My Journey to the Stars

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
My Journey to the Stars Book Poster Image
Exciting memoir rockets future astronauts to space.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Info about NASA and space missions on Discovery, Endeavor, International Space Station. Hubble Space Telescope. Mercury Seven were first NASA astronauts, featured in book The Right Stuff.  NASA's next big mission is to send astronauts to Mars. Importance of twins for testing effects of space travel. No gravity on ISS. 400 lab experiments performed on ISS, included growing plants. Photos of Earth from space.

Positive Messages

Books can inspire you and change your life for the better. "Your problems can become your strengths." If you have a big dream, small steps can make it come true. Concrete example of writing steps for a plan. It's important to protect our beautiful planet.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kelly overcame youthful challenges, turning each into a positive. Because his parents fought loudly, he became a peacemaker. Though he wasn't a good student, he eventually got a dream and worked step by step to make it happen. He took risks and pushed himself to aim high. Though he was a squirmy student who "couldn't sit still" and "couldn't listen to the teacher," his principal believed in and encouraged him.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My Journey to the Stars is a picture book autobiography by Scott Kelly, the first NASA astronaut to spend nearly a year in space on the International Space Station. (His adult memoir, Endurance, came out the same day.) There's a lot for kids to absorb and latch on to. Memories of Kelly's early years illustrate that life doesn't have to be smooth: Kelly was a distracted, "terrible" student, his twin brother Mark was hit by a car, and his parents fought and divorced. (Parents may recognize the name of Mark Kelly, who became an astronaut, too, and wrote the children's books Mousetronaut and Astrotwins.) Scott Kelly's journey feels very adventurous, and the segments about his NASA career give kids lots of opportunities to geek out and blast off on this wild astronaut ride.

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What's the story?

MY JOURNEY TO THE STARS, a memoir by astronaut Scott Kelly, begins when he's on his way home after spending a year on the International Space Station, then veers back to his childhood years in New Jersey. He has an identical twin, Mark, who also became an astronaut, which becomes significant in their careers. A "terrible" student, Kelly was inspired when he happened upon the book The Right Stuff about the first NASA astronauts. "That book changed my life forever," since having a dream gave Kelly something concrete to work for. A stint in the Navy as a jet pilot led to his career at NASA and his yearlong mission on the ISS, conducting space-age experiments in its lab.

Is it any good?

Scott Kelly describes his descent back to Earth after a year in space as a "wild ride," and in this exciting autobiography, readers ride along and learn about his inspiring career with NASA. Since the book spans childhood through his time as an astronaut, there's a lot for kids to relate to. Kelly offers personal information that might not at first seem pertinent to his career -- his parents fought loudly and divorced -- but then he talks very concretely about how he managed to turn negatives into positives. He frankly admits he was a terrible student who couldn't sit still, until he got a dream and was able to make a step-by-step plan to achieve it -- info that could be encouraging and useful for kids who struggle academically. Throughout, he urges readers to take risks and push themselves to aim high.

The book's also chock-full of science information, easy to digest in the personal memoir format. It touches on space missions, gravity, the effects of a prolonged space stay, research that utilizes twins, growing plants in space, and lots more. The art, heavy on photographs, is supplemented with illustration. All in all, this is a solid book on a topic of strong interest to lots of kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the life lessons in My Journey to the Stars. Kelly had a lot of bumps in his early years, but turned them to his advantage. Can you relate to any of his challenges? Are there ways you can put his positive advice to use?

  • Kelly was inspired by the book The Right Stuff. Are there books that inspire you? Have you read any books that give you ideas for work you might like to do?

  • Why was NASA interested in testing both Scott Kelly and his twin, Mark? How would information about identical twins help them learn about life in space?

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