Tuesday, February 21, 2023

One Giant Leap

Gartner, Ben. One Giant Leap
February 21st 2023 by Crescent Vista Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Finley Scott is having a tough time; his mother has been badly injured and is in the hospital. His dad is barely holding it together, and the family has moved into a smaller apartment. Finley knows things are tough, but he's still angry with his father. Fin has applied to be part of the StellarKid Project, which plans to take four children to the International Space Station. When Fin gets a letter that he has won a place there, he's excited, but gets angry when he thinks his father isn't going to let him go. This is misplaced; his parents are fine with it, and he even has a "funcle" who is able to go into space and be his guardian. There are three other children; David, from Norway (whose mother is in prison), Kalpana from India, and Mae from South Africa. There is a lot of intense training, and a lot of good details about what it will take to get the Aether launched so everyone can get to the space station. There are difficulties, of course, but everything moves very quickly. THe director of the program is excited to get kids into space, but the evil administrator (complete with pencil thin mustache) wants to scuttle the whole StellarKid Project for unnamed reasons. Once the kids and their guardians, along with a regular crew, make it to the ISS, they get a tour and have some interesting times being in space, but things go wrong when there is space junk threatening the station. The kids are cut off from their parents, stuck in the Aether. Things look bad, and Fin, who has started the book with a scene where it seems likely he will die in space, has to save the day, even though it imperils him. Luckily, things get fixed and the Aether is able to transport some people to the moon before heading back to Earth. Will Fin be as successful with dealing with the situation with his mother once he gets back home?
Strengths: With the recent Artemis launch, my students are definitely interested in space travel, and this is a great book for laying out the specifics of training and preparations necessary for launching a shuttle to the International Space Station (in operation since 2000!) as well as what to expect when hanging out in space. There's plenty of suspense and adventure, and Fin gets an opportunity to save the day and make his parents' proud. The other characters also get to show off a variety of skills, and the adults don't get in the way too much; of course, they need to be saved! There aren't a whole lot of space adventure books, and certainly not many with this much information about space travel. 
Weaknesses: There is a lot going on, and combined with all of the fantastic information about space travel, the story is a bit cluttered. This could have been streamlined a bit; characters like Mr. Deuce didn't really add that much. I did appreciate that there was a list at the back of the book describing the names given to some minor characters in tribute to real people involved in the space program. 
What I really think: This is not available at this time from Follett, although there is a hard cover copy available through Amazon. This is a great choice for readers who like science oriented science fiction with lots of realistic, well researched information about space travel. Pair with fiction like Landers' Blastaway or Holm's Lion of Mars, or Buzz Aldrin's optimistic nonfiction book, Welcome to Mars. I, for one, am content to stay here on Earth where there is oxygen and the very atmosphere is not trying to kill me!

Sugiura, Misa. Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind
Expected publication: February 28th 2023 by Labyrinth Road
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

Momo's father was killed when she was young, and her mother "never really recovered". As Momo's 12th birthday approaches, her mother seems even more withdrawn, and when Momo keeps seeing a fox around town, she is troubled by her visions, especially when her classmate Kiki and her firneds catch on and tease her about it. Momo has seen visions before, but things get even stranger when she meets a boy named Niko her mother doesn't want around, and she sees a shikome (a death hag) in the mall! Aided by Kiki's friend Danny who finds Momo's fantasy creatures more interesting than the mean girls, Momo embarks on a journey to the Island of Mysteries to save her mother and send the demons back to Yomi. 
Strengths: Loved the Japanese representation and folklore, as well as the well developed adventure. The fact that Danny's family was conveniently out of town so he could spend a week traveling into fantastical worlds worked surprisingly well for me. This moved along quickly, and also offered me some insight as to why there is always a small group of die-hard fantasy fans. At one point, in the middle of fighting demons and running all over the place, Momo says " I'm not beating anyone up or smiting them with swords, but I'd survived in a place where everyone thinks I'm not good enough or cool enough, and that's hard." It's usually the academically inclined, "geeky" kids who like fantasies, and that's the best explanation of why I've ever seen! 
Weaknesses: I'm never a fan of mothers pining away from grief and making children take care of them.
What I really think: I do like the Vivienne To cover illustrations, but her work appears on so many similar fantasy titles that it makes it hard to keep them straight in my mind. (Dragon Warrior, Dragon Pearl, Dragon City... you see my problem!) There is almost certain to be a sequel to this. 

 Ms. Yingling

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