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Rocket Boys (Coalwood #1)
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Group Reads: Post-1990 > Rocket Boys, Initial Impressions, July, 2016

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (last edited Jul 23, 2016 03:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
After recently reading Homer Hickam's most recent book, Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator, the group has voted to go back to the beginning and read the book that first got Homer's writing career off the ground.
Rocket Boys (Coalwood #1) by Homer Hickam October Sky by Homer Hickam Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam
Rocket Boys tells the story of Homer's life growing up in the 1950s in Coalwood, West Virginia, a town owned by the coal company that employed all of the men living there.

Not thrilled with the prospect of spending their live working in the mines, Homer and several of his high school friends formed the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA), a club determined to build and fly a rocket of their own at the advent of the space age. Their exploits and Homer's book about them were subsequently made into the movie October Sky.

Feel free to leave your initial comments and impressions here. As those reading this board may not have finished the book, please do not leave spoilers. There is also a Q&A board for those with questions for Homer, who has graciously agreed to drop in on occasion and respond to our queries.


message 2: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4334 comments Mod
I started this yesterday and have already read about 60 pages. I read it when it was first published (18 years ago!) and remember liking it a lot. I also saw the movie when it was released, and will watch it again when I finish the book. Not to sound old-fashioned, but this is charming. I seem to be in a coal-mining reading rut lately, as I just finished "Dimestore", Lee Smith's memoir of growing up in Grundy, VA, and "River of Earth", a novel by James Still, about a Kentucky coal-mining family during the depression.
Thanks for the photo, Tom. It's a great visual of his home.


Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments It is indeed a nice visual of what we called "Coalwood Main." On the left is the brick "Big Store," the main company store, and on the right the "Club House" and behind it the church. Missing is the doctor/dentist/post office building which sat on that plot of grass across from the company store during the Rocket Boys era.


message 4: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
Homer wrote: "It is indeed a nice visual of what we called "Coalwood Main." On the left is the brick "Big Store," the main company store, and on the right the "Club House" and behind it the church. Missing is th..."

Does this building look familiar?



Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments The "Captain's House" where we lived during the Rocket Boys era! That covered porch to the right Elsie had built to house Chipper, it had a flat roof then which allowed me to use it to sneak out at night by hanging from its edge & dropping off. Off to see Mr. Bykovski!


message 6: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
Homer wrote: "The "Captain's House" where we lived during the Rocket Boys era! That covered porch to the right Elsie had built to house Chipper, it had a flat roof then which allowed me to use it to sneak out at..."

It appears to have a different fence than the one you blew up.


Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments Yes & the one in the movie was not accurate at all. It was a mine fence 4 x 4 posts, 2 x 4 top, heavy mine wire covering.


message 8: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new)

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
I have my copy! I will be joining you in a few you in just a few pages!


message 9: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
Daughter Marley and I started reading it last month but had to take a break when she graduated from high school and hotfooted it off to Europe. She'll be back Sunday and we'll pick up where we left off.


message 10: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4334 comments Mod
Just finished the part where the high school students were informed that the curriculum would be harder and there would be more work for them. Hard to believe in this day where parents complain there's too much for their babies to handle. Homer and Elsie were definitely not helicopter parents, too bad the days when kids were free to make their own mistakes and make their own fun are gone.


Gem  Paullin | 30 comments I just completed the first two chapters. The end of the second chapter had me in stitches, I was laughing so hard I was crying and couldn't breath. I said, "Oh no! He's in a heap of trouble now!" Then I saw the title of chapter three... "Mom".

I can't wait to pick this up tomorrow. I'm enjoying this every bit as much as I enjoyed Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator.


message 12: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4334 comments Mod
On chapter 15. I'm with Roy Lee. I do NOT like Dorothy Plunk, AT ALL!


message 13: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4334 comments Mod
I watched this movie last night, title October Sky. The heart of the story was there, but Hollywood changed a lot of the details to fit their own purposes. Including changing Homer, Sr's name to John. Not sure why they did that. Anyway, as a movie it was excellent, and the actors playing Elsie and Homer, Sr. were wonderful. The DVD had as bonus material interviews with the real Homer, Roy Lee, Quentin and O'Dell, as well as the principal of Big Creek High School. I thought it was just great to see the real men and hear their stories. I hearyily recommend the film. They also did a great job of recreating Coalwood and the mines.

