Astronaut Handbook
by Meghan McCarthy

Astronaut Handbook
Children's book review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 4+

Hey kids, "NASA has space for you!" That's their slogan, anyway. That will really make your parents happy. Sure, they'd be proud and all, but how are they supposed to feel when you're all grown up and they pick up the phone to call you and then have to slap their foreheads and say, "Shucks, I forgot! Timmy is on the moon this week!" Maybe by then NASA will let you take your cell phone along. As parents, we can hope.

Perhaps, though, you're headed to the moon to get away from a nagging parent. You'll need lots of training. You'll need Meghan McCarthy's Astronaut Handbook.

Wide-ranging in scope but casually chronicled, Meghan McCarthy draws on her usual friendly style to give kids a play-by-play rundown of what life is like for those who choose to sail among the stars. Work hard, study hard, and train hard -- life on the space shuttle is physically challenging and very, very different.

What fields of study are most likely to lead to careers in the final frontier? How does the "Vomit Comet," an earthbound plane, create a sense of weightlessness for trainees? What special jobs do astronauts do once they're in space? What is the food like? How does the toilet work? How is the space suit made? How does an astronaut wash her hair? Everything you ever wanted to know about life in space, you can find in the Astronaut Handbook.

McCarthy's characters, as always a little bug-eyed, fatuous, and cartoon-like, proudly smile, smile, smile as they share their space-bound experiences. Labeled diagrams of a space suit and toilet, however, remind us of the sincerity of McCarthy's work and the breadth of her research. In the back, a list of "Fascinating Facts" precedes a bibliography of books, videos and a web site to check out as well as a list of places to visit on your next family vacation, such as the Kennedy Space Center or the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Whether you're just a curious Earthling or you're destined for partial citizenship on the moon, the international space station, or beyond, Meghan McCarthy's Astronaut Handbook will tell you everything you need to know. Can you read it through a telescope? You can try. Bon voyage!

Astronaut Handbook collage

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