I grew up in the 1980s. I wore jelly shoes and Jams. I had a Trapper Keeper and sticker book. I remember the names of my Cabbage Patch dolls. I loved Alex P. Keaton, Atari, and E.T. And I also remember, with great clarity, the excited fervor of space exploration and the launch of the Challenger.
Years later, with the rise of the internet, I read the Rogers Commission report and learned more about how and why the shuttle accident happened. I also learned about the astronauts themselves. As with any writing journey, I discovered many things that didn't make it into this book, like the fact that Mission Specialist Judith Resnik was a big fan of Tom Selleck, or that Christa McAuliffe's son gave her his favorite stuffed animal-a frog he called Fleegle-because he wanted Fleegle to go to space. (She promised to take Fleegle with her, and she did.)
I wanted to write a book in remembrance of Challenger, but I also wanted to write about siblings who learn to create their own unit within a charged family dynamic. I wanted to explore the ways adults are often hypocritical toward young people, which is one of the things that frustrates me most about grown-ups. I wanted to celebrate the remarkable ways teachers can influence students' lives, even if they don't realize it. I wanted to write about a girl who looks out for everyone else, even when it seems no one is looking out for her. And I wanted to write about tragedy, and the ways it can bring people together in unexpected ways.
Through all this, a cast of characters quickly came into focus: Fitch, who is angry and sullen and doesn't know why; Bird, a smart girl with the brain of an engineer, who creates an imaginary confidant in Judy Resnik; and Cash, who is convinced that he's not good at anything but failure.
We Dream of Space honors brave explorers and the spirit of exploration, and it reminds us that some things about life (particularly in middle school) are timeless . . . for better or worse.
— Erin Entrada Kelly
Praise for WE DREAM OF SPACE
⋆“Newbery Medal–winning Kelly contemplates space exploration and sibling bonds in her latest captivating novel. . . . Another wondrous title from a remarkably talented author.”— Booklist (starred review)
⋆“Newbery Award–winner Kelly follows three Delaware siblings in the weeks leading up to the January 1986 launch of the Challenger. . . . Kelly shows the incredible power of words—the irreparable damage they inflict and their ability to uplift—while crafting a captivating story about family’s enduring bonds.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
⋆“Entrada Kelly tells the story . . . of Cash, Fitch and Bird . . .
⋆“With short chapters focusing alternately on each sibling, Kelly establishes distinct and original characters . . . Kelly creates a crisp, moving portrait of family dysfunction and the resilience of the young.”— The Horn Book (starred review)
“Kelly writes a heartfelt story of family and the bond of siblings. . . . Put this book in your orbit.”— Kirkus Reviews
About the Book
Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties. Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander but feels like she’s disappearing. The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project—they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.