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We Dream of Space

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It's January 1986. The launch of the Challenger is just weeks away, and Cash, Fitch, and Bird Nelson Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware.

Cash loves basketball, Dr. J, and a girl named Penny; he's also in danger of failing seventh grade for a second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn't understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA's first female shuttle commander, but feels like she's disappearing.

The Nelson Thomas siblings exist in their own orbits, circling a tense, crowded, and unpredictable household, dreaming of escape, dreaming of the future, dreaming of space. They have little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga—a failed applicant to the Teacher in Space program—who encourages her students to live vicariously through the launch. Cash and Fitch take a passive interest, but Bird builds her dreams around it.

When the fated day arrives, it changes everything.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published May 5, 2020

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About the author

Erin Entrada Kelly

30 books1,473 followers
Author of books for young people.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,208 reviews
Profile Image for Erin Entrada Kelly.
Author 30 books1,473 followers
July 25, 2020
I was in elementary school when the Challenger launched from Cape Canaveral. Like many people who witnessed the national tragedy, it has stayed with me over the years. I started writing this book in 2016, but Lalani of the Distant Sea called me away. Once Lalani was safely on her journey, I returned to the Nelson-Thomas siblings.

I didn't just want to write about the Challenger. Mostly, I wanted to write about family. Specifically, an imperfect family, and young people in an unpredictable house who are trying to find their way.

We often feel like we're in orbit alone. Sometimes, we just need to find the right solar system.
Profile Image for  ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ❤️.
2,284 reviews408 followers
July 22, 2022
Ein Kinderbuch für Kinder und Jugendliche ab 11. Mir hat es sehr gut gefallen, weil es irgendwie anders war.
Wir sind im Jahr 1986 und es geht um drei sehr unterschiedliche Geschwister vor dem Hintergrund des Starts des Spaceshuttles Challenger. Besonders die zwölfjährige Bird fiebert dem Start entgegen; sie möchte irgendwann selbst einmal Astronautin werden.
Es ist ein ungewöhnliches Kinderbuch, ein ernstes Buch. Es hat eine Atmosphäre, die nicht unbedingt fröhlich oder leicht/locker ist wie bei vielen anderen Kinderbüchern.
Ich glaube, gerade das hat mich besonders angesprochen. Aber auch die Thematik an sich ist spannend.
Das Ende ist traurig-schön. Vor dem Hintergrund des Unglücks nach dem Start des Raumschiffes, rücken die drei Geschwister bzw. die Familie endlich näher zusammen.
Profile Image for Colby Sharp.
Author 4 books1,113 followers
January 3, 2020
I began this year finishing a book that I am sure will end up being one of my favorites of 2020. Erin Entrada Kelly will go down as one of the greatest storytellers of her time. This book will captivate young readers. 20 years from now parents will gift this book to their kids. They will tell them that it was their favorite book they read growing up.
We Dream of Space is so darn good.

Adding it to my list of awesome 2020 books: https://www.mrcolbysharp.com/2020
Profile Image for Dennis.
659 reviews269 followers
December 31, 2020
Expectations, expectations.

On paper, a story of three 80’s kids navigating middle-school and dreaming of space, set against the backdrop of the Challenger disaster, sounds great.

Okay, it really wasn’t bad. However, I expected this to be a story of a mostly carefree youth, being suddenly impacted by that fateful day in January 1986, with the characters then having to rely on their support system to get them through this difficult moment. Well, nope. That’s not what this is. These kids don’t have much of a support system. Because they are already struggling with their terrible parents.

While their parents are arguing all the time, the three siblings are all fighting their own battles. There’s 12 year old Fitch, who spends most of his time at the arcade and is struggling with a hot temper. When the “wrong” girl falls in love with him, his nerves are tested by his constantly teasing friends, and his anger ultimately makes him say something rude to Amanda.

Cash, the oldest sibling at 13, is a huge Dr. J fan. But he himself doesn’t have the talent for the game and he has to leave the school’s basketball team anyway, because of his bad grades. He’s in danger of failing seventh grade for a second time, and generally has the feeling that he isn’t good at anything. Their parents do nothing to support the two boys.

