selling illustrator Thomas Gonzalez to tell the powerful story of the successes, failures, triumphs, tragedies, and lessons learned from Apollos 1 through 10 that led to the first Moon landing.

Kirkus Reviews

A handsomely packaged look back at an epochal achievement. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, bibliography, sources, index) (Nonfiction/poetry. 10-13)

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

"At first/ it's only a dream--/ an ambitious, outrageous idea." This account of NASA's first Apollo missions marries a captivating free-verse narrative with lifelike illustrations as it takes readers through the 2,979 days from President Kennedy's moonwalk announcement to Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind." Gonzalez (Seven and a Half Tons of Steel) extends the realistic precision and lyrical imagery offered in words by Slade (Astronaut Annie) with vivid mixed-media illustrations that stun with photographic realism and varied perspectives, from a close-up of an astronaut's gloved hand to expansive, breathtaking scenes of Earth from afar. A spread of statistical recaps of each mission and its astronauts further complement the lyrical lines, along with several full-color NASA archival photographs. Addendums offer an Apollo 11 postscript and a glimpse into the jobs required for the Apollo program. (Women and people of color, as per history, aren't abundant in this account of U.S. astronauts.) Launched in advance of next year's 50th anniversary of the first moon walk, this well-researched title offers a stirring introduction to one of humankind's most impressive undertakings. Ages 10-14. Author's agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up--This stunning book accurately details the U.S. space race to the moon and the very real dangers and pitfalls that accompanied it. Slade's carefully crafted, often alliterative text, written in free verse, is both succinct and readable, drawing this large topic down to the most necessary and interesting facts with enough detail to excite young teens as well as adults who may have lived through the missions. Gonzalez states in a note that his goal was "to create the illusion of being there," and indeed he has, from the science fiction-looking cover, which shows the moon's glowing reflection on an astronaut's helmet, to the lifelike portraits of the astronauts in pastels, watercolor, colored pencil, and airbrush. The text emphasizes the short amount of time it took for the program to succeed, from the first ill-fated mission in January, 1967, to Apollo 11 in July, 1969, that carried two men to the moon. VERDICT Truly out of this world. A must-buy for most poetry collections.--Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"A grand—if, so many years later, nostalgic—tale about a magnificent effort. A handsomely packaged look back at an epochal achievement."
Suzanne Slade
Suzanne Slade is the author of over 150 children's books, including Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, a Sibert Honor book; and Swish! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, a Junior Library Guild book. An engineer by training, she worked on rockets and cars before beginning her writing career.

Edwin Fotheringham is the award-winning illustrator of many picture book biographies, including Eleanor Makes Her Mark, Full of Beans, Blue Grass Boy, What to Do About Alice?, and Those Rebels, John & Tom. He is also the illustrator of the Tony Baloney series by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Illustrator website
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Peachtree Publishers
Publication date
September 20, 2018

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