Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Night to Remember: The Moon over Star by Diana Hutts Astor

July 20, 2009, will be the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight which resulted in humankind's first landing on our moon. All of us who were old enough to be aware of that epic event have our own personal memories of where we were and who we were with as we watched that "one small step" for man together. In her The Moon Over Star (Dial, 2008), author Diane Aston and Caldecott artist Jerry Pinkney combine their talents to capture that moment for today's children.

For eight-year-old Mae, the excitement begins at church that morning in the little town of Star, as the pastor prays for the astronauts about to attempt their historic landing. Back home, the family prepares a picnic while they wait for the television broadcast. Mae and her cousins bring in a huge watermelon and then scamper off to build a pretend spaceship from odds and ends--an old peach basket, cast-off boards and car parts--in which they make their own flight of the imagination.

Only Gramps, a practical old farmer, seems resistant to the rising emotions around him. "Why spend all that money to go to the moon when so many folks are in need right here on Earth?" he grumbles. But the rest of the family gathers together to watch the moon and stars come out and set up a television where they can witness the event together.

Once on a summer's night in 1969, we spread blankets and folding chairs on the edge of the yard.

The television screen flashed with words that gave me goose bumps: LIVE--from the surface of the moon... "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

"I reckon that is something to remember," said Gramps quietly.

"What's mankind?" I asked him. "It's all of us," he finally said. "All of us who've ever lived, all of us still to come."

"Just think, Gramps. If they could go to the moon, maybe one day I could, too."

"Just keep on dreaming, Mae," he said. "Just remember we're here now, together on the prettiest star in the heavens."

The Moon Over Star has earned Jerry Pinkney the 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award.

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