“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, December 18, 2009

Almost Astronauts • Nonfiction audiobook

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
by Tanya Lee Stone
read by Susan Ericksen
Brilliance Audio Ages 10 and up
They had the right stuff. They defied the prejudices of the time. And they blazed a trail for generations of women to follow
Story: Have you ever heard of the "Mercury 13" women? Did you know that nearly twenty years before the first women were let into NASA's astronaut program, there were others who tried? Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved not only that there were as tough as any man but also that they were brave enough to challenge the government. Their passage to space was blocked by prejudice, jealousy and a note scrawled by one of the most powerful men in Washington. But in the end, their inspiring example empowered young women to take their rightful place in the sky, piloting jets and commending space capsules. Almost Astronauts is the story of thirteen true pioneers of the space age.
Included with the audio discs is a bonus disc with an author interview, poetry read by the author, pictures from the book and a study guide.

Story behind the story: Author Tanya Lee Stone tells readers, via KidsBuzz: "What if I told you there are 13 women you've probably never heard of who tried to be astronauts in 1961—almost 20 years before women were let into NASA's space program? Would you believe me? Well, it's true. I hadn't heard of them either—until I stumbled across one little sentence. Then I was on a mission to find out everything I could. I discovered an amazing story of gutsy, record-breaking female fliers who took all the same tests our first male astronauts did to answer one burning question—are women just as qualified as men to be astronauts?

The answer was YES. But NASA said NO. Think that's the end of the story? Not even close." To find out the whole scoop, listen to the audiobook or read the book (from Candlewick Press). But, as Tanya advises: "beware—this book contains some beloved American heroes behaving badly."

ALMOST ASTRONAUTS has been collecting awards: Winner of the Sibert Award (for the most distinguished informational book), named a Boston Globe Horn Book Honor book and a finalist for the  YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, a Horn Book Fanfare, a Kirkus Best Young Adult Book of the Year, an ALSC Notables Nominee, as well as starred reviews from numerous journals and raves from the New York Times and others.

to Tanya as she talks about ALMOST ASTRONAUTS on Vermont Public Radio, or watch her present the book with kids on BookTV.

Plus: Tanya Lee Stone is happy to call-in to your book group (or meet with your group if you live in Vermont); just email her to submit your request.

This is the first audiobook offered on The Picnic Basket (thanks to Brilliance Audio)

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Pamela Kramer said...

I tried to click on the link to get a copy of this but the link didn't work. I hope I can still get a copy! I emailed the Picnic Basket directly, so I am crossing my fingers.

LifeLongLearner said...

Link issues---not working

Margo Jantzi library media specialist

Cub Run Elementary School
1451 S. Montevideo Circle
Penn Laird, VA 22846


Please send me a reviewer's copy.

Deborah Sloan said...

Yes, there were some funky link issues (some screens could see the link under "order" and others couldn't), but I changed to a different blogger updater and all should be fine now. :)

One Acre Homestead said...

It worked beautifully for me! Thanks!

Julie said...

It worked for me... but I still haven't gotten my copy.

roller coaster teacher said...

Just received copy yesterday - will post review in a few days. My local public library has print copy that I will borrow - need it to fully assess how to use in classroom.

kokomana said...

I was thoroughly fascinated by and enjoyed Almost Astronauts when it was originally published in print. The pictures and other graphics added much to book-appeal and really personalized the story. So my curiosity was piqued when I saw Almost Astronauts being offered as an audio book, how would it compare when it lacked the images? As a big fan of both fiction and non-fiction audio books I was intrigued. Imagine my delight to discover a fourth disc containing the pictures and graphics from the book. The perfect compromise!

The narration is good, with the right tone of voice and inflection. I found Almost Astronauts very easy to listen to, and I was drawn into the story just as much as when I read it the first time. The slideshow of the images with captions was very good and helps keep the feel of the print edition.

I will recommend this book to all the girls asking for strong female stories, or realistic stories, as well as to both girl and boy history buffs. In our school library we always pair our audio books with a copy of the book, so even if students fail to notice the fourth disc or do not have a computer, I can recommend Almost Astronauts without reservation.

Rating: 4

Monica Bildner
St. Rita School
Dallas, TX

crau said...

