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Mass Market Paperback
Release Date: February, 1999
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
||Mass Market Paperback
||1.4 x 4.1 x 6.8 in.
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3-2-1 This book is about to blast off the charts
Posted by Anonymous on 9/16/1998
For the record, I am writing this September 15, the first day Rocket Boys is available from Amazon or any bookstore. At this moment, the book's "Amazon.com Sales Rank" is 45,793. Just wait.
I was heading out of town last week for two long business travel days when a bookseller friend handed me an advance reading copy of Rocket Boys and said, "Read this and tell me what you think."
I was so moved by the book, I could not put it down. It is a classic coming-of-age tale. A sweet, poignant, inspirational tale that is good on so many, many levels. Don't get me wrong: this is no gooey memoir. It is a gritty, obviously honest and emotional story with complex characters. It is at times gripping, sad and outrageously funny. It is one of those rare books that can be read by parents and their high school-aged children with deep relevance - and inspiration - for both.
And while I could go on and on about the many facets of the book I enjoyed, I found myself most impressed by the author's ability to engage me in a story in which high school math and science play pivotal roles. While Sonny is no math genius like, say, Will Hunting, he is passionate about his quest for the mathematical knowledge that will help him break free of his coal mining hometown's gravitational pull.
This book will be required reading one day in high schools everywhere. Not only for its literary quality, but for the way in which it will surely inspire future generations of Sonny Hickams to realize winning can be found other places than on the football field; that even if your background and family seems to be overbearing burdens, you can still aim high...and soar.
Posted by Caitlin on 1/23/2000
Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys was one of those books that I couldn't put down, and I thought about for a long time after I finished it. There is humor mixed in with the story of one boy's determination to succeed in achieving his goals. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for an inspiring story. It is about growing up in a rural mining town in West Virginia struggling to accomplish goals in space when the main concern of the town is what is below the ground, not what is above it. I thought that this was an excellent book and would recommend it to teenagers as well as adults. It's considered an adult book, but it is an easy book to read and teenagers can relate to the main character. This is one of my favorite books.
Through reading this book, I have learned that hard work and determination will allow a person to reach his or her goals in life. In this book, Homer Hickam had many obstacles to overcome in order to reach his goal of becoming a rocket scientist. This book has taught me that if I have a dream, I must try to reach it. No matter how many and how hard the obstacles are that come in the way of dreams, a person must keep trying. I would also recommend seeing the movie that was based on this book, October Sky. October Sky is an accurate presentation of the story. If you have already seen the movie, you are sure to enjoy this book.
Posted by Beau Thurnauer on 11/21/2000
I get so depressed by some of the books on the market. Heavy themes, hidden meanings, verbose authors. October Sky is a get what you see book. It is simple but not too simple. It is an honest story about an honest guy growing up in West Virginia. His life is like ours. He has friends and enemies, successes and failures, girlfriends and conflicts.
But his life is also a model for our time. Homer Hickam is a very special person and he has told the story of his life in this book. Mr. Hickam grew up modestly in a coal mining town. His love of rocketry, no his passion for rocketry pulls him out of an average community and propels him to success inspite of his family and surroundings.
Few books appeal to adults and young adults alike. This is one. I want my wife to read it as well as my 13 year old son. Hickam is a mentor and I've never even met him. This is such down to earth honest writing it makes you smile.
Read this wonderful story and you will have a hard time approaching your next mystery or drama. It is refeshing. I don't even want to see the movie after reading this book. I want the images I have to last not the ones Hollywood created.
Posted by Anonymous on 7/2/2000
For those who loved the movie "October Sky", this book gives even more insight to the life of a teenage boy in Coalwood, West Virginia, in a time where the "outside world" was concerned with the Cold War and Dr. von Braun's team with "cashing up to the Russians in rocketry." The residents in Coalwood, however, were more concerned with what was below them rather than above, and with their dominant high school football team. 14-year-old Homer Hickam, Jr. (Sonny)is aware that only football stars (like his older brother Jim)ever get college scholarships, and the glory that he and his ragtag group of friends envy. It is common knowledge that the rest must work in or for the mine in the company-owned town. However, seeing Sputnik fly in 1957 and the attempts of Dr. von Braun's missiles, Sonny is inspired to launch his own rockets. With the support from his Mom, teacher, and friends (little from his father, the manager of the mines), Sonny, Roy Lee, and Sherman form the BCMA- Big Creek Missile Agency. They are later joined by Quentin and Billy, becoming widely known throughout Coalwood as the "Rocket Boys". They suffer through many mishaps during their teenage years, but manage to pull through. Sprinkled with humor, romance, and sadness, this book tells of a boy growing up trying to earn the approval of his father, his town, and ultimately himself. Many parts will make you laugh- Mom's constant warning not to "blow yourself up", Roy Lee's advice to Sonny about his love, Dorothy, and the Rocket Boy's experience getting moonshine for rocket fuel- and ending up drunk! Other parts will make a shiver run down your spine- how Sonny had to face his bitterness after the mine accident, and his arguments with his father. I got the same tingle reading the last chapter that I got from watching the movie- which is also wonderful. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever fought hard to accomplish a dream. It is a truly inspiring memoir that will leave anyone with a feeling of happiness, sadness, and satisfaction all rolled into one. Read "Rocket Boys"- you won't forget it.
Posted by James Charles Monzella on 2/6/2010
Homer Hickam has a wonderful way with words. His descriptions of life in a small West Virginia coal mining town is perfect, because I used to live in West Virginia and I have been to places like Coalwood. He makes his experiences as a "rocket boy" come to life. I enjoyed every page of this book, plus two others he has written about the Rocket Boys.