Fitch’s twin sister, Bird, is a talented girl that has a huge hunger to understand how the world, and especially machines work. She takes things apart and draws schematics of their insides. And when her science teacher Ms. Salonga proclaims space flight weeks to celebrate the upcoming Challenger launch, Bird is in it with all her heart. She’s dreaming of becoming an astronaut one day, like Judith Resnik. Judith is also the only person who is really listening to Bird. Well, while she’s daydreaming that is. Since Bird never gets into any trouble, never does anything wrong, she’s being ignored by her parents altogether. And we all know what happened to the Challenger and Judith Resnik. I think at this point you probably get the picture. There is just too much of the sad and very little of the happy here.

Sure, this is a realistic look at a couple of tweens that are part of a dysfunctional family, and their subsequent struggles. But there’s only the tiniest bit of hope at one point or another in this story. It’s not enough. I really feel like these kids will have a hard time to succeed in life. And that is just not the feeling I wanted to be left with in the end.

Additionally, I don't think any of the three character arcs got a satisfying conclusion. Bird's was the only one even that appeared to be fully developed. Finch's and Cash's personal development towards the end was a positive one. But I feel like both their character arcs did not get the proper treatment they deserved. This book could have done with a few additional chapters. However, this is the only problem I have with the quality of the book, which was otherwise quite good. It’s just the (almost overwhelmingly) sad mood that I wasn’t expecting and that left me somewhat disappointed. But that’s partly my fault. I could have seen it, had I paid a little more attention to the blurb.

Overall this wasn't bad at all. But if this book were an autumn day, it certainly could have done with a few more hours of sunshine.
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books228 followers
August 5, 2020
Erin Entrada Kelly tells the truth.

In this story, she tells the truth about a family. About absent, bickering parents. About middle school. About siblings. About disappointment and regret and doubt and learning to own who you are, what you want, and your own responsibility to yourself and the people who surround you.

"Who needs real? We're surrounded by real all the time." p. 104

"Pretty is nothing. Pretty is invisible. Pretty is what you make it." p. 150

"She wished she was part of a different family...It wasn't a pretty thought. But there it was."
Profile Image for Ann-Marie "Cookie M.".
1,110 reviews121 followers
May 12, 2021
I have too much to say about this book. Where do I begin? Do I start with the memories it brought back to me of my personal experience of the Challenger Disaster?
"We Dream of Space" is about a family of middle school aged children, so my experiences as a suburban mom trying to process the event were not the same as those of school children. I do remember watching an interview with Christa McAuliffe a few days before the launch with my husband. They asked her if she was afraid of the danger. She said she wasn't. I told my husband I wouldn't be either. The chance to do something I'd always dreamed of would be worth the risk.

The things I had in common with the kid in this book are the things many kids have, difficulties in school, loneliness, self image, family tension. They all combine in this story to build a tale of three kids who could have ended up slipping through the cracks of life, but instead, because of our national tragedy bonded together as brothers and sister to draw strength from each other.

I received a gift from the Challenger Disaster, too. My husband and I held each other close in our grief and later in the year we welcomed our baby Lambie into the world. We considered calling her Christa, but chose a name that suits her personality more. I don't share it here.
Profile Image for BookNightOwl.
977 reviews174 followers
April 5, 2021
I LOVED this book!!! I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into until I heard The Challenger and unfortunately I knew what happened before I read it. Besides that i love how this dealt with a family that sounded so true and marriage and sibling relationships and just the whole dynamic of this family. I love how you got the point of view from each of the 3 children and their thoughts and worries. A wonderful middle grade book A+
Profile Image for Darla.
3,348 reviews526 followers
April 25, 2020
Three siblings live life and are changed by the Challenger disaster in January, 1986. I was a college student and returned from class just in time to observe the ill-fated launch on the small B/W set in my dorm room. This is the second book I have read in the past year that features that time period. The first was "Planet Earth Is Blue" by Nicole Pantaleakos. The books are very different and would be valuable read one after the other. What I really liked about this new book by Kelly was the character development of the three kids. Bird, Fitch, and Cash are in a dysfunctional household and through the course of events begin to realize that they can support each other even though the parents are letting them down. A teacher and a coach stand out as positive role models for the kids to lean on while their parents grow up. Included in Kelly's book is a brief explanation of the Challenger and some additional details on the progress of women in the space program. Would make a fabulous read aloud in conjunction with a modern history unit on the 1980's or a science unit on space travel.