I was excited to receive my audio copy. My little boys and I listened everyday on the way to school. They have never been so quiet! I learned the history of these great women, and I felt anger at the obsticles they faced. It had great narration. I did miss connecting pictures to these real life heroes. I am not sure my fifth grade students will have the patience to listen without the book, so I intend to get print version.
Rating: 4

WS, librarian said...

I throughly enjoyed this audiobaook and was amazed to learn of the determination of these women in the face of so many obstacles and disapointments. The addition of the 4th disc with the photographs and the other material made it even better. I did miss not having the print version (which I have ordered)and for that reason, alone, am not giving this a perfect 5.
A production quality note - One of the discs in the audiobook that I received must be damaged as I was unable to listen to one section and had to skip forward to hear the rest.

I give it a 4.

janew said...

Stone chronicles an event in our history that remains unfamiliar to most--the dogged pursuit of 13 women pilots to gain acceptance into NASA's astronaut program. Stone's research into their stories is impeccable--giving a clear and accurate voice to each of these amazing women. Stone deals with prejudices within NASA as well as within our US society, which provides a context for her readers that will support them in understanding what the Mercury 13 heard over and over again; that their entrance into NASA was "not the right time." Stone captures their hopes, dreams,rejections and second-class treatment. Her book ends with a perspective on how these women lead the way for women and other minorities into NASA. What courage!
The audio version will allow readers who may not be able to navigate the print to share in this mighty story. The recorder is excellent! I did note that there is a problem on one of the discs, which causes it to skip. Unfortunately, I did not make a note of which disc is faulty. I will be sure to have my students take note.
A HIGH 5!!!!!

dmuldawer said...

Mesmerizing. That's the only way to describe the audio recording of Almost Astronauts. Mesmerizing. As I drove around town, I found myself not wanting to turn off the recording when I reached my destination.

For me, the most interesting thing was how much I enjoyed the recording because:

A) I much prefer written text
B) I didn't enjoy the print version of the book

But the recording is so well read with such beautiful inflection that I actually got MORE out of listening than I did from reading.

Almost Astronauts is a book to be savored, one in which each word has enormous importance. It needs to be read as poetry, perhaps not surprising as the author wrote poems about these women long before she set their stories to prose.

Almost Astronauts is about space travel, true, but it is also about the fight against discrimination and women's rights. It is about prejudice and courage and politics. And it is something that is never discussed.

I grew up in New Mexico; I live there now and yet, despite the extensive testing done in my own city, I had never heard of these tests or of Dr. Lovelace's role in the space program. It is indeed another chapter of history that has been relegated to dusty archives. We owe a great debt to the author for bringing this fascinating story back into the light.

Picnic Basket Rating: 5

Catherine said...

I have been listening to this story since I received it last week. I love it! I am finding out a great deal about the space program that I didn't know. I feel that this is a good time to have this story come out, with the possibility of the space program being discontinued. This story has such strong women who defied their circumstance and gave us all something to work towards. How times have changed. We get strong women and see that they can actually do more than men. I am also glad to see that there were men who believed in us, even back in the 60's.

I work with a group of high school special education students who aren't big on reading. I can't wait to share this with them. High schoolers are great for competeing, so it will be interesting to see what the discussion about this story will be like. I love audio books because my kids are able to focus better on listening to stories rather than reading on their own. I hope The Picnic Basket will continue to include audio books in their selection.

Rating: 5

Catherine Yezak, Special Ed. Teacher, Marquette Senior High School, Marquette, MI

Anonymous said...

After previewing the audio version of this book, I am looking forward to being able to share it with my students. The story is well researched and captivating, the reading is compelling, and the CD of the photos completes the package for an excellent audiobook. This book in this format will be an excellent choice for some of my non-fiction readers who are at a low reading level but very high comprehension level. I give this book a 5.

Susan O'Connell
Jeudevine Library
Hardwick, VT

Lemon the Duck said...

"I didn't know women could do much," was a comment from one of my high achieving female students. I didn't know kids still thought like this!
This audio book sparked so much conversation and understanding of how we as a society are still changing our thinking about how much women are capable of.
The story of these pioneers, paving the way for change and opportunity for all groups of people, is inspirational and eye opening.
Even my 66 year old mother is enthralled with this story. She doesn't recall hearing much about these women. Not surprising after listening to the story.
With a great performance by the narrator, this well researched and accessible piece for upper elementary and older kids is undoubtedly informing and entertaining. Listeners will be eager to learn more about this time in America's history and the women who helped shape it.
I was disappointed when I tried to access the bonus disc which was supposed to contain photographs found in the book. An attempt to contact the included e-mail was unsuccessful. The audio stands alone, but not being able to view the photographs was very disappointing since multiple attempts in various computers were not successful.
I rate this a 5 out of 5 for the audio portion of this story.

roller coaster teacher said...

