Review Detail

Kids Fiction 321
historical fiction about family and pre-adolescent challenges
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
WE DREAM OF SPACE is a highly engaging middle grade historical fiction. The book follows three siblings, Cash, Fitch, and Bird. Fitch and Bird are twins, and Cash is their older brother. All three are in seventh grade, since Cash failed the year before and is repeating. The book follows the lead up to the launch of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986, as well as the immediate fallout.

The book is filled with 80s nostalgia that parents will recognize (such as time at arcades and Star Trek/Wars). Ultimately, it is a story of sibling love and shared experience, as things are not always going well at home, and the siblings make their marks in different ways on the family dynamic (for better or worse). These ages are really formative and awkward, which is demonstrated well in the book.

What I loved: I love Bird's dreams of becoming a Shuttle Commander and her observational nature. The diagrams she draws also adds a cool STEM twist in the book. The characters felt really genuine and sympathetic, and they were intriguing to follow. We see their challenges and mistakes, as well as their approach to trying to make them better. There is also some bullying of other children, and this is played out with an ultimate consequence and the feeling of wrongness by one of the siblings.

What left me wanting more: There are a lot of major issues that are presented but not resolved, such as their parents fighting, which frequently boils down to sexism and misogyny (that the mother should do all the cooking and housework, her education was wasted, her value is in homemaking, etc.). These are valid points that are often still at play today, and I wanted more of a demonstration for the kids (in the book and reading in the present) that these are not the rules. Parents could do this through discussion.

There is also a point about interracial relationships being maybe unwelcome from parents, and I would have appreciated a heart-to-heart about these. Bird thinks about asking her parents because she knows this is an important question, but ultimately decides not to. Bird recognizes the differences between her parents and how they have made their family-life vs. one of her new friend's, and this contrast sort of speaks to some of these issues.

Another is the point about the importance of appearance and prettiness, which frequently comes up for Bird. For instance, her mother says her brothers can eat sweets and junk food, but not her; other people say being pretty is not her thing, but smart is (as if they cannot coexist); etc. This is somewhat resolved through the imaginary conversations she has with Judith Resnick. These are points that would all be great to discuss with children outside of the book. This book could be good for raising the discussions, but I would have appreciated more overt discussions of these and resources shown to children who might be reading. They are appropriate to the time period (and even sometimes now too).

Final verdict: Overall, WE DREAM OF SPACE is an enthralling middle grade read about siblings and the pre-adolescent experience.
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