On the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing, the Best Resources, Books for Young Readers

Many titles have been published this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This curated list provides digital resources and books recommended for elementary and middle grade readers.

Image from Moonshot by Brian Floca. © 2019 Brian Floca.
Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

On July 20, 2019, it’ll be 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first stepped onto the moon and into history. And if there is one anniversary you’re not likely to forget, it’s this one. Celebrations of the moon landing have been everywhere this year, and for good reason. Just take a moment and think about what NASA and approximately 400,000 engineers, technicians, scientists, mathematicians, contractors, public servants, and factory workers were able to do—send three men 240,000 miles away to land on a place that doesn’t support human life, and return them home safely. It is astonishing. And it makes for a very worthy topic for books.

In fact, so many titles have come out to commemorate the moon landing that it is easy to get overwhelmed. The following books offer a unique perspective, subject, or artistic style, providing all types of readers with something to foster a sense of wonder.


Young Readers

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–Marthanne’s father is helping make the moonwalk possible. He is humble, just glad to have his job, so Marthanne gets to be proud enough for both of them. Inspired by the author’s family members who worked in a textile mill that produced fabric for the Apollo 11 space suits, this fictional tale pays tribute to the lesser-known people who contributed to the mission.

GIBBONS, Gail. The Moon Book. illus. by author. 32p. Holiday House. May 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823443246.
K-Gr 2–This newly revised edition of Gibbons’s classic title presents introductory facts and trivia about the moon and discusses its important role in various mythologies. The simple but accurate illustrations help to clearly explain the theory of the moon’s formation, lunar and solar eclipses, the phases of the moon, and the history of scientific exploration of the moon for young audiences.

GREENE, Rhonda Gowler. The First Men Who Went to the Moon. illus. by Scott Brundage. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585364121.
K-Gr 2–A highly structured ­cumulative verse account of the journey to the moon and back with the men of Apollo 11. Brundage’s artwork is both naturalistic and epic, and the dynamic images pair well with Greene’s poetry, while the side notes in the first half of the book provide additional nonfiction context for the words and images.

LAPIN, Joyce. If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon. illus. by Simona Ceccarelli. 40p. Sterling. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454929703.
K-Gr 3–A birthday party is used as a fun framework to deliver a lot of moon trivia. A diverse group of children ride in a rocket, play games in the moon’s low gravity, and try to find items the astronauts left behind, while the text offers fun facts like why in space the sky looks black instead of blue and why helium balloons wouldn’t float on the moon.

ROBBINS, Dean. The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean. illus. by Sean Rubin. 40p. Orchard. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338259537.
K-Gr 3–A story of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon and the only one who was a trained artist as well as a pilot. Upon returning to Earth, Bean found that the photographs taken on the mission didn’t capture how the experience made him feel, so he started painting to help others understand what it was like.

ROBBINS, Dean. Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. illus. by Lucy Knisley. 40p. Knopf. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399551857.
K-Gr 3 –Margaret Hamilton loved to ask questions and solve problems. She liked math but then discovered a new invention that she loved—computers. She went on to create software (and became the first “software engineer”) that was integral to the Apollo missions. Tech-savvy young readers will be amused to see that the computers take up whole rooms and that Margaret’s code is a stack of paper that is taller than her.

SLADE, Suzanne. A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon. illus. by Veronica Miller Jamison. 40p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316435178.
K-Gr 3–Readers see highlights of Katherine Johnson’s early life as a math prodigy, her graduation from high school at 15 and from college at 18, and her work as a NASA calculator for Alan Shepard’s first space flight, John Glenn’s orbit of the Earth, and the trajectory to get to the moon. The discrimination that Johnson faced as an African American woman are compared with incorrect math problems, things she knew were wrong.

Elementary Readers

BUCKLEY, Adrian. Moonwalk: The Story of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. illus. by David Jenkins. 48p. Circa Pr. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780993072178.
Gr 2-4–This fast-paced read covers the necessary points of an Apollo 11 book—Kennedy’s call to action, the sheer size of the rocket, living conditions of astronauts, and, of course, the moonwalk itself—but the true standout is the artwork. The archival photographs are large and highly stylized, mimicking the halftone printing of retro newsprint.

FLOCA, Brian. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11: Expanded for the 50th Anniversary of the First Moon Landing. illus. by author. 56p. Atheneum/Richard Jackson Bks. Apr. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534440302.
Gr 2-5–An updated and expanded edition of the Sibert Honor book, Floca’s simple narrative and grand, oversized illustrations immerse readers in the Apollo 11 mission in this perennial collection essential. This edition’s new material alludes to the contributions made by Katherine Johnson, Margaret ­Hamilton, and others, and balances the mission’s time line by adding new pages into the section on the return trip to Earth.

