FINE School Library Journal, FINE! You sent a box of ARCs and craftily placed them on my desk at work. They’ve been there for a month. I’ve been meaning to get to them, I really have, but there are SO MANY BOOKS in my office. Did you hear me when I said that I was a Librarian? I’m not exaggerating when I say SO MANY BOOKS…
Well, I finally picked up the box and I rummaged through, and with much care and dedication selected the first to read and review (which means that I placed my hands over my eyes and picked one). Here it is:
I Love You Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted.
This is not the first rodeo for Baratz-Logsted who brings to us SO MANY BOOKS for so many audiences. Seriously Ms. Baratz-Logsted, your over-achievement in the adult AND young-adult AND children’s fiction circles is making my non-existent, but oft-dreamed of, writing career look insignificant and small (watch me now as I sniffle to myself while rocking in a dark corner somewhere).
Baratz-Logsted brings us the story of Mamie, a ten year old geek / freak (don’t you just love those) in the making. The setting: 1969 Connecticut; and the pivotal story: Mamie’s family life, which unfolds parallel to the epic journey of Michael Collins, the one Astronaut who wasn’t the first to step onto the moon.
A first person epistolary (means written in letter format) novel, this tale is just adorable. There, I said it Ms. Baratz-Logsted and I hope you don’t mind. I adored this novel.
Mamie’s teacher sets a class assignment of writing letters to the three Astronauts who will be the first to walk on the moon. The girls in Mamie’s class pick the ‘dreamy’ Neil Armstrong and the boys pick the ‘cool’ Buzz Aldrin. Mamie? Mamie is that girl, the one who is established early in the tale as a little odd, who picks the ‘best’ Astronaut of them all, Michael Collins, who is to stay with the ship.
What unfolds from this point is a beautifully crafted story about family life in the 1960s as changes unfold both within the family home and outside of it. Worlds collide and divide in this charming story and don’t let the age range of this book fool you. Yes, it’s recommended for middle-schoolers (about ages 9-11), but the topics are beautifully deep. Look for the contentious issue of Mamie’s older sister leaving home as an un-wed daughter. Look for the progressively deteriorating relationship between Mamie’s parents. Look for the love, yet discord between Mamie and her second eldest sister Bess. Look for the changing tide of the space race, and for what it means for the ordinary family man like Mamie’s dad.
Amongst the never-before attempted preparations for the massive undertaking faced by the Astronauts, Mamie is also entering into unchartered territory. As first her mother, then her father and then her sisters and even the family cat respectively abandon the home, Mamie becomes ever more determined to keep the ‘engines’ burning. Her family crumbles around her as she becomes (metaphorically speaking) Michael Collins, the one never to walk but to keep the ship in orbit.
In fact, a quote from the end of the book (pg 220) sums this up wonderfully:
“it’s fine for people to go off and have adventures, it’s fine for men to walk on the moon. But they couldn’t have done what they did if they hadn’t had him to wait for them, if he hadn’t stayed with the ship. How would they have come home again? Because, sure, getting there was a fine thing. But that would have been nothing if they hadn’t been able to get back.”
Without revealing too much of the story’s ending, it’s lovely by the way, the overarching feeling that I had is that Mamie’s family do not deserve someone as wonderful as her. Please, please, please readers, take note of Buster. Everyone needs a Buster. I wanted to pluck him off the page and hug him tight; and if anyone is deserving of each other, it is these two friends who stick it out and keep the ship in flight.
This is a lovely story about a lovely girl and her lovely friend, and also about her lovely take on life around her.
This is due for publication in June 2017 and you can (and should) get yours here:
Thank you Ms. Baratz-Logsted for a great read!