ONE SMALL STEP by P.B. Kerr

January 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

one-small-stepWho knew that NASA ran a parallel space program using chimpanzees instead of humans in the early sixties?  I sure didn’t, and that is only one of the arcana about the Apollo program Kerr draws upon in constructing this fascinating, fast-moving, funny, exciting and—ultimately—touching novel about a thirteen-year-old boy who actually is the first person to set a boot on the moon.

Scott’s father is an Air Force fighter pilot and he clandestinely teaches Scott to fly a plane long before the boy is eligible for a pilot’s license.  When the jet they are flying has a disastrous encounter with a flock of snow geese, Scott’s father is knocked unconscious and Scott must take the controls of an immensely complicated, expensive training jet and land it safely.  NASA is hugely impressed with him—especially since one of the chimpanzees they were planning to send to the moon before the Apollo 11 mission has become anti-social and they need a replacement—fast.  A replacement small enough to fit into the place of a chimpanzee and smart enough to learn everything he needs to know in the space of a few months.  That would be Scott.

From the minutia of astronaut training to chimpanzee training to Air Force and NASA protocol, Kerr has really done his research.  Any kid who has dreamed of flying or being part of the space program will relish every detail.  The rest of us, who like a good story about how a kid can use his wits to outsmart the adults will love knowing how Scott manages to take the place of one of the chimps who is supposed to take that first moonwalk and how he brings proof of his exploits home to Earth and impresses the heck out of the girl next door.

Truly outstanding.

Highly Recommended, Starred, could be YA or J (there’s a fair amount of poop and piss talk, but no sex)

Miriam Lang Budin-CHA

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