One Small Step



Absurd premise yields a thrilling story.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though the main character is full of admirable qualities, he lies to his mother, aided by his father and the government.


An fatal airplane accident, another with injury.


References to having sex, multiple references to Playboy magazine, a discussion of women wearing miniskirts so that men can see their underwear, mention of condoms.


A fair bit of mild swearing: "g-ddamn," "nuts," "dick," "assholes," one use of "s--t."


Car, lawn mower, soda brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens and adults smoke and young teens drink beer.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, though the publisher lists this book for ages 8 and up, and the story certainly seems meant for that age, there are numerous sexual references, and more swearing than you'd expect in a book aimed at middle elementary-aged kids. Also, a boy is encouraged and aided in lying to his mother by his father and by government agents, including the president.

What's the story?

In the late '60s, Scott's father is an Air Force flight trainer in Texas. He teaches Scott to fly in a private plane, but then, against the rules, also teaches him to fly fighter jets. When Scott's father is knocked out in an in-flight accident and Scott lands the plane, NASA takes notice. They have a secret program that precedes each of the manned rocket launches with a scaled down test flight using chimps. Before the moon landing, one of their highly trained chimps wigs out, and they enlist Scott to train to fly to the moon and back with two other chimps. Includes Author's Note.

Is it any good?


OK, granted, there's a huge suspension of disbelief to get over with this book. NASA secretly sending a boy and two chimps to land on the moon before Apollo 11 has to be one of the most absurd premises ever. The author compounds this with references to possible UFOs, a mystical encounter in the last part of the story, and an Author's Note that claims much of the Apollo program is "still shrouded in secrecy" and that no one really knows when the chimp program was discontinued. Even fans of Tom Swift may have to take a deep breath before swallowing all of that.

And yet ... take the leap, and you'll find an immensely enjoyable, exciting, engrossing story, the stuff of hours of childhood fantasy. Scott and the chimps are appealing characters, and the details are as grounded in scientific and historical reality as the premise is not. Scott is a boy's boy in the '50s series-book mold: stalwart, vastly competent and levelheaded, openhearted, and calmly willing to defy adult authority to do things his way, outwitting them at every turn. This is nearly perfect summer reading -- ridiculous escapism at its purest.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the mysteries about the space program raised in the Author's Note. The premise of the book seems ridiculous, but the secrets encourage speculation. Why might the government still be keeping secrets so many years later? What do you think really happened? What could they be hiding? Do you think anything like this story is even remotely possible?

Book details

Author:P. B. Kerr
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:June 1, 2008
Number of pages:309
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 14
Read aloud:11
Read alone:11

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bynon-bully102301 November 4, 2012

Very Bad

Gosh this book is so bad for kids!!!!!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written May 22, 2010

Children's story, teen theme

Great story, not so much about the concept. Scott talks in his head to a entity (presumably God) on the far side of the moon, and a lot of self-reflection is done. The "far-side of the moon scene" explores some very mature ideas about humanity, self, and empathy that may be too much for younger children to handle, or just completely go over their heads. If you think your child can handle it, I would buy this book. The far side of the moon scene is extremely thought-inducing and interesting.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great messages


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