Astrotwins -- Project Rescue: Astrotwins, Book 2

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Astrotwins -- Project Rescue: Astrotwins, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Real science, wild plot likely to thrill avid space buffs.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of in-depth science, including examples of key terms and concepts in physics and trigonometry. Informed peek into U.S. and Soviet-era space programs, with clear explanations of essentials of space flight. Historical context includes discussion of Cold War politics and American attitudes, détente, and several historically important figures. Author's note, glossary, and source list help distinguish fact from fiction and expand on scientific terms used in the story.

Positive Messages

Strong emphasis on teamwork, setting collective goals ahead of personal interests, and helping people in need. Preparation is key to success. Compassion transcends political and philosophical disagreements.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite some normal sibling squabbles, Mark and Scott are devoted to each other, their family, and their friends. Many of the adults around them support their efforts to help NASA, but the team of kids ultimately hides its intentions from most of the adults. The children recognize and capitalize on each other's expertise and talent.

Violence

Friends fear for safety of child who secretly travels into Soviet Union amid high Cold War tensions.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Plentiful pop-culture references to anchor the '70s childhood setting, including TV shows, cereals, and cars.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Nervous young adult smokes a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Astrotwins -- Project Rescue blends hard science and historical events with fiction for a wild tale that will delight kids interested in space travel. It's the second Astrotwins book by retired astronaut Mark Kelly (of the Mousetronaut picture books), who draws on his childhood with his twin brother and astronaut Scott Kelly and their shared experience with NASA. The Cold War backdrop sets the stage for discussion of American attitudes toward communism and moral obligations to help people in need. We recommend this series for a slightly older audience than the publisher's recommendation for age 8 and up because the science and writing style are ambitious for most 8-year-olds.

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What's the story?

It's only been five months since twins Mark and Scott Kelly built a rocket with their friends, sending Scott into orbit. But the sixth-graders are bored and restless, eager for another chance to try space travel. They think they'll get their chance when they hear news that a Russian cosmonaut is stranded in a space station with few options for rescue. The U.S. government -- at odds with the Soviets amid the Cold War -- fails to launch a rescue effort, so the twins and their smart friends take it upon themselves to try to help. Lucky for them, they've got a rocket ready to go at a small NASA launch site. But meeting up with another spacecraft in orbit and bringing the cosmonaut will take major science know-how, calm nerves, and a lot of luck.

Is it any good?

This Cold War-era rescue drama offers a sophisticated lesson on physics and space travel in the second book in astronaut Mark Kelly's ambitious series about a group of smart, adventurous kids. ASTROTWINS -- PROJECT RESCUE is packed with fascinating information about the U.S. and Soviet space programs and clear explanations of the science behind them.

The storytelling gets a little bumpier in this sequel, with less attention to character development and a far-fetched plot readers might find hard to fully buy into. This time around, the sixth-graders (and their families) expect NASA to recruit them for a risky mission, and Senator John Glenn helps a child secretly travel to a Soviet base. The kids end up commandeering a craft conveniently in place at a completely unmanned secret NASA site. Still, patient readers with an appreciation for science and a sense of adventure will enjoy the ride.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the blending of fact and fiction in this story. Does mingling real characters and events with made-up ones make the history more enjoyable to learn, or is it confusing?

  • What do you enjoy most about this story: the science, the history, or the adventure?

  • Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone you didn't know or trust? If so, why?

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