By now we should be living in colonies on Mars and still using computers that take up a whole room: futurologists have a talent for getting things spectacularly wrong, but their predictions express the human ability to dream and transcend its limitations and conditions: we dream of reaching for the stars - and humans actually walked on the Moon. It's hard to believe that first landing happened forty years ago!
The space race (and its effects) was perhaps the most exciting and - dare I say - positive aspect of the Cold War, and the Moon landing was undoubtedly its culmination. Stewart Ross' book commemorates the 40th anniversary of that achievement with an attractive book that tells the story of the Apollo programme but also provides facts about the Moon itself, the scientific milestones in our understanding of it and explores cultural meanings, metaphors, myths and superstitions associated with the Moon in a variety of human cultures.
Moon is a good example of a popular type of a reference book for young readers: very handsomely produced, with an excellent selection of images and short, informative and often entertaining text providing a mixture of genuine knowledge, amusing anecdote and catchy factoids.
They are a bit like a coffee table books, but smaller and more physically readable, and if the behaviour of my eight year old is anything to go by, they actually get read.
Moon works fine as an example of this formula, although I am not entirely convinced by its hodgepodge format. The book is composed of over fifty short units (double-page spreads) that combine to tell the story of the Moon landing in its cultural and scientific framework. Each unit is marked as belonging to the 'Moon Landing', 'Moon Facts' or 'Moon Struck' category, but they come in what seems like semi-random order (though the 'Moon Landing' thread is largely chronological). The overall effect is of a book trying hard to resemble a website - but you can't click on and skip as easily. This makes Moon a work to dip in and read snippets from rather than one to read continuously, although fits well with its commemorative character.
Moon would be a good present for a science or technology struck pre-teen and younger teenagers, especially with nostalgic parents; while the 'Moonstruck' sections might encourage them to explore the arty side of the subject too. It's a keepsake book, so there isn't that much point in borrowing it.
Publisher: Scolastic Reference April 2009
This review has been originally written for The Book Bag.