Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You will go to the Moon (1959)

I wanted to start off with my favorite space book, You will go to the moon. This was THE book of my childhood to inspire my love of space flight. It is one of the first real book I remember. What seems strange to me was my journey away from this book and back again.

As a grade schooler in the 1960s space flight was everywhere and I couldn't read enough about it. But as other interests set in I left my space obsession behind as a teenager. I followed space news through the late 70s and 80s but was not as I said "obsessed". Around 1990 I moved to Orange County and had a huge number of changes in my life happening all at once. Among other things I found the need to have a cheap hobby to keep me going.

I found when I went to used bookstores and library sales there were a huge number of children's spaceflight books. Most of these books were .25 and .50 so I couldn't help but pick up those that brought back memories of my space age youth.

The crystallization of this turning into a collection was my wife saying she had an old space book from her childhood at home and did I want it? Upon seeing You will go to the moon I was completely swept back to an age of optimism. I did think I was going to live on the moon someday. When and how had that dream changed?

Freeman, Mae and Freeman, Ira. Illustrated by Patterson, Robert. You Will Go to the Moon. New York: Beginner Books. (54 p.) 24 cm. Illustrated Boards, DJ.

This was not my book but rather the first edition of the book. It was an "I can read it all by myself Beginner Books " (195/195) produced under the supervision of Dr. Seuss. It has a dust jacket with an illustration of a boy observing a rocket take off. My book was this one, the one without the rocket:

Beginner's Books in the 1960s had a deal where parent could subscribe to a kind of "book a month" series where your child would be sent a new beginner's book. This probably led to my life long love of packages coming in the mail. Opening this book was a trip!

The story concerns an imaginary trip to the Moon taken by a young boy and his adult friend. The rocket, and space station, are very much Von Braun style, while the Moon landing craft and Moon base are more British Interplanetary Society designs. The cover states that for accuracy the manuscript was submitted to the Office of the Director of Research and Development of the United States Air Force. Aimed at beginning readers it went into multiple printings through the Beginner Books Club.

The book was my trip to the moon and I remember almost every page. Striking images were watching a baseball game on television as you floated in zero-g on the way to the moon and this image of looking down on the moon base.

It was reprinted endlessly and traveled to Britain to be reprinted there in 1962.
The book was updated in 1971. The illustrations after 10 years of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo looked quaint.

It was updated from the 1959 edition by reusing the same text and redrawing and "updating" the illustrations so that the spacesuits and spacecrafts more resemble those of the Apollo program.
The crew in the ships looks dressed more Star Trek than NASA in their long sleeve polo shirts. The circular space stations is still there but the lunar landing craft is an odd hybrid of the LEM and the Command module.

Somehow the moon base is not as inspiring but it still make me want to go to the moon. This updating was also reprinted in Great Britain in 1973 under the title Going to the moon.


  1. The original version asid dust on the moon is six feet deep. I wonder if the 1971 update changed that part of the text.

  2. Actually I have the book in front of me. In the 1959 version it says "The moon does not look like the earth at all. There are no trees! No lakes! No water at all! There is just deep, gray dust. Dust, dust, dust." It says nothing about 6 feet of dust so they really didn't have to change anything.

  3. Thank You, Thank You!

    Vague images from this book have been in my head for 50 years! Now I can go to Amazon.com and buy one. We were so optimistic in the 60s. I remember most kids in the 60s wanted to be either an astronaut or a spy, with a few hold overs from the 50s who wanted to be cowboys. Now I'm going to find the plastic rocket I had as kid.

  4. There was an acapella group that did a song based on this book at some point in the '90s. I want to say it was The Bobs, but the more I think about it, the more I think that must be wrong

  5. I just watched an interview with astronaut Chris Hadfield and was compelled to search online for this book. I had quite a number of books from the Beginner Reader series as a child in the 60's, but this is the one I remember most. I was nine years old when human beings first set foot on the moon, and I cried I watched the first space shuttle take off. My dream was always to go to space (but I was terrible at math and science, so I knew if it ever happened, it would be as cargo). Listening to Chris Hadfield describe his wonder at the opportunity he was given to look down on our planet, and to experience being alone in the universe on his space walks allowed me to experience a bit of the wonder I remember when I imagined being in space as a small child. Thank you for your post!