On an interesting note: October Sky is an anagram of Rocket Boys, and October 4th was the date of the launching of Sputnik.


message 14: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 2218 comments Mod
Lovely read. I actually was able to listen to it between tours in Boston. I really enjoyed the pace, nice and easy going.


message 15: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
I just finished chapter thirteen, the chapter where Homer meets Geneva Eggers. This was my favorite chapter yet. It showed us a lot about the personalities of several character.


message 16: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4334 comments Mod
To add to the comment on the movie: It had a GREAT soundtrack.


message 17: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I watched this movie last night, title October Sky. The heart of the story was there, but Hollywood changed a lot of the details to fit their own purposes. Including changing Homer, Sr's name to Jo..."

Marley and I just watched the movie as well. I accept that movies often differ from the book and am not one to be upset when it happens. I think that where the book focuses more on Homer's parents, the movie had to focus on Homer and fellow BCMA members.

And yes, the soundtrack is prodigious!


Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments My very mixed feelings about the movie is reflected in my Kindle Single at https://www.amazon.com/Rocket-Boys-Oc...


message 19: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
Homer wrote: "My very mixed feelings about the movie is reflected in my Kindle Single at https://www.amazon.com/Rocket-Boys-Oc......"

I just picked up the Audible version. I'm looking forward to what you have to say on the subject.


message 20: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
My daughter and I finished Rocket Boys last night. Marley said that she is glad Homer has only two parents as she doesn't think she could handle another Hickam epilogue otherwise. Both books ended on a pretty emotional note.
Here is my review. Bottom line: I loved it!


Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments Tom wrote: "My daughter and I finished Rocket Boys last night. Marley said that she is glad Homer has only two parents as she doesn't think she could handle another Hickam epilogue otherwise. Both books ended ..."

Thank you.


message 22: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
Homer wrote: "Thank you. "

We are the ones who should be thanking you.

FYI: Your mention of your trip to Montana has peaked my curiosity yet again. I think I shall soon check out The Dinosaur Hunter.
The Dinosaur Hunter by Homer Hickam


Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments Tom wrote: "Homer wrote: "Thank you. "

We are the ones who should be thanking you.

FYI: Your mention of your trip to Montana has peaked my curiosity yet again. I think I shall soon check out [book:The Dinos..."


Great. I think you'll enjoy the narrator, a vegetarian cowboy ex-LA cop. It's my serio-comic paean to Montana and the people of the eastern badlands.


message 24: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Mathews | 2716 comments Mod
I just started listening to From Rocket Boys to October Sky, which is very affordable from Audible.com. This short book provides a very interesting view of the process by which the events of the story became a movie and then a book. Thank you Homer, for making this inside look at the process available to your readers,


message 25: by Tina (last edited Aug 23, 2016 08:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina  | 488 comments Homer, I just finished Rocket Boys and loved it. My first experience with von Braun was attending events at the civic center in Huntsville bearing his name. Also, field trips to the Space and Rocket Center were one of the highlights of my childhood. Your book is a beautiful testament to making the most out of a childhood without iPads, Internet, cell phones and modern technology. I wonder, are you still in contact with any of the boys from the book?


message 26: by Homer (last edited Aug 23, 2016 08:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments Hi Tina, and thank you for your note. I see Roy Lee, O'Dell, and Billy every October in West Virginia when we support the Rocket Boys Festival (www.rocketboysfestival.com). I haven't talked to Quentin for a couple of years but O'Dell sees him from time to time and I understand he is doing very well.


Homer Hickam (homerhickam) | 62 comments Tom wrote: "I just started listening to From Rocket Boys to October Sky, which is very affordable from Audible.com. This short book provides a very interesting view of the process by which the ..."
Thank you, Tom. Glad you found that background of interest.


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