It’s 1969, and 10-year-old Mamie Anderson is writing letters to Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.
When Mamie’s teacher asks the class to write letters to the astronauts, Mamie is the only one to choose Michael Collins, the one who will stay onboard while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren walk on the moon. Mamie understands the importance of Collins’ staying with the ship: if he didn’t, “How would they…come home again?” Then Mamie’s mother leaves home and her father goes after her. Her elder sister already lives away from home, and 16-year-old sister Bess is always out with her boyfriend. Even her cat runs off. Only loyal friend and neighbor Buster Whitaker keeps Mamie from feeling completely untethered. The story neatly parallels the astronauts’ journey, and Mamie’s letters to Collins effectively capture her earnest voice, though they are occasionally unconvincing and didactic when teaching history or relating lessons learned. Baratz-Logsted weaves in just enough history to root Mamie’s story in her time, a moment when a nation came together and felt proud of human possibilities, but she doesn’t allow Vietnam or the civil rights struggle to complicate her determinedly upbeat story. Indeed, Mamie and the rest of the principal cast appear to be all white.
Readers will be charmed by Mamie’s story of hope in a difficult moment in American history. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)