When Sparks Fly: The True Story of Robert Goddard, the Father of US Rocketry

illus. by Diego Funck. 40p. bibliog. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481460989.
Gr 2–4—Robert Goddard is a fairly unsung hero of science. Though he is widely acknowledged to be one of the founding fathers of rocketry, and though he filed 214 patented inventions related to rocketry, he found little support for his work during his lifetime, and he is not well known outside scientific circles. This modest picture book begins to correct that. A biography, the book chronicles Goddard's development from infancy through an awakening of interest in rockets, past many failures, and on to success. The narrative's strength is its focus on Goddard's insatiable curiosity, his determination, and the way in which his failures fed his eventual success in developing rockets. Funck's illustrations underscore the importance of Goddard's work, invoking a legendary feel. While the writing is clunky at times, and the author missed some opportunities (Goddard found inspiration while trimming the limbs of a cherry tree; he gained insights from watching birds), this simple account offers a reliable, child-friendly introduction to rocket science.
VERDICT An inspiring true story punctuated with explosions that should be popular in most school libraries.

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