Thank you to Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Samantha.
1,677 reviews82 followers
June 1, 2020
Cute and mostly likable, though too long on message and short on story.

Conceptually, this was a middle grade novel with a lot of potential. Unfortunately the execution was a bit of a disappointment.

Our protagonists are three likable siblings with very relatable problems (though their cartoonishly awful parents are kind of an eye roll). Some of their actions and inner monologues are a little too on the nose, even for a middle grade book, but mostly they feel like real kids navigating real issues. Which makes it rather frustrating when not one of them is given a complete story arc.

Also frustrating is the largely unacknowledged atmosphere of growing up in the mid-1980s. There is an arcade. There is Challenger. But the rest of the setting seems to exist largely out of time.

We also don’t get nearly enough connection between the personal stories chronicled and the launch around which the book is supposedly based. Bird is the only one of the three children whose story ties to it at all, and even her related plotline feels largely superficial.

I did appreciate the author’s restraint in not turning the Challenger explosion into a maudlin, overwrought plot device, but it just felt like there was a big disconnect between the macro and the micro of the purported plot of the book.
Profile Image for Zora.
1,223 reviews51 followers
August 4, 2020
Again, I can't claim to predict how MG kids will take this.

It wore me down. 78% of it is a dysfunctional family and two boy children being unpleasant because of the dysfunction. The dysfunction isn't booze, drugs, or beatings. It's page after page after page of endless bickering. I was ready to file for divorce myself by halfway through, and I've been divorced for 20 years!

The girl is the one bright light, and when she suffers upset over the space shuttle exploding, the boys support her for a few chapters at the end, while the parents still bicker elsewhere. I guess that's a happy ending? Realistic, but too realistic. I have no problems with the writing. The characters are well drawn. I just didn't like 90% of the people in the book, so it was like being forced to be with a bickering couple for several hours.
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,377 reviews73 followers
January 30, 2021
I ultimately loved this book, but some of it was hard for me. The bickering between the parents felt so genuine, it gave me a bit of PTSD. Kelly gives every character a true and honest place. None of them felt like a cookie cutter insertion.
Profile Image for Emily Carter-Dunn.
507 reviews21 followers
June 15, 2021
What I thought I would get:
1) Lots of space-centred stuff
2) Lots of information about Challenger
3) How the events of the Challenger launch impacted a group of siblings

What I actually got:
1) Family drama
2) Social drama
3) Sod all about space
Profile Image for JohnnyBear.
169 reviews12 followers
January 24, 2022
8 out of 10

We Dream of Space is a novel about The Challenger Space Shuttle Expedition that exploded in 1986, that is told through the eyes of fictional characters. This book switches between the perspective of three different children named Cash, Fitch, and Bird. The three children are all siblings and they have ignorant parents.

Book Cover

This book has unique sidelines for each of the children they switch between. Bird, in particular, wants to become a female NASA astronaut. A lot of Bird's section of the book is devoted to her astronomy class, in which all of the students are excited to watch the Challenger Space Shuttle launch.

I went into this book knowing nothing about it, but I was well aware of the explosion beforehand so I definitely could predict what was going to happen. Although this is somewhat of a mixture between YA and MG, I think this book would be suitable for a middle-grade audience. This book has great character writing and was very entertaining. It deals with the topic of the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion very well, and very professionally. I could recommend if you're interested in the topic, or if you want your child to learn about it.
Profile Image for Katie.
630 reviews73 followers
March 15, 2020
Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars

This was a really good story. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect because I didn't know that much going into it, but I ended up really enjoying it. This is the story of three siblings who have basically nothing in common and how things in their lives bring them closer together. I am a sucker for sibling relationships and I loved seeing how their relationship progressed as the story continued. It's woven with themes of space and exploration as it takes place leading up to the Challenger disaster, and I liked how the author tied everything together. It's a very character driven story, which surprised me a little with how much I liked it since I tend to need a good balance between plot driven and character driven, but this worked really well for me.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jillian.
193 reviews
January 28, 2022
This was awesome. Just really incredibly well done and a great perspective on the Challenger explosion, this being from the point of view of a family of middle graders.

