October Sky (The Coalwood Series #1)

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9781857029956: October Sky (The Coalwood Series #1)

Three years in the life of Homer 'Sonny' Hickam, from the moment he sees the Sputnik satellite overhead in West Virginia to his successful launch of a prizewinning rocket. A nostalgic and lyrical memoir of growing up in rural West Virginia in the 1950s and one boy's dream to rival the Russians in the race for space. In 1957 in Coalwood, West Virginia, a town dominated by the black steel towers of the mine and the coal waggons, for a fourteen year old boy there are two routes in life: a football scholarship to college or a life underground. "Sonny" Hickam, the mine superintendent's younger son, is too small for the football team. But his destiny is altered when the town turns out to watch the Soviet Sputnik satellite pass overhead. From that moment, Homer Hickam and his friends determine that they will form the Big Creek Missle Agency and build an American rocket. This is the true story of the boys' adventures from the moment their first rocket, Auk 1, destroys the garden fence and the lovingly tended roses. Supported only by a tolerant mother and a father who turns a literally blind eye, Sonny gradually entrances the entire town to support his enterprise, which eventually is entered for the National Science Fair. He is the first boy from Coalwood ever to enter and among the judges is Werner von Braun. October Sky is the story of a a group of young enthusiasts whose ambition revives an industrial town in decline. They are emblems of a better future, of a life outside the vicious confines of the pit, of a world beyond the imagination. This is a sensitive, funny, brilliant tale of boys besotted by a dream: they want to build a rocket.

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Review:

Inspired by Werner von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team, 14-year-old Homer Hickam decided in 1957 to build his own rockets. They were his ticket out of Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town that everyone knew was dying--everyone except Sonny's father, the mine superintendent and a company man so dedicated that his family rarely saw him. Hickam's smart, iconoclastic mother wanted her son to become something more than a miner and, along with a female science teacher, encouraged the efforts of his grandiosely named Big Creek Missile Agency. He grew up to be a NASA engineer and his memoir of the bumpy ride toward a gold medal at the National Science Fair in 1960--an unprecedented honor for a miner's kid--is rich in humor as well as warm sentiment. Hickam vividly evokes a world of close communal ties in which a storekeeper who sold him saltpeter warned, "Listen, rocket boy. This stuff can blow you to kingdom come." Hickam is candid about the deep disagreements and tensions in his parents' marriage, even as he movingly depicts their quiet loyalty to each other. The portrait of his ultimately successful campaign to win his aloof father's respect is equally affecting. --Wendy Smith

From the Publisher:

"[T]horoughly charming....Hickam builds a story of overcoming obstacles that is worthy of Frank Capra...[in its]...eloquent evocation of a lost time and place."
--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

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Hickam, Homer H.
Published by Fourth Estate Ltd (1999)
ISBN 10: 185702995X ISBN 13: 9781857029956
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Hickam, Homer H
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