Thursday, March 12, 2009
Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.
This rather juvenile autobiography of a group of boys in a West Virginia coal mining town tells the story of their fascination with space in the days of Sputnik. One Book, One Waco picked this story for its spring 2009 read.
I enjoy literary and historical biographies when they relate to literature, for example Iris, the recent outstanding biography by Peter Conradi and Juliet Barker’s bio of Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt. But teen bios are not my thing. This story is amusing – to 14-year olds -- but not to me. I have an obligation to read it, but I would gladly invoke the rule of 50 here. Furthermore, I do not enjoy “fictionalized” biography.
To begin with the book has about 100 or more pages than necessary. All the stuff about unionizing mines and “Sonny’s” older brother’s football problems lack relevance to the rest of the story. Two pages on Homer getting a new kitten, pages and pages about the culture of football and how the players dated all the cute girls and ruled the school likewise detracted from the story of the rockets. A tighter focus on the rockets would have pleased me more.
Admittedly, the book is well written, and an interesting story. The final chapters on the last rocket designs, the boys learning calculus, and the science fair experiences are first rate. Had the entire book focused on the rocket boys, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. 3 stars