Apollo 13: A Successful Failure

Lerner/Twenty-First Century. Mar. 2020. 136p. Tr $37.32. ISBN 9781541559004.
Gr 5-8–The survival of the three astronauts on the Apollo 13 seemed impossible. After an explosion and a series of mechanical failures, the astronauts and their mission control team in Houston had to scramble to provide water, food, breathable air, and temperature control aboard the dying ship. This gripping middle grade book describes the harrowing journey and tenacious survival of the Apollo 13 crew and explains what was learned from this “successful failure.” Edge provides a highly readable account of what the astronauts experienced, an age-appropriate contextualization of the Cold War, and sensitive treatment of the marginalized role of women and people of color in the history of space travel. What it does not offer is a clear, scientific description of how spaceships work and why they fail. Aerospace terms are added in a way that could be confusing to readers, but the overall narrative does not suffer for it. While the text doesn’t delve into the technical STEM aspects of space travel, it does encourage contemplation about the persistence, quick thinking, and creative problem solving required by STEM careers.
VERDICT An engaging space survival story that has the potential to turn middle grade science fiction/adventure fans into nonfiction readers. Could be used as a longer read-aloud to accompany a science unit.

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