Racing the Moon
It’s 1947 and 11-year-old Alexis Hart wants to be the next Amelia Earhart. She and her 17-year-old brother Chuck have built a tree house that doubles as a Moon Station cockpit, and they dream about flying to the moon. Chuck, who is interested in radio and radar but was kicked out of school, is a delinquent, encouraging Alexis to participate in his ill-advised schemes. As the story begins, Alexis and Chuck meet their new neighbor, a woman named Captain Ebbs, who was a spy during World War II and now works developing food for astronauts. Ebbs takes Alexis and Chuck under her wing, amazing them with her stories, teaching them to sail, and introducing them to the eccentric Werner Von Braun.
The story is thick with fascinating characters, but the plot moves slowly without a central conflict. For me, Chuck’s delinquency is a problem. His crimes are serious, including stealing a plane and crashing it, and stealing a boat in order to sneak into a government-restricted area. Contrary to what you’d expect, Chuck is consistently rewarded for his crimes. I waited for the “bad behavior is punished and good behavior is rewarded” moral to arrive, and it never did.
In the acknowledgements Armstrong states that Chuck, as well as Ebbs and Alexis, are based on true people, which perhaps explains why things go well for Chuck in spite of his criminality. I guess I would have preferred this history to be a bit more fictionalized, aimed as it is at the child reader.