We Dream of Space

By Erin Entrada Kelly

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I suggest: 5th grade through 9th grade

spaceI am a sucker for all things space related. I wanted to attend space camp as a sixth grader, and although I never got the opportunity to go, the idea of being an astronaut always lived in the back of my mind.

In We Dream of Space, the author takes us back to the Challenger disaster–but the book is not about that sad event, specifically. Instead, the book features a family in crisis. The three seventh graders (a set of twins and an older brother who was held back) come to terms with the hurdles in their own lives. One of them is following the launch of the Challenger with great excitement, hoping to one day be the first woman shuttle commander.

Although only five at the time, I remember the Challenger tragedy. In fact, the picture of the crew and the explanation that they “didn’t make it” remains one of my earliest memories. I was blessed to grow up in a home that is different from that of the siblings in We Dream of Space. However, the story stuck with me. I highly recommend reading this book with you middle schooler–it may open conversations you didn’t know you were missing.

Here’s the description from the publisher:

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.

Told in three alternating points of view, We Dream of Space is an unforgettable and thematically rich novel for middle grade readers.

We Dream of Space is illustrated throughout by the author.

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