This audiobook is a great complement to the print book and can help strengthen student listening comprehension skills. It can also engage readers who struggle with printed text. Great subject matter, too! (I teach 7th and 8th grade ELA, "regular" ELA class and remedial reading and writing in a suburban public school.)

M Battista said...

When this arrived I was not looking forward to listening to it. I wasn't particularly interested in the space program and I'm generally not a fan of audio books. So many students try "something new" because I encourage them to - so and I decided I needed to branch out as well. I'm so glad I did. I was completely drawn into the story and looked forward to each new revelation. The pacing and tone of the narration was perfect. The description of the moment a woman finally piloted the space shuttle was very moving. I think it would be most appropriate and most enjoyable for middle school and up.

Picnic Rating - 4

Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

Megan B. said...

I really enjoyed listening to this audio book. I love reading stories featuring strong female characters and I am so glad I have another book I can recommend, although I would probably recommend the print version.

4 out of 5

Anonymous said...

Received the cds and listened to 90% of them. I believe that to have the student really appreciate this fine set of narratives, I would only select a few at a time. Also, the picture would be shown first.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I was skeptical about "listening" to a book, especially a nonfiction book about a subject I'm sort of lukewarm towards. Let's just say Tanya converted me on the subject with Almost Astronauts. What a compelling story! Any girl who listens to - or reads - it will be instantly motivated to kick butt & aim for what she is passionate about. It amazes me to learn of the biases held and acted upon by NASA and President Johnson that kept these women from achieving a more prominent place in the history of space exploration. They certainly showed they had the right stuff and more. Their dignity and self-confidence elevate them to the well-deserved status of role models. While they may have been ahead of their time, they were exactly what their time needed. Exceptional book!

Carolyn A.
YA Librarian

Kimberli said...

I loved that this audiobook also included the study guide and pictures from the book. Both were very helpful. The audiobooks themselves were fascinating. I listened to them with my 4 and 8 year old sons on the way to school each morning. They loved them and so did I. Though much of the material was above the 4 year olds level, he certainly asked questions that told me he not only liked what he was listening to, but also understood it. He even requested that I get him some more books about space for him from the library. This is the type of stuff that you don't hear about, but really puts the whole picture together. I would love to use this in my classroom. I think the children would get a really good sense of not only how the space program has changed, but what these women did to make it possible for the women after them. I would recommend this and the print version. Very educational and interesting!

Rating: 5

Anonymous said...

I loved listening to this book. It was so interesting to hear about these astronaut's lives and the difficulties they have been through. It seems as though this book is for an older age group, I don't think it would be good for younger kids. Very good, though!

4 out of 5

Anonymous said...

The Mercury 13 women were such an inspiration to all women. I would not have realized this without listening to Tanya Lee Stone's book. When I began listening to the book, I was trying to figure out how to get students interested in reading the book. I appreciated the ideas that were in the extra disc. I am a special education teacher and have many students who enjoy listening to books. This is one that I will be sure to use. It is a great resource when studing the women's rights movement.
I give this audiobook a 5 in my basket.
Thank you for offering an audiobook in your collection. I am also glad that the author chose to tell the story in this fashion, rather than in poetry or in a picture book. This topic fits in well for the older student.

Carol said...

This story is an important historical statement and a moment of our history that needs to be heard again and for most, the first time. Civil rights issues are still a modern factor in politics, and it is important that we continue to engage in conversations about what equality means and how that term has evolved and continues too. There were times as I was listening my eyes filled with tears. I felt like I learned a lot about topics I knew very little about. This is an important story suitable for a wide audience of listeners. I would love to see this on the shelf of all libraries and classrooms where the environment promotes a female's access to science and technology.

Kim Watson said...

The audio version of Almost Astronaunts is a wonderful way to help upper-elementary or older students with reading. The students could follow along in the book while listening to the story. It would also be a nice change to silent reading, giving the listener a change in tone and expression. The picture disc allows the listener to "put a face with a name." A great selection for girls who have hopes of persuing careers in a predominantly male profession. A wonderful book that illustrates courage, determination, and commitment.