I was disappointed somewhat by the ending, I feel like I wanted just a teensy bit more hope, especially since it’s a middle grade book. It’s a bit heavy and in some ways feels more like an adult book about middle graders. But it was really so good, I loved it. It deserves 5 stars but my heart just still hurts.

Highly recommend this! Read it!
Profile Image for Mila.
770 reviews65 followers
April 28, 2020
The digital arc of this book was kindly provided by the publisher via Edelweiss+ website in exchange for an honest review.

4,75 stars

Erin Entrada Kelly has such a huge talent for writing complex and intriguing characters and this novel was no exception. She did a great job of capturing the beginning of adolescence and the confusing feelings and desires that come with it. And all of this was very seamlessly tied to the topic of space exploration and made for a very raw and meaningful story.
Profile Image for Matt Godfrey.
27 reviews2 followers
January 28, 2020
This book has so much heart and so much feeling. I wish I could start from scratch and read it all over again.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,083 reviews128 followers
January 2, 2020
Richie’s Picks: WE DREAM OF SPACE by Erin Entrada Kelly, Greenwillow, May 2020, 400p., ISBN: 978-0-06-27430-3

“Beauty’s only skin deep
It goes just so far ‘cause
You’re only pretty as you feel”
--Jefferson Airplane (1971)

Happy New Years!

Do you remember when Dr. J. ruled the NBA; when everyone played Donkey Kong and hacky-sack, and watched Family Ties? Those of us who are now forty and beyond lived through those Reagan years. And we vividly recall the 1986 Challenger catastrophe.

For me, it was half a lifetime ago. I was the bookkeeper for a health food manufacturer, and we had the plant radio tuned to the launch that day. Like the JFK, RFK, and MLK assassinations of my childhood, living through the Challenger explosion is one of those events that marks my personal history.

Late last night after the horns and fireworks, just a couple of hours into this new decade, I reached the end of WE DREAM OF SPACE, a can’t-put-it-down middle school-age tale against which I will now have to measure the rest of my 2020 reading. I will long remember its jaw-dropping portraits of toxic parents. It takes place during the month in which the 1986 Challenger disaster was witnessed by me, my Boomer peers, and millions of American schoolchildren.

WE DREAM OF SPACE features the three Thomas siblings who are each in their own separate orbits, each employing coping strategies to survive at home. Cash is resigning himself to being a failure. He’s repeating seventh grade, the same grade in which his younger twin siblings are now enrolled. Bird is an overachieving“good girl” who tries to remain invisible. Fitch, whose birth name is Henry, is an angry kid whose male friends make things worse by mercilessly teasing him about an ungainly female classmate who has been nice to him.

“‘Hey, Vern. Hey, Henry.’ She smiled and half waved as she sat down. She looked different today, but Fitch couldn’t figure out why and he didn’t want to spend too much time studying her face for an answer. ‘Did you have a good weekend,’ she asked.
He decided to ignore the question. Let Vern answer, since he was such a ladies’ man.
‘I certainly did,’ said Vern. ‘What about you, Henry?’
Vern kicked the back of his chair.
Fitch bounced his knee up and down, up and down.
Andrea Blumenthal, who sat in front of Amanda, glanced between him and Amanda and smiled knowingly. It was a smile like Rachel’s. Fitch could practically read her thoughts. You make a cute couple.
He mumbled something like ‘yes.’
This ‘Henry’ thing was getting out of hand. It really was.
An angry buzzing pulsed under his skin.
‘My weekend was okay,’ said Amanda, though no one had asked. And now she launched into a breathless description of all she’d done--she went to the mall with her mother, she bought new sneakers, she rented movies--as Fitch faced forward, suddenly mesmerized by Ms. Salonga standing at the classroom door, his knee bouncing up and down and up and down, his skin buzzing, beads of sweat pushing their way out of his neck. He couldn’t really hear anything
Amanda was saying, but one word rang like a bell and set his fingertips on fire. Henry, Henry, Henry.
‘...do you like movies, Henry?...what do you think, Henry?
It was the last ‘Henry,’ the final ‘Henry’ right before the tardy bell, that set him off. Flicked a switch. Set fire to every cell in his body. He shot out of his chair with so much force that his desk shook and wobbled out of place, and he faced her, this Amanda, this girl who had ruined his mornings and now his afternoons, this girl with her round, ruddy cheeks and her big hair, this girl who just had to talk about his red face, who played Skee-Ball and gave him stickers, and he realized now why she looked different--she was wearing makeup, makeup. His red cheeks blazed. He clenched his fists at his sides, took a quick, deep breath, and yelled, with all the rage firing through his body: ‘My name is Fitch, you FAT, STUPID COW! Fitch! If we’re calling each other by our real names, I guess I should call you Chewbacca!’
A piece of spittle flew out of his mouth and rested on his chin. He picked up his notebook, the one with the TIE fighter doodle that started it all, and hurled it across the room. It hit one of Ms. Salonga’s bookcases, fluttered open like a butterfly, then fell facedown. Someone screamed--a short, quick scream of shock--and then the bell rang and everything was silent, as if he’d stepped into a deep void in space.”

