Written and Illustrated by Leo Landry
Unit Written by Rachel Harris
Note: Leo Landry is the gifted artist who wrote and illustrated this book. I was fortunate enough to have a Q&A with him on this wonderful children’s story, and below is the transcript. You can use this as additional background information to flesh out your Unit Study!
What inspired you to write the book? I was just about six years old when the Apollo program landed on the moon, back in July of 1969, and was obsessed with space exploration. I would love to go out into the backyard at night and look up at the moon in all of its various phases. Since then I've always wanted to do something creative that connected to that memory!
How long did it take from the time you first thought of the storyline to a published book? Well, with Space Boy, I guess you could say that it took me about 35 years! Actually, I spent about six months writing the story, going back and forth with my editor trying to make it the best it could be, and then once the story was worked out, it took another six months to do the artwork.
How did writing this story compare with others you have written? What was your favorite book to write? Each book that I've written has been a completely different experience. I seem to have more of a struggle with doing the artwork than writing the stories. Space Boy was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot more personal for me, so I wanted to get it just right. For me, the story is really about finding a quiet place of your own amidst the often very chaotic everyday world!
As for my favorite book to write, I would say it's a tie, between Space Boy and The Snow Ghosts.
How long have you been writing children's books? I've been writing for about 20 years, and the first book that I had published (in 2003) that I both wrote and illustrated was called Oh, Baby! A Celebration of Babies. So that's about 15 years of rejection letters before getting my big break!
When did you decide you wanted to be an author/illustrator? When I was in first grade, I used to make little books of my own by counting out pages, folding them, and stapling a binding. Then I would write and illustrate my own stories.
Anything you would like to say to the children using this unit? I had a lot of fun writing and illustrating Space Boy. I hope you like reading it!
Occupations (Astronaut) – An astronaut is a person engaged in or trained for space flight. Discuss this occupation with your child. Have they ever seen a real astronaut on television or in a magazine or book before? What do Astronauts do? What do they wear? (helmet, space suit, boots, etc) Why? (Protection, so they can breath, to regulate their body temperature in space, etc)
Human Emotions – There are tons of emotions expressed in this story. In the beginning, we see Nicholas’ baby sister very upset, and Nicholas feeling frustrated. While on the moon, we see Nicholas expressing relief and joy. Later we see Nicholas feeling tired, happy and content. We also see Nicholas feeling extremely overwhelmed with all of the noises. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes, and we all need to occasionally take some time and space for ourselves. Discuss with your child this common need, and times he or she may need to take a self proclaimed “time out.” Discuss how Nicholas used a creative solution – his imagination!!! Using our imagination to “get away” like Nicholas did is a great trick! What are some ways your child can use their imagination to get away?
Relationships – In this story we see Siblings (Sister and Brother), the Parent/Child Relationship, and the Dog Owner/Pet Relationship. Does your child have any siblings? How about any pets? At first Nicholas is annoyed with his family and wants to get away, but the happy memories he shares with them helps him remember how good it is to be home and have a family!
List Making – Nicholas makes a mental list of his space outfit. See if your child can remember this list: Space suit, space boots, helmet. After he put on each item, Nicholas said, “check.” Discuss how you can create a list when you are packing, and check off items as you place them in your suitcase to help keep organized! What other types of lists can you make? (Grocery store, picnic lunch, daily chores, daily assignments, recipe, etc)
Choices Writer Can Make (Fonts) - The Author chose different fonts in the story to distinguish between the text in the actual story, and what the characters were saying outside of the story. See if your child notices this difference and can figure out why.
Repetition – The author uses repetition of noises in this story to bring a comfortable balance and symmetry to the story. The noises in the beginning are remembered in the middle of the story (in contrast to the quiet of space), and are mentioned at the end of the story (in contrast to the absence of the noises now that it is later). Can you think of any other stories you have read that use this device?
Imaginary vs. Real
– Discuss what is real in the story. What parts are imaginary?
Word Find- Outer Space Word Find
Lunar – of, relating to, or resembling the moon.
