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Rocket Boys: A Memoir (aka October Sky) (Coalwood)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  13,255 Ratings  ·  1,445 Reviews
"Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn't know my hometown was at war with itself over its children, and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives....And I didn't know that the enthalpy decrease in a converging passage could be transformed into jet kinetic energy if a divergent passage was added. The ...more
Audio, 5 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 1998)
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Homer Hickam It has been read successfully in many middle schools across the country. There is some mild profanity and some implied high school 50's sex but that's…moreIt has been read successfully in many middle schools across the country. There is some mild profanity and some implied high school 50's sex but that's about all. I wouldn't go below the 8th grade, though.(less)
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Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of Homer Hickam who while growing up in now extinct Coalwood, West Virginia, forms a group of higher reaching miner's son's who become proficient backyard rocket launchers and provide much needed hope to the entire town. If you're of an age to remember Sputnik and the great arms race and enjoy a soundtrack of songs from the early 1960's you will most likely be a fan of this endearing coming of age tale which was the basis of the film October Sky. Book 4.5 stars. Epilogue 5 stars.
Diane Barnes
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reads
I just spent the last 3 days in Coalwood, WV, and would have stayed longer, but turned the last page of this wonderful book. What a great story of growing up, coping with difficulties, ambition, family disappointments, friends, teachers; in short, the things that made Homer Hickam, Jr. the man he is today.

There was a lot of nostalgia in this book for me. I grew up in Catsburg, NC, a tobacco farming community instead of a coal mining town. It was a time when we children pretty much ran free throu
If there is one, just ONE thing that was monumentally historic in this book, a revealing glimpse into our culture's rich history and sociological mindset, it had nothing to do with rockets.


Holy mother of french horns, it's ingrained in our history. I'm not talking to you, ex-cheerleaders belonging to the "'Twilight' fanclubs", you emo english lit majors arguing over poe. You couldn't understand.

Only a certain ty
Tom Mathews
Having recently read and enjoyed Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator, I decided to go back and read the first book by West Virginia coal miner’s kid turned rocket scientist and best-selling author Homer Hickam. Rocket Boys, perhaps best known as the book that inspired the movie October Sky, is a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir about a group of boys who dreamt of the future in a town that had very little future to dream about. As is often the cas ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was fabulous. It is the type of book I will be lending to everyone. It is mostly a true story (though the author admits to taking some license) about Homer Hickam, Jr. and his rocket building club. Hickam grew up in a mining town in which the only job choice was to become a miner. His mother wanted to ensure he got out of the town and encouraged him to build rockets as a means of proving to his father that he was smart enough to go to college.

This book inspired the movie October Sky wh
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coalwood held quite a childhood. The town, the neighborhood! The strong connections of shared culture and identity of work. The gossip, the dust, the pattern of days- this books takes you there.

And it also took me back to my own. A mere three years younger than Sonny here- I was doing quite the same but in other dirty and dusty air. More limestone than coal- but ever present.

This is the second reading for about 1/2 of this book. Years ago I read the first half and never finished it. And no longe
During the eighties I was the store manager for Toys and Gifts Outlet in Oklahoma City. Loved that job! It was comprised of many elements I enjoy: creativity, organization, team-building, spatial aptitude, business mathematics, diversity, physicality and social interaction. Being a decade before the microchip exploded onto the scene in full force – kids, and adults alike, still found joy in non-computerized toys and hobbies that required a bit of mentality, physicality, skill, and/or self-genera ...more
Mark Mallett
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
Interesting that "October Sky" (the name of the movie) is an anagram of "Rocket Boys" (the name of the book - the original name anyway).

Although I was a teenager more than a decade later than Hickam was, some of the things he wrote about hit close to home. I, too, grew up in a rural area - on a dirt road in the woods of NH. I remember what it's like to lie in the dark in the middle of nowhere and watch for satellites. I and my circle of friends experimented pretty freely on our own with things l
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! The sequels are not as good as he milks the story for more and more books, but the original is fantastic. I've read this three or four times and bought the movie (October Sky). This is a great book about coming of age and relationships and meeting your goals and is great for all kids.
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick and light. Enjoyable read. Nothing heavy about this one.
Anna H
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a modern coming-of-age classic
review to come shortly.....
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfictionmemoir
I just finished reading this wonderful memoir of six boys growing up in a dead-end coal-mining town in West Virginia. The writing is lyrical and wholesome, yet quietly incisive, similar to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Hickam interweaves several stories with incredible skill, evoking the dreams and sorrows of teenage boys, recalling the nascent years of the space race, describing the hardships of living in southern West Virginia when coal was king. I highly recommend it.
Read with child #2 for her 9th grade honors English Summer assignment.

Actually really enjoyed. Science was a bit above me, but it wasn't too tedious.

Got to have a talk with said child #2 about the brain and hormones of the average teenage boy. Fun.

Have hopes for her teacher, this book was a great choice. Lot's of great "if you want to learn it or earn it, you can if you work for it" moments without that being the obvious message.

