Celebrating Apollo 11's Lunar Landing: 8 Titles for National Moon Day

With the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Neil Armstrong, along with Buzz Aldrin, secured their place in history as the first people to walk on the surface of the moon. These recent nonfiction titles unpack the details of our lunar legacy.

With the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Neil Armstrong, along with Buzz Aldrin, secured their place in history as the first people to walk on the surface of the moon. July 20th commemorates that monumental milestone in 1969. These recent nonfiction titles unpack the details of America's lunar legacy.


Aguilar, David. Luna: The Science and Stories of Our Moon. 64p. index. photos. National Geographic. Jun. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781426333224.
Gr 5-7–National Geographic Kids does it again with a fantastic and comprehensive look at Earth’s only natural satellite. From its creation to myths and legends, to what the future holds for humans and the moon, Aguilar gives an in-depth profile of the moon’s surface and descriptions of important locations explored by astronauts and satellites. Wonderful pictures accompany the explanations of the features, as well as their significance in understanding the moon’s formation and its relationship to Earth. High definition photos and computer animated images on every page make this an amazing title for research for older elementary school students, or for all-ages browsing. Additional activities such as making “moon craters” and tracking the moon’s movement are included along with the index. VERDICT An excellent, extensive, and focused look at the moon, perfect for leisure reading or research.–Thomas Jonte, Pensacola State College, FL

Dempsey, Kristy. Papa Put a Man on the Moon. illus. by Sarah Green. 32p. Dial. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735230743.
PreS-Gr 3–This picture book is a stunning tribute to members of the author’s own family who worked in a textile mill that produced fabric for the Apollo 11 space suits. Told from the perspective of Marthanne, the daughter of a textile worker, this story seamlessly weaves together the excitement of the moon landing with the tale of the people who contributed to the historical event. In contrast to Marthanne’s elevated sense of pride, her father’s humility about his important role in the launch reflects the American spirit of the time period. With its detailed and bold illustrations, this book is sure to appeal to a wide audience, adults included. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for any library, this book has a unique perspective on how every little piece works together to accomplish something great.–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh

redstarLong, David. When We Walked on the Moon: Discover the Dangers, Disasters, and Triumphs of Every Moon Mission. illus. by Sam Kalda. 80p. chron. glossary. Quarto/Wide Eyed Editions. Jun. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781786030924.
Gr 3-6–In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk, Long and Kalda have created a beautiful, engaging narrative that compiles accessible information about the Apollo moon missions, which Long aptly squeezes into 10 short chapters. Additionally, readers will find an epilogue of short astronaut biographies, a glossary, and a time line. Kalda’s entrancing illustrations are the star of the show. Each picture captures the period using simple colors and shapes and incorporates tiny details to complete the picture, such as rivets on the window or creases in a spacesuit. The text and illustrations work together flawlessly, making the complex subject matter easier to digest. One detail that missed the mark is the block quotes, which are already included word for word in the main text. Related mini-facts could replace these as a strong finishing touch. Brian Floca’s Moonshot is a comparable title, but whereas Floca relied on poetic storytelling, Long details the Apollo missions in a prosaic fashion. VERDICT A strong first purchase for any library and a must-have for libraries seeking additions for space exploration collections.–Kristin Unruh, Siersma Elementary School, Warren, MI

Slade, Suzanne. Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon. illus. by Alan Marks. 48p. Charlesbridge. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781580897730.
K-Gr 4–Concise text and stunning watercolor illustrations present information about the Apollo missions that carried twelve American men to the surface of the moon. From Apollo 11 in 1969 to the Apollo 17 mission ending in 1972, each journey is briefly described focusing on its particular astronauts and goals. The artwork effectively reflects the history of space travel laid out in the text, but also adds grace and wonder to the stories of these men who had a rare and significant experience. Thirteen pages of back matter include a note from Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon, plus a timeline and detailed information about each of the space vehicles. Every mission has its own extra page of additional information with personnel, photos, specific dates, total time on the moon, and surface EVA time (extravehicular activity). VERDICT The information about U.S. space travel, coupled with vivid illustrations, will appeal to readers interested in astronauts and the moon. The ample facts and data following the illustrated story make the book effective for a wide range of ages.–Elaine Fultz, ­Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH

Middle to High School

redstarBrouwer, Sigmund. Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11. 128p. index. photos. resources. Kids Can. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781525300363. 
Gr 4-8–An engaging second-person point of view narrative puts readers into the place of the astronauts in this detailed exploration of the triumphs and near-disasters of the Apollo 11 mission and the science and scientists who made it possible. Each of the 11 chapters, or “Episodes,” begins with a four-page section (“Stage One”) that explains what is going through a person’s head as, for instance, they’re sitting in “what is essentially a giant thermos” nine seconds before liftoff, or when a person in the moon lander approaches the moon’s surface at 3,007 mph and the program alarm sounds indicating that the onboard computer has overloaded. Then there is a two-page “Stage Two” that introduces scientists like Wernher von Braun and Isaac Newton, or describes events like a CIA mission that secretly took apart and examined the Soviet Union’s Luna spacecraft in 1959. Finally, the two-page “Stage Three” section reads more like a traditional nonfiction title, informing readers about topics such as gravity, trivia about the Apollo 11 astronauts, and theories about the formation of the moon. This repeating, predictable structure makes the book more accessible to less proficient readers, and the unique narrative structure is captivating. Another fun feature within each chapter is a repeating sidebar that positions an important figure and discovery in STEM history as a mystery to be solved at the conclusion of the chapter. VERDICT A standout title in the crowded field of Apollo 11 celebrations. Highly recommended.–Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library

redstarJohnson, Katherine. Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson. 256p. ­photos. S. & S./Atheneum. Jul. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534440838.
Gr 5 Up–From a very young age, Johnson excelled as a student. Despite growing up in a time of extreme racism and sexism, Johnson not only persevered—she flourished. She surpassed her older siblings in grade level, math courses were created for her because she was not challenged enough, and she graduated from West Virginia State at the age of 18 with a degree in mathematics and French. Her first job out of college was as a schoolteacher. She went on to work at and retire from NASA as a mathematician. This autobiography chronicles her personal life, from growing up in a tight-knit family of six to having three children of her own, as well as her professional accomplishments and her career at NASA. Johnson’s story is captivating, informative, and inspiring. She neatly and accurately weaves in significant historical events that had profound effects on our country and the African American community, including the murder of Emmett Till, lunch counter sit-ins, and school integration. Larger ideas such as white supremacy are broken down with ease for younger readers. VERDICT While the chapters are a little lengthy for the intended audience, Johnson’s story is easy to follow and hard to put down. Highly recommended for purchase in any school library.–Melissa ­Lambert, Trenton Public Schools, MI

Launius, Roger D. Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings. 264p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Smithsonian. May 2019. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9781588346490.
Gr 10 Up–Launius, former associate director of collections and curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and previously chief historian for NASA, presents a nuanced and balanced exploration of the Apollo program and its influence on modern American society, politics, and cultural identity. Each aspect of the program, from Kennedy’s announcement and the technology created to the influence of lunar photography, is analyzed from positive and negative reactions at the time, the dominant narrative that emerged, and the fringe viewpoints. Throughout the book, Launius describes references to Apollo found in political cartoons, movies, TV shows, and other media to illustrate the prevalence of the moon landing in popular culture and how the various perceptions of the mission have endured or changed over time. Each chapter is relatively self contained, reading like an essay centered around a theme. If an example is used in more than one chapter, such as the film Apollo 13 in “The Most Powerful Technology Ever Conceived” and “Apollo and the Religion of Spaceflight,” brief context is provided. This makes individual chapters suitable for classroom use but makes reading the overall work feel repetitive. Back matter includes notes, an annotated bibliography, and index. VERDICT An excellent resource, recommended for classroom use and most high school libraries.–Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library 

Maurer, Richard. Destination Moon: The Remarkable and Improbable Voyage of Apollo 11. 400p. chron. index. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Jun. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626727458.
Gr 5-8–Starting with a short biography of each key figure prior to their involvement in NASA, Maurer details the series of space missions that put a man on the moon. Each individual involved with Apollo 11 is given his moment in the limelight, explaining their roles in World War II and how they became involved in the spaceflight industry. Maurer gives equal attention to the men behind the scenes—i.e., those managing, designing, and engineering the spacecraft—and to the astronauts who risked their lives to accomplish this unfathomable dream. A helpful table of contents and cast of characters are at the front of the book and there is a one-page briefing before and after each individual part with information that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else. The notes and references at the end are extensive and very well organized. A brief time line and an index are included. The illustrations transport readers back to the Space Race by detailing magazine covers and posters from the time period and by containing drawings created during the design process of the spacecraft. Additionally, there are many photographs of people and objects involved in the Space Race. VERDICT This comprehensive history of the Space Race is a solid addition to any collection where literary nonfiction and/or space-related books are popular.–Kristin Unruh, Siersma Elementary School, Warren, MI

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.