Review Detail

Kids Fiction 504
Historical Events Portrayed in Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Bird, her twin brother Fitch, and their older brother Chase are all doing the best they can in 1986 Park, Delaware. They all have some interests; Bird likes machines and tinkering, Fitch likes arcade games, and Chase likes basketball but is struggling because he has been held behind a grade in school. Their parents are constantly fighting, and their mother has gone back to work at a time when families were still struggling a bit with the concept of women working outside the home and men being involved in the home. The family dynamics are especially hard on Bird, who feels like she somehow needs to make things better, even though she needs more emotional support than she is getting. When her science class starts studying the Challenger Space Shuttle and looking forward to the launch, she finds something with which she can identify, and her internal conversations with mission specialist Resnick help her through some rough times. Having a goal like being an astronaut is a good coping mechanism for having to deal with her toxic parents, her messy home life, and her mother's controlling attitudes toward food. She does find a good friend with a calm, ordered family life, and loves to visit there, even though it makes the chaos at home seem worse. When the Challenger disaster occurs, will Bird find the support she needs to make her own way in the world?
Good Points
There are lots of good details about daily like in 1986, and even the depiction of the family troubles seems to reflect some of the middle grade literature of the time. (Think Judy Blume, Norma Fox Mazer, Marilyn Sachs and Cynthia Voigt.) Ms. Salonga was a great character and her enthusiasm reminded me of Ms. Lowitt, my 6th grade science teacher. She also kept her eye on Bird. Like Kelly's The Land of Forgotten Girls, Hello, Universe, Blackbird Fly, and other titles We Dream of Space explores how tweens can manage to find a way forward through difficult circumstances.

The Challenger disaster was a big deal, and is frequently covered in the school curriculum. I can't tell you the number of times I have had to recount where I was when this occurred for students who have to interview someone who remembers it! This event is a major component of Planet Earth if Blue, but I haven't seen it elsewhere. This story is reminiscent of the great I Love You, Michael Collins, which is set two decades earlier and is a good choice for readers who want to know what the 1980s were like.
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