I wish that books like this had been available to me in middle school. Had I been able to read the likes of WE DREAM OF SPACE, I might have felt less alone in my struggles at home and might have been able to recognize and articulate my own family's dysfunction. My high school years and the following decades might have been much happier for me and for those around me.

The Thomas parents verbally abuse one another in expletive-laden tirades while repeatedly dressing down the three children for minor transgressions. They never acknowledge their children’s successes, instead scorning and demeaning them. The father is a jerk who sits in front of the TV. The mother, a former cheerleader, projects her own eating disorder onto her perfectly fit daughter, attempting to infect Bird with anxiety about her eating habits.

Over the years, a couple of notable books dealing with toxic parenting have had lasting meaning for me. For example, Cynthia Voight’s THE RUNNER (1983), features a nightmare father and climaxes with Abigail Tillerman and a telephone call about her son’s demise. It all still resonates, making it the most memorable book out of my all-time favorite series. I also can’t forget Heather Hoodhood finally reaching the point when her father’s hell leads her to run away from home in Gary Schmidt’s THE WEDNESDAY WARS (2007).

A notable aspect of WE DREAM OF SPACE are the chapters in which Bird engages in imaginary internal dialogue with Challenger Mission Specialist Judith Resnik. Bird, a budding scientist who dreams of one day commanding a space flight, feels an intimate connection with the professional female astronaut aboard the Challenger. Having been chosen as one of the students permitted to leave class and watch the Challenger launch, Bird is thereby witness to her hero’s disintegration on live TV.

It is Bird’s nihilistic reaction to the tragedy, her inability to make sense of what has happened, that leads her two siblings to come to her rescue and create real family within their crumbled family structure

Many tweens will be forever indebted to whoever turns them on to this brave exploration into the psychology of family dynamics and how parents’ dysfunction plays out in their children’s lives. I guarantee that you’ll be hearing a lot about WE DREAM OF SPACE in the coming months.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Profile Image for Boogi Lu.
69 reviews8 followers
July 27, 2022
داستان‌های رئال تین ایجری رو همیشه دوست داشتم.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
April 20, 2020
I don’t read a lot of middle grade, but I do know EEK’s books always hit the spot when I do. Her latest is no different, as it follows a family in January 1986 experiencing a whole host of discontent and challenge amid the Challenger launch.

Bird and Fitch -- short for Bernadette and “Pitch a Fit” -- are twins. Their older brother Cash has been having a hard time in school, and despite being older than them, he’s in the same grade, 7th, they are. Early in the story, things begin to spiral when Cash breaks his wrist and loses any and all interest in school again, threatening the chance he might have to move on to the next grade. Fitch spends his free time at the local arcade, winning at a game that’s been unpopular with his peers but which he defends to the death as a great game. He’s got a temper he can’t control or understand and it comes out at really inopportune times. Bird dreams of being the first female space commander, and she’s absolutely fascinated with machinery, which is something we get to see via her art in the book -- but Bird worries she’s being overlooked again and again, disappearing behind her two brothers.