Kindle borrow
Fred Forbes
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Noticed that one of my Goodread friends is reading this and realized I had never posted it on my list. One of the best I have read largely because I enjoy coming of age stories and really identify with the time period.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still one of my favourite books. Heartwarming, sincere and inspiring.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book and have already recommended it to several others. I laughed and cried and learned a lot.
M.J. Johnson
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
When in Wales recently I finished reading October Sky by Homer H Hickam, which seemed to have a certain synchronicity for me at that moment in time. The book is set in Coalwood, West Virginia, a long way from Aberdare in the valleys of South Wales where I spent my earliest years and where its unmissable cemetery is the final resting place for generations of my ancestors. Mining was the lifeblood of both Coalwood and Aberdare, and my grandfather died from the same miners' lung disease that took H ...more
Homer Hickam recounts how he and his classmates, inspired by the launch of Sputnick, taught themselves (with a little help from some key adults) how to build rockets in the late 1950s. Hickam proves himself a more than capable storyteller, mixing equal parts nostalgia, humor, and teenage angst as he tells his story, including a warts-and-all look at his hometown and the coal company which gave it life. The result is a finely crafted tale of heartbreak and consternation, despair and, ultimately, ...more
Clay Seal
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love timepieces, and the West Virginia coal town was a lovely setting, good and bad. Reminded me of how much Steinbeck integrated Salinas Valley commonly in his stories. I also liked Hickham's tendency to go on tangents that didn't move the story along - details about people in Coalwood just for the sake of it. I tend to talk/write that way. Although it's frowned upon a lot, I just love as much detail as possible
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was certainly entertaining and emotional. Sonny Hickam's story is certainly a touching one, and space and science enthusiasts will enjoy this book to no end. But, for all you tearjerker lovers, there were many parts where I almost cried. The only reason I gave this book four stars was because of some confusing parts in the story.
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: space
I'm probably a sucker for this book because I've had a challenging relationship with my father and because I've been passionate about space exploration for much of my life. If you've had one or both of these situations happen to you, this book and the movie upon which it was based (October Sky) will move you. Go forth and read.
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, coming of age story of Homer Hickam and his Big Creek Missile Agency friends. I found myself captivated by his experiences, point of view and the descriptive way he captured so many youthhood relationships, from his father to his beloved cat and so many others in between. This novel was both touching and relatable, a fantastic read.
Frances Scott
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, union-township
This is one of the books that reminds me why I love being in a book club - it forces me to read books I would never have selected to read or even become aware of.

I was fairly certain I would not like this book, and I read the first chapter with a negative predisposition toward it, just to decide whether I would actually read it. About ten chapters later, I realized I could not have been more wrong. I was absolutely hooked and I never looked back.

It's one of the best, most inspiring stories I've
Steve Fumarolo
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I really enjoyed this. As much as I liked the movie, the book actually made the boys of Coalwood seem even more remarkable. As is often the case with nonfiction books that are turned into movies, it was refreshing to remove the over-dramatization and see what actually happened (or at least Sonny's version of it) in the hills of West Virginia.

I waited to write my review until after watching the movie again, which only made me reflect more positively on the book. Just like all of our lives, there
Holly Ahaus
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I personally enjoy reading memoirs because it's not an autobiography that's like "hey here's some general stuff about me" but rather a personal interpretation of the most important time of a person's life. And who's to know if it's hyperbole, opinion, or straight fact? No one, but it's always told the way it should be. That's the vibe I got from October Sky. I can imagine Homer Hickam sitting somewhere trying to come up with the best way to describe the dread he felt towards working in the mine, ...more
Sep 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
October Sky I think is a very bad book but it is also a OK book because of some of these quality things.

Homer H. Hickmam, Jr. people call him Sonny is not like any other boys. He likes to build rockets his dad doesn't want him to but his mom is ok with it as long as he does not blow himself up. He starts building his rockets with his friends Roy Lee, Sherman, O'Dell, and Quentin. They start trying out the formulas for the rocker fuel. Then they start building the parts with Sonny's dad's worker
Sep 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you love to read about someones life that is really boring, the person is lame and very selfish. There are tons of science related things(that the normal person doesn't care about) and it's story line needs to be flushed down the toilet. And it would have been slightly decent if there was romance. (I know that there was a little bit, but it was only four lines and no detail so I didn't count it.) So if you are some one who likes those kind of books then you are going to love "October Sky."
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 50-states
Homer Hickam grew up in Coalwood, West Virginia in the late 50's. Son of a devoted coal miner, Hickam became passionate about building rockets after Sputnik. Rocket Boys is not only a coming-of-age story in a dying town, but a beautifully written story of small town West Virginia.
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, historical, stars-5
I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed reading this book years ago, likely after seeing the movie. An excellent coming-of-age tale, especially for those of us who were nerds in high school, too. I'll have to watch the movie again, too.
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a beautiful story of perseverance and discovery. It demonstrates that you don't have to know everything to accomplish your dreams.
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Homer Hickam (also known as Homer H. Hickam, Jr.) is the author of many best-sellers including his latest, Carrying Albert Home. An eclectic writer, he wrote the "Coalwood Series," which includes the # 1 New York Times best-selling memoir Rocket Boys, the popular World War II-era "Josh Thurlow" series, the juvenile sci-fi "Crater" series, the adult thriller The Dinosaur Hunter, the romantic Red He ...more
More about Homer Hickam...
“I had discovered that learning something, no matter how complex, wasn't hard when I had a reason to want to know it.” 124 likes
“Not much comes easy in this world, Sonny. If it does, it's best to be suspicious of it. It's probably not worth much.” 25 likes
More quotes…