GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.
See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.
Guest Post by Suzanne Slade
Nearly 50 years ago astronauts landed on the moon for the first
I still can’t believe humans achieved this monumental feat!
Growing up, my understanding of the first landing was rather
simple: Apollo 11 landed and Neil Armstrong took man’s first step on the moon.
As an adult, I was surprised to discover that the earlier Apollo missions
(1-10) faced many little-known trials and tragedies. (Did you know the Apollo 1
astronauts died on the launchpad during a test?)
50th Anniversary of First Moon Landing
About 9 years ago I decided to create a special book for the
50th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 2019). One that shared Team
Apollo’s remarkable ingenuity and bravery, as well as their surprises and
setbacks. As a mechanical engineer who used to worked on rockets, I knew
writing about spacecraft, flight trajectories, and mission details would entail
a lot research. Just like the precise moon missions, there was no room for
error. So I dug in. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know!
In September 2018, COUNTDOWN:
2979 DAYS TO THE MOON (illustrated by NYT best-selling illustrator Thomas
Gonzalez) released. It shares the incredible 2979 days leading up to the first
moon landing—from President Kennedy’s 1961 announcement that America should
land on the moon, to Armstrong’s first step on the moon.
Ironically, this book took me
about 2979 days (8.2 years).
Timeline of Writing COUNTDOWN
For those who like the “inside
scoop,” here’s a brief timeline of that process.
Day 1: On November 20, 2009 I began research for COUNTDOWN
with astronaut autobiographies, reliable books, and NASA websites.
Day 44: Dove into the Apollo mission transcripts (Apollo Flight Journal and Apollo Lunar Surface Journal). Read the astronauts’ own words as
they worked and joked together. (Did you know the astronauts called each other
“Babe?” Ah, the groovy 60s!)
Day 198: Began studying the mesmerizing
photos in the Apollo image gallery.
contains 52 phenomenal Apollo pictures.)
Day 370: Completed a detailed story outline.
Day 685: Visited Chicago Adler Planetarium “Mission Moon”
exhibit and examined Apollo module, spacesuits, helmets, a moon rock, and more.
Day 1485: Awesome day! Interviewed astronaut
Alan Bean (4th man on the moon). He discussed how he became an astronaut, his
harrowing Apollo 12 launch (his rocket was hit by lightening twice!), and his
one regret—he wished he’d smuggled a football to the moon and thrown the
longest pass in the universe.
Day 1500: Exchanged emails with Apollo 7 astronaut, Walt
Day 1660: Finally began first draft. The first
lines came out in short, lyrical lines or free verse. The voice felt right for
the immediacy and tension of the story, so I went with it.
Day 1850: Shared manuscript with critique
friends. They provided feedback on various versions over the next two years.
Day 2111: Made list of “echo words” that
appeared in the story often (“spacecraft,” “small,” “powerful”)
and replaced many with other words.
Day 2510: Peachtree Publishers acquired the
project. (Happy dance!)
Day 2630: Sent my 51-page Sources Doc with sources
for all facts to illustrator Tom Gonzalez, who’d signed onto the project.
(Another happy dance!)
Day 2766: Tom Gonzalez emailed about Apollo 8
details. As the project continued, we chatted many times about Schirra’s beard,
Schweickart’s spacewalk, gloves, and other tedious details.
Day 2874: PDF of Tom’s first sketches arrived.
Over time, I reviewed several rounds of sketches/art for technical accuracy.
Day 2920: Dr. Dave Williams from NASA agreed
to vet the story. Over the next year we exchanged dozens of emails. Dave sent
an audio recording of the final transmission of the Apollo 1 crew which allowed
the book to accurately share their last words.
Worked 60+ hour weeks on final edits and fact checking.
yet exciting to see the book coming together so beautifully.
Day 2979: After 8+ years on the project, I
submitted last edits January 15, 2018.
144-page book was going to the printer. Whew!
out of this world. A must-buy for most poetry collections.” — STARRED
Review, School Library Journal
Free Resources for COUNTDOWN
COUNTDOWN Book Trailer
COUNTDOWN Teacher’s Guide
If you attend the NSTA
National April Conference in St. Louis, I’d love to see you at the
“Conversations with Authors” session Friday afternoon. Also, please stop by to
see me Saturday 10:00-11:00am in the autograph area for a free “Astronaut
(*You in an astronaut suit
soaring through space!)
More great “space” resources:
Time from Space – Videos of astronauts reading books on the International
Space Station. My book, ASTRONAUT ANNIE, is blasting off on the next resupply
rocket and will be read by an astronaut on the ISS!
NASA TV – Live
transmission of astronauts working on the International Space Station.
Kids’ Club – Exciting games, crafts, and activities for
Click “Find Out Who Is on the Space Station” link to see who’s on the Space Station now.
the Station – Input your location to see when the
International Space Station will be passing over your town.
NASA Teach – Awesome rockets activities for grades K-12.
Slade is the award-winning author of more than 100 children’s books. A mechanical
engineer by degree who worked on Delta rockets, she often writes about STEM
topics. Along with Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, other recent titles include: Daring
Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon, A Computer Called Katherine:
How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, Astronaut Annie, The
Inventor’s Secret, and Dangerous Jane. Free Teacher’s Guides for
these books and more at www.suzanneslade.com. @AuthorSSlade