Once Upon a Summer in 1969

As a child who grew up in a low income single parent home, the one thing we weren’t low on was a hefty supply of reading books.  We had every kind of book imaginable.  Crime novels, the Goosebump series, Harry Potter and even classics like Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities. Our local library was always discarding books and once our junior high librarian found out that all five of us shared a passion for reading, she would give us first dibs on the discarded books from the school.  My mom always told us that being a good reader was the key to succeeding in life.

You have to read so much during your lifetime.  Contracts, proposals, grants and much more.  so many people who get swindled turn out to not enjoy reading.  Passionate readers 9 times out of 10 always read everything from cover to cover-even the fine print.  Now that I’m a young mom to my adorable, but super busy Moo, I hope to instill in her the same passion for reading that I have developed over the years.

The one thing I thirsted for most in my reading adventures where books that featured characters that looked like me-brown skin, dark textured hair, dark eyes.  However, there weren’t many books like that in my mostly white hometown of Cheraw. So, I settled for what we had.  I don’t want Moo settling though.  I think it’s important for her to see and read books with African and African American characters as well as books that will help her identify with her Native American and Italian heritage too.

Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to create a library and check out books that will quench both our thirsts for the time being.  First up is ‘The Moon over Star‘ by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by the very talented Jerry Pinkney.  Now at first glance at the cover you’d think that Dianna is a Black author, but she’s actually White.  I was surprised to find that out from her picture inside the book cover.

However, her race does not take away from the beautiful story she wrote about a little girl’s excitement and fascination with the 1969 launch of the Eagle shuttle into space.  And despite the little girl’s and the rest of the world’s interest in the history making journey of Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins, her grandfather (a farmer) feels like space expeditions are a waste of government funds.  The 60s were hard times for Blacks.  You had the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow Laws and shooting of JFK (the Bill Clinton of his day).  Her grandfather feels like there are other needs should be handled here on Earth with those funds.

Her grandfather’s noticeable lack of interest in the shuttle launch does not stop her from dreaming and fantasizing about one day being able to become an astronaut herself.  It’s not until the end that young girl realizes that her grandfather’s displeasure might be linked to the fact that he never got the chance to pursue his dream like those men on the Eagle were doing.  And Gramps finally understands his granddaughter’s interest in the moon the landing when she reveals to him that she dreams of one day landing on the moon too.

The best part of the book is the last page where Aston wrote, “Gramps  had looked to the moon all of his life.  It told him when to plant and when to harvest.  And once upon a summer’s night, it told me to dream.”  Isn’t it ironic that the person who knew how to read the moon best never got to touch it?  I certainly recommend this Coretta Scott King Award winner to everybody.  Even as an adult this book moved me.

It reminded me that anything can inspire us to dream.  And just because we don’t understand the dreams of others doesn’t mean we should discourage them from pursuing them.  Once upon a summer in 1969, a little girl in Star dreamed of landing on the moon.  And once upon a summer, winter, fall or spring my Moo will discover her dreams.

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