We Dream of Space

HarperCollins/Greenwillow. May 2020. 400p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062747303.
Gr 4-6–It’s January 1986, and siblings Bird, Fitch, and Cash’s seventh grade science classes are anticipating the Challenger shuttle launch at the end of the month. Twins Bird and Fitch are now in the same grade as their older brother Cash, who is repeating the year. Cash’s grades are poor, Fitch can’t control his temper, and Bird dreams of becoming an astronaut, but her mother only talks to her about dieting. All three siblings sink into separate coping mechanisms when their parents’ daily bickering inevitably erupts into fights. Entrada Kelly tells the story through each sibling’s viewpoint in distinct and engaging voices, giving readers a choice of characters to relate to. The Nelson-Thomas family is white, Bird’s friend Devonte is African American, and teacher Ms. Salonga has a Filipina surname. Entrada Kelly creates a vivid historical setting by being selective with 1980s details and highlighting elements with high kid appeal, such as arcade games and popular TV shows. There is similar restraint in recounting the Challenger explosion, depicted only by its effect on the characters rather than used gratuitously to complete a dramatic arc. There is no forced march towards a resolution, and the book simply ends with a greater resilience on the part of Cash, Fitch and Bird, along with an awareness that, by joining forces, they have the power to form the family they want themselves.
VERDICT Lyrical but direct writing, relatable characters, and an engaging 1980s setting give this thoughtful read high appeal for middle grade readers.

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