"A captivating story about family's enduring bonds." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties.
Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn't understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA's first female shuttle commander, but feels like she's disappearing.
The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project--they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.
Newbery Award-winner Kelly (Hello, Universe) follows three Delaware siblings in the weeks leading up to the January 1986 launch of the Challenger. Practical, schematics-interested Bird, 12, dreams of being NASA's "first female shuttle commander." Her twin, Fitch, who battles a temper, spends his afternoons at the arcade, waiting until the last minute to head home to their quarreling, sometimes volatile parents. After Cash, the twins' brooding 13-year-old brother, fails seventh grade, winds up in his siblings' grade, and is dropped from the basketball team, he breaks his wrist and ends up in a cast. Meanwhile, their science teacher endeavors to build her students' excitement for NASA's Challenger launch--and for a female teacher heading into space. But January 1986 is difficult for them all: Bird's feelings of insignificance and Cash's feelings of inadequacy grow, while Fitch is suspended for belittling a classmate in language similar to his fighting parents'. As Kelly's chapters count down to the Challenger's disastrous launch, they document a family in crisis and three untethered siblings. With painfully accurate insight and clarity, Kelly shows the incredible power of words--the irreparable damage they inflict and their ability to uplift--while crafting a captivating story about family's enduring bonds. Ages 8-12. (May)Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 4-6--It's January 1986, and siblings Bird, Fitch, and Cash's seventh grade science classes are anticipating the Challenger shuttle launch at the end of the month. Twins Bird and Fitch are now in the same grade as their older brother Cash, who is repeating the year. Cash's grades are poor, Fitch can't control his temper, and Bird dreams of becoming an astronaut, but her mother only talks to her about dieting. All three siblings sink into separate coping mechanisms when their parents' daily bickering inevitably erupts into fights. Entrada Kelly tells the story through each sibling's viewpoint in distinct and engaging voices, giving readers a choice of characters to relate to. The Nelson-Thomas family is white, Bird's friend Devonte is African American, and teacher Ms. Salonga has a Filipina surname. Entrada Kelly creates a vivid historical setting by being selective with 1980s details and highlighting elements with high kid appeal, such as arcade games and popular TV shows. There is similar restraint in recounting the Challenger explosion, depicted only by its effect on the characters rather than used gratuitously to complete a dramatic arc. There is no forced march towards a resolution, and the book simply ends with a greater resilience on the part of Cash, Fitch and Bird, along with an awareness that, by joining forces, they have the power to form the family they want themselves. VERDICT Lyrical but direct writing, relatable characters, and an engaging 1980s setting give this thoughtful read high appeal for middle grade readers.--Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public LibraryCopyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.