Astrotwins — Project Blastoff: Astrotwins, Book 1
By Darienne Stewart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Serious science, engaging tale for space-loving kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Science-packed story deftly explains concepts in physics and introduces readers to some of the biggest names in the history of science and technology, including Newton, Einstein, Goddard, de Laval, and Moore. Pays homage to some of the dramatic moments in U.S. space exploration. Author’s note explains why the fictional rocket project couldn’t be done (yet!) in real life. Glossary and bibliography explain scientific terms and offer more to explore.
Great message about working cooperatively and setting the team's goal ahead of personal ambition. Kids are empathetic and self-aware, cognizant of their shortcomings and strengths. A training simulation at an amusement park teaches very important lessons about the importance of leadership, teamwork, patience, respect, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.
Positive Role Models
Mark, Scott, and their friends remain focused and thorough. They recruit other kids who can bring specific skills and expertise. Lots of adults support the kids' interest, supplying materials, tools, useful connections, and time and freedom. The children break a great many laws with their project and suffer some consequences.
Products & Purchases
Pop-culture references firmly place the story in a '70s childhood: Star Trek, Jaws, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, the video game Pong, Schwinn Stingray bikes, and Ford vehicles including Country Squire wagon, Falcon, and Model A.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Astrotwins -- Project Blastoff is essentially a primer on rocketry and NASA's space program. Written by retired astronaut Mark Kelly (Mousetronaut and Mousetronaut Goes to Mars), it's rooted in his memories of growing up with his twin brother, fellow astronaut Scott Kelly, in New Jersey. The scientific material is rich and deep, and children who are keenly interested in space exploration will revel in the patient, detailed explanations. There's nothing eyebrow-raising here, but we nudge it just above the publisher's recommendation for age 8 and older because much of the science would sail over the head of a typical 8-year-old.
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What's the Story?
Eleven-year-old twins Mark and Scott Kelly keep getting into mischief, from dismantling a calculator to scrapping with each other. When their grandfather suggests they try doing something constructive for a change, they seize upon the idea of building a spaceship. They soon recruit their smart new friend, Egg, who hopes to win her school's science fair, and a handful of friends. Secretly, the kids put in long hours at the library, in the workshop, and even at an amusement park learning about physics and space flight and secretly assembling a rocket. They work well as a team -- until it comes time to decide which one will get to try orbiting the Earth.
Is It Any Good?
ASTROTWINS -- PROJECT BLASTOFF successfully launches an engaging series that challenges kids to consider sophisticated scientific concepts. Packaged as a kids' adventure story, it makes science relatable and fun (thought it's very thin on plausibility). Kids who are familiar with the Kelly twins -- who have become especially well-known for their involvement in research for long-term space exploration -- will appreciate the many autobiographical touches.
There's a lot of information to absorb, and some readers will skip right over the chunks of dry, textbook-like dialogue. But aspiring astronauts and anyone who marvels at the stars will enjoy the spirit of adventure of ambition. Better yet, it just might inspire some kids to turn off a screen and go build something on their own.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the children's hard work, done mostly in secret. Have you ever worked on something intense and absorbing on your own or with friends?
With no TV at Grandpa's -- and no Internet or video games in 1975 -- the kids rely on the library and family and friends to gather resources and know-how. How would the story be different if it took place today?
Explore more of the science and history referenced in the story, perhaps using NASA App or going online to NASA's Space Place.
- Authors: Mark Kelly, Martha Freeman
- Genre: Science
- Topics: STEM, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: March 24, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 224
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 2, 2022
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