Home life isn’t especially great. Mom and dad have a rocky relationship, which comes out again and again in unsettling ways. It impacts each of the kids, and the only way that the siblings are hanging on is through their shared science teacher who applied for the Teacher in Space program but didn’t get accepted. Fitch and Cash aren’t as invested in it as Bird, but it’s this teacher and space which keep all of the threads of this story together.

This slice-of-life book is aching and hard, and when the Challenger launches, all of the pain built up in each of the siblings explodes. Bird, feeling her dreams fall apart and feeling the immense weight of loneliness. Fitch has an extremely violent outburst in class because of how he’s been a bit bullied but also because of how much he’s packed in from home. Cash continues to withdraw, knowing that he can’t play basketball because of his grades and now the broken bone.

The Challenger Explosion happened when I was 2, so I don’t remember it, but I do remember my mom talking about it when it happened. This book really captures that era, without being nostalgic for the 80s. Rather, it’s extremely contemporary in terms of how it approaches family challenges, without attempting to make it sound as if family problems weren’t common then -- they were. The book reminded me a lot of a younger YA title from many years back that really captured some similar feelings and experiences when it comes to space and the possibility of what exists beyond this planet and how young people were impacted by the Challenger tragedy -- Jenny Moss’s Taking Off.

Readers who want feelings-heavy books will be enraptured with this one. All of the characters are compelling, complex, and sympathetic, and they all experience those really painful moments of what it is to be in 7th grade: first crushes, not being seen as whole but rather parts of a whole (there’s a moment when Bird is told she can’t be pretty and smart but she’s rather smart and not pretty -- to which she responds by turning to an imaginary conversation with one of the Challenger crew women and is comforted with the idea that there’s no singular thing defining what “pretty” is, anyway), a family that’s shifting and fracturing and changing, the desire to be anyone and anywhere else, and so much more. There’s a great thread in the story about interracial dating that, while small, is a powerful reminder of the role parents can play in a young person’s perception of themselves and others, as well as a reminder that even in the mid-80s, interracial relationships were even more fraught than they can be now.

Grab some tissues, but also know you’ll be loving these characters deeply, too. This is a literary middle grade title that I suspect will get some award buzz when that time comes around.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,906 reviews34 followers
December 24, 2022
Set in the mid 1980s, this is the story of a month in the life of three siblings, Bird and Fitch who are twins & their brother Cash who is only a year older. Bird is the smart, calm one. Fitch is the hothead who is into video games and Cash is a wanna-be athlete. With two working parents who seem to spend all their time verbally sparring when they are together, the three are essentially raising themselves. How can this family find a way to care about more than themselves? Can anything bring them together again?
Even though this has a glimmer of a happy ending, this will be best for those who are tired of heartwarming and uplifting stories. In my opinion, it felt more like a story with younger characters that was written for adults.
Profile Image for K..
3,674 reviews1,007 followers
December 20, 2022
Trigger warnings: bullying, broken bones, Challenger disaster

3.5 stars

First of all, it PAINS me to classify something set within my lifetime as historical fiction. But given that it's a middle grade book and 1986 is like 25+ years before middle schoolers were born, I think that's necessary *cries in elder Millennial*

Anyway. This wasn't as compelling a story as I anticipated. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a BAD book. But somehow, setting the story of these three siblings - all of whom are struggling in their own ways but particularly around the dynamic between their parents - around the Challenger launch just...didn't quite work for me.

If it had JUST been the story of these three siblings, I somehow think it would have been a stronger story for me. But maybe that's because I obviously know about the Challenger disaster and the fact that those who witnessed it live were mostly school kids, so I knew what was coming. You know?
Profile Image for Jan.
808 reviews28 followers
May 9, 2021
Lots of words that came to mind as I read this story that describe this family's dynamic; dysfunctional, toxic, in crisis. The only interaction between the parents was their constant fighting, usually with nasty expletives thrown in, never once uttering a kind word to each other or to their three middle school kids. No words of encouragement to them or any involvement in their lives. Meals were never eaten together, each person grabbing a plate from the kitchen and heading off to their separate places to eat. Five people in one household leading five separate lives. I kept hoping the mom or dad would wake up and realize this was not the way a family should be, that they were tired of fighting about everything and worried about what it was doing to the kids. That they needed to make some changes and come together as a family again. That maybe they should start marriage counseling.