Rate 5/5

Barbara said...

A great audio selection and introduction to women in our space program. It was both aggravating and inspirational to listen to. I can see this working well with a group of middle school (or above) girls who might meet weekly and listen to/discuss a portion at a time.
Thanks for including an audio selection.
Rating: 5

Christina said...

Very interesting "Listen". It would be wonderful for students who have trouble getting through a print book, but if you added the book with the audio it would encourage reading more. The addition of the graphics on a separate disk is nice, but how often do you listen to a book on disc while at your computer?


Mrs. Horne said...

This book on CD was AMAZING! What a great premise for writing a book - to give young girls who want to dream big examples of those who have come before them.

From the first chapter I was hooked and hung on every word. I immediately went to the library and donated this so that it will reach a larger audience.

Great job!!


Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

Anonymous said...

I was finally able to find time to listen to the audio book while driving to and from a conference. I thought it was great! Disc one was interesting and most definetly pulled me in with all of the details about the tests and the descriptions of the women. Disc two and three became downright exciting as you learn about the reasons why the program was halted. A fascinating listen, I think combining the bonus disc that has pictures, etc with listening to different chapters would be a great classroom tool.

juli said...

I so enjoyed listening to this audio book. I found myself sitting in the parking lot at school to finish a chapter or listen to more before starting my work day. The stories of these women is amazing and needs to be told. I mentioned the women to a fellow teacher and they said they had no idea there were women in the Mercury program I also just ordered to print book so that my students may follow along as they listen at our "read along" station in the classroom. Thanks for the opportunity and I look forward to more audio books in the future.

I give this audio book: 5 stars
5th grade teacher

Kris McAllister said...

I have the book on order so I enjoyed hearing the book before seeing it first hand. I agree the bonus disk with the pictures and the study guide is a great feature. The book captures the interest of students who enjoy non-fiction and learning about a time not so long ago. The audio quality is excellent. This will definitely have a place in my library for units on astronauts and space travel.

Sara Lestage said...

I really enjoyed listening to this book! I'm not sure about the age group that it is listed for, I would suggest it for high school students.
I was especially captivated by the end of the book, when the author actually spoke with the women.
I would give this book a strong 4.

Sara Lestage
Whitehall Elementary School

Rhonda McFarland said...

I was excited to receive this audiobook. I was hoping to add it to my classroom library as another resource for my students. However, while I found it to be quite a good "listen," I soon realized that it was meant for an older group of kids. Fifth grade or higher is probably a much better fit. I believe older students will appreciate the story of these determined women much better than my 3rd graders. The additional CD with pixs was a pleasant surprise and would also be a great addition to creating a lesson surrounding this story.

For fifth graders and up, I would give this a 4 out of 5.

Heather Hill said...

What a wonderful audiobook. Each time I listened to it in the car, I hated to stop the story at my destination. I think students grade 5 and above will truly enjoy the richness of the audiobook. And it may hook some reluctant readers into books on audio.

I can't wait to listen to this adventure again on a long summer car trip with my family.

I give the audiobook a 5 out of 5. And I hope we get to preview more audiobooks.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

"Almost Astronauts" audiobook will be highly recommended by me. The author did a wonderful job of compiling all the info in a manner that allows the listener to follow along without getting confused. Even my young daughter listened intently and asked questions on our drive to school.

I give this audiobook 5 out of 5.

Carrie Blagg, Librarian Assistant
Paradise Valley, AZ

Cody Blagg said...

I requested this audio to write a review for one of my classes. I didn't know what to expect; however, I learned about a piece of our American history we never hear about. These women were strong, capable, yet not given the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

I give this audio 4/5.

Cody Blagg
Scottsdale, AZ

D.A. Tyo said...

A late post here...I apologize. I wish I could say I loved this audiobook, but I did not. Perhaps it was simply my inexperience of listening to a story. I haven't listened to many audiobooks as I prefer to do the reading.

However, what this audiobook DID do was intrigue me enough to go to the local library and check out the paperback version of the book. Once I had the book in hand, it was much easier to listen along with the audio portion. Simply listening to the audio, though, was not enough for me to be interested in this nonfiction work.

The story in the BOOK was one I enjoyed very much and would recommend.

I would rate this audiobook a Picnic Basket rating of 3...and the actual book a Picnic Basket rating of 4.