Exhilarating—as well as hilarious, enraging, or both at once depending on the reader.

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ASTRONAUTS

WOMEN ON THE FINAL FRONTIER

How women got mad, busy, and finally, reluctantly, accepted into NASA’s corps of astronauts.

Recast by the creators of Primates (2013) from NASA oral-history interviews with ex-astronaut Mary Cleave and other eyewitnesses, this likewise lightly fictionalized memoir takes its narrator from childhood interests in science and piloting aircraft to two space shuttle missions and then on to later educational and administrative roles. The core of the tale is a frank and funny account of how women shouldered their way into NASA’s masculine culture and as astronaut trainees broke it down by demonstrating that they too had both the competencies and the toughness that added up to the right stuff. Highlighted by a vivid series of scenes showing Cleave with a monkey on her chest, then a chimpanzee, an orangutan, a gorilla, and finally a larger gorilla to symbolize the G-forces of liftoff, Wicks offers cleanly drawn depictions of technical gear, actual training exercises, eye-rolling encounters with sexist reporters and clueless NASA engineers, iconic figures (such as a group portrait of the watershed astronaut class of 1978: “Twenty-six white guys and nine…well…people who were not. Pretty diverse for NASA”), and astronauts at work on the ground and in space. They capture both the heady thrill of space travel and the achievements of those who led the way there.

Exhilarating—as well as hilarious, enraging, or both at once depending on the reader. (afterword, print and web resources) (Informational graphic novel. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-877-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Uninspired: reads and looks like a rough draft.

ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON

THE STORY OF APOLLO 11'S THIRD MAN

An account of the first moon landing, with special focus on Michael Collins, the astronaut who stayed aloft in the command module.

“The only thing most people know about Michael Collins is that he didn’t get to walk on the moon,” writes Irvine, who then works to fill in details of his subject’s career before, during, and after his multiple stints in space. This effort is particularly lifeless, though, as bland generalities (“Michael Collins worked hard and waited for his chance”) and at best only glancing references to his family, to medical issues, to his spacesuit-design work, to his lively sense of humor—which infuses his autobiography for young readers, Flying to the Moon and other Strange Places (1976)—and to anything that he’s done since 1976 leave him a distant figure. Bishop’s drab, sketchy duotone scenes and schematic diagrams likewise keep Collins and the space program’s dramatic achievements at arm’s length; capsules and rockets are small on the page; human figures who aren’t anonymous beneath faceless helmets are barely recognizable; and the artist offers only perfunctory historical renditions of astronaut gear, control boards, and the like. Along with Flying to the Moon (for those who can find it), Bea Uusma Schyffert’s The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon (2003) offers a more animated, informative picture of Collins, Apollo, and the space program in general.

Uninspired: reads and looks like a rough draft. (timeline, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88448-452-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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LINE OF FIRE

DIARY OF AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER

An unusually personal view of World War I’s early days, conveyed by new illustrations grafted to a French soldier’s chance-found diary.

Dated Aug. 3 to Sept. 5, 1914, the anonymous diary tersely records mustering, train rides, weary marches, efforts to scrounge up provisions and billeting, much digging of trenches, and advances and retreats under enemy artillery fire. Aside from occasional thoughts of family left behind, the writer’s observations are detached in tone—even gruesome sights of a human leg caught in a tree and heavily wounded patients in a hospital ward are only noted in passing. Along with portraying how he rescued the account from a pile of curbside rubbish, Barroux illustrates the diary with large panels of heavy-lined drawings made with butcher’s pencil and a pale yellow varnish wash. Most depict somber figures in uniform, drawn with geometrical noses that give them the look of puppets or mannequins, trudging through sheets of rain or sketched rural settings. The diary’s abrupt end leaves the writer wounded but complaining of boredom as he recuperates; the artist closes with sample pages from a handwritten album of songs found with the document. In a passionate introductory note, Michael Morpurgo invites readers to “weep” over these glimpses of war. American children, at least, may not shed many tears, but they should come away feeling closer to understanding what that century-old conflict must have been like to those who fought in it. (Graphic memoir. 11-14)

 

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-907912-39-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Phoenix/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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