The kids really didn't have any interaction or involvement with each other either. Bird and Fitch were twins but led separate lives; Bird taking apart radios and tape recorders and drawing schematics, and Fitch spending all his time at the video arcade. Cash's only love was playing and watching basketball.

All of this takes place in the month leading up to the launch of the Challenger shuttle, the one that would carry middle school teacher Crista McAuliffe, something Ms. Solonga, the three sibling's science teacher is very excited about, having been one of 11,000 teachers who applied to be selected for the honor of that position on the crew. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you heard about the Challenger disaster? I do. I remember it just like I remember where I was when I heard about the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, or when I watched the planes hitting the Twin Towers live on TV. I didn't have a TV at the time so was completely unaware when I walked into my bank soon after the disaster and saw all the somber faces and heard the news. I remember being so sad for all the lost hopes and dreams of the Challenger crew and for the heartache their families and friends were going through. But it was the loss of Crista McAuliffe that got to me the most. I thought of her saying, "I touch the future. I teach", and about all her students back in New Hampshire excited about their teacher being the first one in space, and looking forward to the lessons she would be teaching them and thousands of other students around the country from inside Challenger. Thinking about all those students, her fellow teachers, and family and friends watching this historic moment live on TV turn into a disaster really hit me hard.

The disaster hit Bird hard also. Her dream had always been to be the first female shuttle commander. Now she's trying hard to find sense or purpose in anything. Her brothers never really had much purpose. Fitch struggles with anger and lashing out. Cash feels like a failure for having to repeat 7th grade and getting cut from the basketball team because of his grades. Despite having parents who are too wrapped up in their own lives and that fail to see how much all their kids are struggling in theirs, some good comes out of all of this. Fitch and Cash both get woke. Fitch wants to be a better person and make amends to those he's hurt, while Cash finds something he's good at and a reason to start studying and improve his grades. It made me so happy when they realize that although they have found their purpose, Bird has lost her, and it spurns them to take it upon themselves to reach out to her. If the parents didn't know or care how to make them a family, then they would do it themselves. They would make a family of three. I loved it.

I loved stories like this one and I loved these characters, (the kids, not the parents). I rooted all along for them to find their way and connect with each other. It was an emotional ride, but one I'm glad I took. If you're looking for another terrific middle grade novel with well-developed characters and a deeply emotional story that takes place during the Challenger disaster, I recommend Planet Earth Is Blue.
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews108 followers
June 29, 2020
It's January 1986 and the nation was being geared up for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, a more than average historical event since it would include schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe as part of the crew. It is an exciting time for Ms. Salonga, science teacher at Park Middle School in Park, Delaware and on January 2, she begins a month long unit called Space Month. This is met with varying degrees of enthusiasm by the three Nelson Thomas siblings, Cash, 13, and twins Bird and Fitch, 12, all of whom have Ms. Salonga's class, though not together.

At home, each of the Nelson Thomas siblings have learned to navigate around and out of the dysfunction the exists there. Parents Tammy and Mike constantly bicker with each other. When not doing that, Tammy escapes into a book and Mike continuously watches television.

Bird, who is interested in science and engineering, loves to take things apart and put them back together again, carefully writing and illustrating her own manual for each item. She is also obsessed with Space Month and the impending launch and hopes to become an astronaut someday.

Fitch is obsessed with playing video games at the local arcade and couldn't care less about the space launch. When an unpopular girl from his class invades his space at the arcade, he loses his temper at school and ends up suspended for a few days.

Cash has already been dropped from the basketball team he loved because of low grades and is repeating 7th grade, a fact best friend Brant never stops reminding him about. He breaks his wrist January 1st and spends the month angry and frustrated by the limitations wearing a cast causes.

As the lives of the Nelson Thomas siblings begin to spin out of control, and they begin to behave and think more like their parents, Kelly literally builds up the tension day by day in anticipation of the day of the space launch (January 28). Each day is told from the perspective of each sibling, so readers learn about them, their thoughts and activities first hand. Knowing what happened to the Challenger only adds to the feeling of apprehension readers may feel for Bird, Fitch, and Cash. Is their story leading to an explosive end, like the Challenger, an end to Bird's dreams of becoming an astronaut, Cash's desire to be good at something, or Fitch's ability to control his temper? Or will these three siblings discover that they could form the family they have been wanting all along by themselves?

