Thursday, February 21, 2019

Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon

Happy Poetry Friday

Find today's Poetry Friday round-up at Life on the Deckle Edge with Robin. She's creative in all kinds of ways (see her arsty letters etsy shop too!)...especially with words. 

Thanks to a snow day, I got to cuddle up with an amazing book, Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade (Peachtree, 2018). 

I stumbled across Countdown by accident at the National Book Festival this past summer. I was with writer buddies walking around the crowded convention center, overwhelmed by all the choices and decided to stop for a rest at the Young Adult reading stage. 

Suzanne was talking about her book. Her enthusiasm for this nonfiction science story hooked me. I leaned in for a better listen. Then, I heard her say that the book is in verse. Well! That's something I want to know more about. I was so taken with Suzanne as a scientist and author and images from the book she shared that I bought a copy from the huge table of books on sale.

I don't think I can write just one account of how this book has impacted me. I need to break it down into how this book affected me as a reader, Teacher-Librarian and writer.


I thought I knew some stuff about the space program. But, wow! Did I learn lots more. I love how this story begins with President Kennedy's proclamation and sets the clock ticking. There is no turning away from disappointments and failures...such as the deaths of astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee in 1967. However, there are triumphs to celebrate too. 

I was caught holding my breath for each mission as they were incremental steps toward landing on the moon. I appreciated what is typically considered back-matter in a MG nonfiction book punctuating each chapter so I could process important details. Where astronauts went to school, how old they were at the time of their mission...if they are still living or not became important to me as I followed the Apollo journeys. Carefully selected photos from thousands, no doubt, complimented each interesting fact.

From Countdown

Verse made this story accessible. Countdown was not a dense tome of reading. It is not a picture book that talks down to an audience. Countdown is the real deal for information and story.


Like most grown-ups on earth, I compete for kid's attention. For some, time with a traditional book with pages is a tough sell. I cheer every time I come across a captivating MG nonfiction such as Countdown. Kids really do love nonfiction when given the chance to enjoy it in a high quality book. Ms. Slade trusts the readers to follow their curiosity through her story. I like that.

Countdown is carefully crafted. Illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are so finely made that one has to look closely to determine if they are paintings, photographs or a blend. The artwork really does make the reader feel like they are with NASA.

There is a ton of great science as part of the story. Words such as lunar, earth rise, Langrenus Crater, Sea of Tranquility, pitch, roll, yaw, many more. This book is stellar for building my own background information.

I appreciate a Countdown Teacher Guide with activities for this book which is considered one of the Best Children's Books of 2018 by Smithsonian's Air & Space.

Countdown pairs well with many other books...I'll pair this title with these books currently in my middle school library: 

  • Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic Kids, 2018)
  • Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin Sendler (Candlewick, 2018)
  • Our Moon by Elaine Scott (Clarion 2016)
  • Almost Astronauts by Tonya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009)
  • Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There by Scott Kelly (Crown Books 2018)

From Countdown


As a poet, I love the moment poetry is enjoying, especially in middle grade nonfiction. The opportunity to get to the heart of emotions in the Apollo missions was perfect for poetry. There was no shortage of figurative language. 

Enjoy these words from Countdown as as writing prompts. I bet you can launch your own poems about space exploration or many other topics.

squawk box

Thanks to ANOTHER snow day....I can post early and enjoy early Poetry Friday postings too. Yay!


  1. Linda, I have just visited the BEST school Library today - yours - with this three-part article. It's enlightening to enjoy the triad of depth of consideration - reader, teacher-librarian & writer responses.

    Even here in the state where much of the launch history began & continues - indelible historic images & landmark moments, especially difficult times - we don't get enough of that.

    I am intrigued by a verse genre for a MG non-fiction story. This sounds original & a challenge to complete.

    Appreciations for the companion books - for years I have presented on & loved (& privately cried over) ALMOST ASTRONAUTS, by Tonya Lee Stone - those womens' fantastic little-known stories. We are fortunate to claim Jennifer Swanson as one of us in Florida - her science books are top-notch. Plus she is an incisive critique-giver - I know from wonderful experience with her at a Florida conference.

    And now for words - groovy ones you've mined today, but I am going to borrow two - OK?

    Thanks so much for introducing me to COUNTDOWN and Suzanne Slade.

    squawk box

  2. Linda, thank you for sharing about this book! I love that it was the author's enthusiasm that hooked you in the first place... lovely! xo

  3. Linda, I appreciate your kind, thoughtful words about Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon (which took about 2979 days to complete.) I hope the book inspires readers! So glad our paths crossed at the National Book Festival!

  4. I'll bet I would love this book! Thanks for the heads-up, Linda. (Also, I didn't realize that Scott Kelly had written a memoir -- cool!)

  5. Wow, fabulous post, Linda! I have this book in my huge TBR stack -- been meaning to get to it and now you've really stoked my interest. The art looks fab; thanks for the sample spreads. Cool that you crossed paths with Suzanne at the National Book Festival!

  6. Linda, I was definitely engaged during reading your book review post. I have never seen a book in verse about this time period so thank you for the introduction to a new author and title. When I go back to the Air and Space Musuem I am going to look for the book.

  7. I love this book, and I am old enough to say that I lived that time, holding our breath, sending prayers that they would be all all right. It's a wonderful review, Linda. I agree that the recent nf books are to be celebrated, giving students a chance at history & another kind of reading. Thanks!

  8. Such a generous post, Linda - loved learning so much! I've had the good fortune to meet Andy Chaikin through a school visits gig, and his passion for space is infectious, too. Thanks for sharing all, and thanks to Suzanne for her inspiring work!

  9. WOW! This sounds like a treasure trove and an amazing mentor text for a NF verse novel (which I might or might not be considering...) Thanks!

  10. LOVE snow days. Sadly, we have not had one yet. My TBR pile could sure use one! Two things I LOVE about your post, dear Linda. First, the content. You have me hooked and I really need to get my hands on a copy of Countdown. Fascinating stuff! Second, the structure. We do approach the same subject in different ways depending on which hat (or ID badge) we are wearing at the time. In your case reader, teacher-librarian, and writer. Brilliant direction to take this. -- Christie @

  11. No snow days here. We have sure racked up some rain days, though. I remember well our happenstance encounter with this book and author. Love this 3 part review. And the wordlist! Nothingness caught my attention.

  12. Your review and lunar, earth rise, Langrenus Crater, Sea of Tranquility, pitch, roll, yaw, trajectory... yum, a delight in every part.

  13. Linda, what a fabulous post! I love how you structured this to share your responses from different perspectives, and each one hooked me! I'm adding this to my growing pile of books to order. PS Snow days are the best!

  14. Thank you for introducing me to this book. It sounds incredible. I also love the way you structured your review; so smart. I'm now off to find a copy of Countdown!

  15. Gorgeous review of this fascinating book Linda! I'm familiar with Susan's book as she is an Illinois writer and appears often on my SCBWI listserve. I've also had the good fortune of hearing her speak. Thanks for sharing all your p.o.v.'s from the book to!


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!