GALL, Chris. Go for the Moon: A Rocket, a Boy, and the First Moon Landing. illus. by author. 48p. Roaring Brook. Jun. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250155795.
Gr 2-5– As the Apollo 11 astronauts make their way to the moon, a young boy details the various steps of the mission, explains concepts behind space travel, and annotates the realistic illustrations and diagrams, while following along with his own version of the mission’s activities, like launching a water rocket and drinking Tang, at home.

LONG, David. When We Walked on the Moon. illus. by Sam Kalda. 80p. Quarto/Wide Eyed Editions. Jun. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781786030924.
Gr 2-5–With chapters devoted to Apollo missions 11 through 17, this book introduces young readers to lesser-known events and experiments that took place on the moon. Especially interesting will be the circumstances of the rescue of Apollo 13 and humorous details of each mission, such as Alan Shepard smuggling a golf club onto the spacecraft to play golf on the moon.

SIMON, Seymour. Destination: Moon. 56p. HarperCollins. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062673244.
Gr 2-4–An excellent resource for student reports or browsing, Simon’s title offers information on the milestones in the space race on the way to the Apollo program as well as detailed material on the moon landing. Other features include full-color photographs, engaging sidebars, a glossary, and an annotated time line.

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–Beautiful watercolors pair with poetic text to commemorate the 12 astronauts who have walked on the moon and show how the Apollo missions built on the successes (or failures) of the previous missions and became longer and more complicated over time. Thirteen pages of back matter make this versatile book work as a nonfiction resource as well as an extremely readable story.

Middle Grade/Older Readers

BRINKLEY, Douglas & Winifred Conkling. American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race: Young Readers Edition. 272p. HarperCollins. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062660282.
Gr 5-8–In many books about Apollo 11, John F. Kennedy plays a small role in the prologue as the president who made the decision and announcement that America would be going to the moon. Brinkley’s book centers on JFK to explore the reasons why the moon landing became our ultimate space goal and the high stakes that were riding on the mission’s success.

BROWN, Don. Rocket to the Moon. illus. by author. 136p. (Big Ideas That Changed the World). Abrams/Amulet. Mar. 2019. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781419734045.
Gr 3-7–The first installment of a graphic nonfiction series that follows a “big idea” from conception to fruition. Brown starts with early rocket science, describes the Apollo 11 mission in great detail, and ends with Gene Cernan, the 12th and last (so far) Earthling to walk on the moon. Early 20th-century daredevil Rod Lawman narrates, providing commentary and keeping the tone light.

BROUWER, Sigmund. Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11. 128p. Kids Can. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781525300363.
Gr 4-8–Structured into 11 episodes, the narrative opens with an engaging second person point of view that places readers in the boots of the astronauts in this detailed exploration of the triumphs and near-disasters of the Apollo 11 mission. Additional sections explore the science and scientists who made it possible, and include interactive STEM mysteries to be solved.

IRVINE, Alex. The Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo’s Third Man. illus. by Ben Bishop. 64p. Tilbury House. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780884484523.
Gr 5 Up–Michael Collins is mostly remembered as the guy who didn’t get to walk on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but this graphic narrative focuses on the reality of being part of the lunar mission and things he did do—he was the first astronaut to perform two space walks on the same mission (Gemini 10) and the first to orbit the moon entirely alone (Apollo 11).

MAURER, Richard. Destination Moon: The Remarkable and Improbable Voyage of Apollo 11. 387p. Roaring Brook. Jun. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626727458.
Gr 5 Up–An adventurous narrative nonfiction title that features the significant achievements of the lesser-known engineers, scientists, public servants, and administrators who made the journey to the moon possible. Beginning with the experiences of World War II that shaped so many of the key figures at NASA, this account is as engaging as it is detailed.

SANDLER, Martin W. Apollo 8: The Mission that Changed Everything. 176p. Candlewick. Sept. 2018. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780763694890.
Gr 5 Up–A look at a mission that is often overshadowed by Apollo 11 but was the first to send astronauts outside of Earth’s orbit all the way to orbit the moon. Sandler aptly explains the context of Apollo 8, which unfolded during an extremely turbulent time in American history, and how it gave the United States its first victory in the space race.

SLADE, Suzanne. Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon. illus. by Thomas Gonzalez. 144p. Peachtree. Sept. 2018. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781682630136.
Gr 5 Up–Counting down from the day John F. Kennedy announces his intention to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, there are 2979 days until Apollo 11 completes that promise. Slade’s powerful free verse narrative is complemented by Gonzalez’s strong imagery to honor the 18 astronauts, eight rockets, and 400,000 people who make it happen.

WOOD, Matthew Brenden. The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon. illus. by Sam Carbaugh. 128p. Nomad. May 2018. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781619306615.
Gr 6-8–A technologically interactive, fun fact–filled nonfiction title that concentrates on the political, social, and economic factors that led to the Cold War, and its role in urging on the competition to get to the moon. From the rise of Communism to the finish line of the moon, this title uses comics, photos, and sidebars to contextualize the information for middle school readers.

Kacy Helwick is the youth collection ­development librarian for the New Orleans Public Library.

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