*Possible Spoiler Alert* I have never been disappointed with a book by Erin Entrada Kelly. She can craft a story that is compelling from beginning to end, with characters that are realistic and relatable. In We Dream of Space, space is a wonderfully fitting metaphor for what the Nelson Thomas kids are seeking - the space for their dreams to be valued and realized. Readers are not left with a nice tidy ending, but with the ambiguity of possibility. What Bird, Fitch, and Cash will do in the future is entirely up to them and each other.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
Profile Image for Shaye Miller.
1,236 reviews81 followers
June 8, 2020
I was looking forward to reading this book, especially considering the fact that the three Nelson-Thomas siblings were around the age I was during the historic launch of the Challenger. Cash, Fitch, and Bird are all very different children, growing up together in a rather unhappy home. Cash keeps failing 7th grade and if he keeps this up, he’s going to fall into a grade level below his younger siblings. Fitch is a crazy ball of anger — he struggles to keep himself calm when the littlest things attempt to set him off. And Bird is a thoughtful science geek, constantly dreaming of space. Her goal is to become NASA’s first female shuttle commander, some day. We all know what happened to the Spaceshuttle Challenger, but as the story led up to that fateful day, there was so much hope in what that launch would accomplish. It was incredibly sad to witness Bird’s stunned response to the incident as she began to spiral away from her deepest dreams. But it’s in those shocking moments that family so often jumps in to help us hold it together. Does the Nelson-Thomas family have what it takes to recognize what she needs? There’s so much to discuss in this story. I can’t wait to see what other readers think — particularly those who were in middle school and high school during that historic moment. There were so many pop culture things mentioned in this story that took me right back to that time period. For example: Slimfast, Diet Tab, trading stickers (huge hobby!), hacky sack, ThunderCats TV show, and Miss Pac-Man. This was definitely a walk down memory lane while getting an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Nelson-Thomas family.

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!!
23 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2021
We Dream of Space was such a great read, I finished it im under 2 days! It is a realistic fiction story that was set in 1986 near the Challenger launch. It would be a good book for anyone who likes space and realistic fiction.
Profile Image for TL .
1,822 reviews35 followers
March 24, 2022
3.5 stars 🌟
Narration: 4 stars 🌟

*Overdrive app *
Profile Image for Mandy.
330 reviews34 followers
August 7, 2020
2020 is turning out to be a disappointing year for books. I thought Erin Entrada Kelly's We Dream of Space was going to be my favourite book of the year but I just found it quite sad.

We Dream of Space takes place in the month leading up to the January 1986 Challenger launch. Three siblings in the Nelson Thomas household are coping with brewing hostilities at home. Fitch has severe anger issues, his twin sister Bird can take a Walkman apart and put it back together again and their older brother Cash is dealing with extreme feelings of failure after being kept back a grade at school. Only the magic of the upcoming Challenger launch keeps Bird together who in turn keeps the family together.

I love 80s nostalgia, as captured perfectly by Stranger Things and Jason Rekulak's Impossible Fortress, and expected We Dream of Space to capture that magical yet surreal time. We Dream of Space certainly focuses on a star-struck nation but other than an absence of mobile phones and some scenes in a games arcade, there is little else about 80s culture and sentiments in the book.

But of course, We Dream of Space focuses around a very significant event in history. Drawn in by the beautiful blue cover and title, I expected dreams, exploration and the space endeavour but this was the opposite of inspiring, and despite the space travel theme, definitely not uplifting. I knew my habit of judging books by their pretty covers would come back to haunt me one day. We Dream of Space was a very depressing and realistic story about invisible Generation X kids, a broken family and a series of disappointments.

I'm aware that this review has more to do with my expectations and enjoyment of the book and less about the book itself, which isn't entirely fair. There was good character development and Erin Entrada Kelly did well to capture the three unique points of view of the Nelson Thomas siblings.

I also enjoyed Ramon de Ocampo's narration on the audiobook version. He did a great job of capturing all three voices of the Nelson Thomas Children.

Overall, We Dream of Space was well-written but quite sad. I give it an okay three out of five stars.

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