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Rocket Boys: A Memoir

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Good Literary Analysis

The writer describes the book Rocket Boys: A Memoir by Homer Hickam, Jr.

Title: Rocket Boys: A Memoir

Level: Grade 9, Grade 10

Mode: Response to Literature

Form: Literary Analysis

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Student Model

Rocket Boys: A Memoir

Homer Hickam, Jr., wrote Rocket Boys: A Memoir. He has also written Torpedo Junction and many articles for various science publications. Hickam was born in 1943 in the coal country of West Virginia. Most of the young men in that area grew up and worked in the mines. Hickam’s dad, who was a foreman and later in charge of operations, loved coal mining. However, Homer did not; he wanted to launch rockets. He worked to reach that goal and eventually made his dream of becoming a NASA engineer a reality.

Coal mining was a dangerous, dirty, and uncertain job in Coalwood, West Virginia, during the 1950s. The mine in Coalwood had just recently changed owners, putting an even greater burden on Homer’s father because the new owner’s policies often ignored the miners’ needs. At times local boys would beat up Homer to get revenge. His mother, who wanted something better for Homer, kept encouraging him to seek a life outside of the coal mines. His father disagreed. He expected his son to grow up and work in the mine. Like most young people, Homer just wanted to fit in, but even his brother called him a joke.

Then, in the middle of the Cold War, the Russians sent Sputnik into orbit. It was 1957, and many people feared that the Russians would take over the world. The race to space changed the lives of Homer and his friends. Now they vowed to work together to launch a rocket. Homer’s mother supported them, but told Homer again and again, “Don’t blow yourself up!” Several times the rockets exploded before getting off the ground, sending jagged pieces of steel everywhere, but Homer never did blow himself up.

I really enjoyed reading this book because I know how important it is to be liked and how good it feels to finish a project that no one thinks you can do. Even though he grew up in the 1950’s, Hickam’s hopes and dreams were much like those of teens today. It’s encouraging to read stories about people who beat the troubles thrown their way. If you like to read about people your own age and are interested in the early days of the space program, be sure to read Rocket Boys. You’ll like this exciting true story.

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