Hatch – a small door or opening in an aircraft
Gravity - the force of attraction between two objects, which is influenced by the mass of the two objects and the distance between the two objects.
Craters – a hole made by an impact (like a meteorite) or by the explosion of a bomb or shell
Illustrations – Compare the illustrations in the story. When Nicholas is home, the illustrations are bordered and rounded off. When he is in space, the illustrations take up the entire page. Discuss possible reasons for this choice.
Detail – Notice the astronaut’s helmet and rocket lamp on the nightstands in Nicholas’ room, as well as the space picture hanging above his bed. Also notice on the pages where Nicholas is in space, the earth is always visible. Could this be the illustrator’s way of showing us that home is always there, waiting for us?
Medium - The illustrator used pencil and watercolor drawings in this story. Can you recall other stories you have read that used watercolors? Compare the similarities and differences. Look at other picture books that use other types of drawings and compare them.
Counting backwards – Nicholas counted backwards from 4 - 1 before “blasting off.” Practice counting backwards with your child, perhaps while playing Astronaut in a laundry basket or big box. For fun, try teaching them these numbers in another language, such as Spanish or French.
4 Cuatro Quatre
3 Tres Trois
2 Dos Deux
1 Uno Un
Distance – Discuss the concept of distance and near and far. The Moon is very far away (238,855 miles away. It would take 3 days to get there from Earth!), and because of that, it can look small in the sky when we look at it from earth. The same is true with stars. However, when Nicholas got into space and on the moon, the earth looked small. Try this concept with different objects in your home. Hold them in front of each other’s faces and say, “Close” or “Near” and then run to the other side of the room and say “Far”. Do it again, and this time say “Big” and then run to the other side of the room and say “Small”. Kids will have a lot of fun running back and forth and holding different objects in front of your face.
Measuring – When Nicholas was on the moon, you could see his footprints in the dust. (tidbit - There is a famous picture of Armstrong’s footprint in space. It is said that it will be there for milLions of years because there is no wind on the moon to blow it away!) Have your child either step in sand outside or trace their footprint on paper and measure how long it is. Then measure your own and compare them.
Weight – Discuss weight with your child and compare different toys and household objects as being either heavy or light. Maybe get out a scale and show this visibly. Then discuss how in space, we are weightless, like Nicholas’ tomato slices!
Sound/Hearing – Nicholas decided to go on his space trip because of all of the noises keeping him up at night. He wasn’t able to go to sleep because of the loud crying, barking and radio. Hearing is one of our five senses and when we take away one of our senses, such as sight when our eyes are closed at night, our other senses are heightened. Have your child close their eyes and see what noises they can hear – can they hear birds chirping? An Airplane overhead? The hum of the refrigerator or air conditioner?
The author was inspired to write this story after reading that the moon is 10,000 times quieter than the quietest place on earth!!! Mention this to your child and play the Quiet Game. Who can stay quiet the longest?
Astronomy – Moon – The lunar surface is covered with fine soil, which is the result of constantly being bombarded with meteors. There are valleys (the dark spots) and mountains (the light spots) on the moon. There is no atmosphere on the moon and temperatures range from -184 degrees Celsius during the night to 214 degrees Celsius during the day. If you choose, you can describe the different phases of the moon with your child and possibly chart the phases for a month.
Gravity –Gravity is the force of attraction between two objects, which is influenced by the mass of the two objects and the distance between the two objects.
There is a popular story that Sir Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on him and he came up with the Universal Law of Gravitation. That isn’t exactly what happened, but there are truths in it. More likely is that he observed the apple fall and began thinking of his theory – that the apple was accelerated from its resting position while it was hanging on the tree, so therefore there must be a force acting on the apple to cause the acceleration. This led to Newton’s 2nd law of gravity.
Experiment with your child with this concept. Try dropping objects of varying weights at the same time to see what will happen.
Biblical Application –
Creation - Day 4: Read Genesis 1:14-20 with your child:
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.