Sunday, March 6, 2011

How Andy Went to Mars

Today’s post is in celebration of Share a Story ~ Shape a Future week. For more links to similar posts, please visit Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog.

Once upon a time, 
there was a little boy in the 4th grade who had loads of fun at school every day. He loved to sit in the last row of the classroom making his friends giggle and folding paper airplanes. Andy was reading well below grade level, but he thought:
One day his mom gave him four quarters for book club day. On the way to school, he saw a pretzel vendor and bought one. Mmmm…Andy loved pretzels!

After polishing off the salty snack, Andy sat at his desk studying the order form. With 50¢ left, he searched for a book that was cheap enough. A book called Mission to Mars looked okay and cost 49¢, so he ordered it. Then he folded a paper airplane and aimed it at a kid in the front of the room. The boys in the back row giggled as usual.

A week or two later, the brand new book arrived. The story was about a family that moved to a Mars colony (wow!) The two children played hooky from school, snuck outside and got lost, wandered into a cave, and then met some (previously unknown) native Martians!

Andy was amazed at how much fun a book could be and that it could bring a story to life in his mind. When that adventure was over, he had to have more. Books, books, books, he wanted to read more books. After a few months, Andy was reading at 6th grade level. He went on to attend collage, then graduate school, and earned his Ph.D.

Nowadays, Andy is a research scientist whose lab is at the Kennedy Space Center. He investigates a variety of topics in astrobiology, which is: the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. (Quote is from NASA.) He even has a Mars chamber in his lab that simulates the conditions on the Red Planet.
After Andy and I met and eventually married, one topic that often came up was “Why don’t we do a book together?” and “...about what?” One day the obvious solution occurred to us…Andy began downloading incredibly detailed NASA photographs taken on Mars and I started drawing characters to populate the barren landscape. The end result was our picture book Messages from Mars:
The story takes place one hundred years in the future and stars a group of students that get to visit Mars. They explore the historic sites of the Viking, Pathfinder, and Spirit and Opportunity missions, and fly over many of the planet’s spectacular features such as the largest volcano in the solar system and a canyon as long as the United States is wide.
So, because Andy read a book in the 4th grade that captured his imagination, not only did he get to go to Mars, so did I! You never know which book a child will fall in love with so it only makes sense to keep offering kids as many diverse options as there are stars in the sky.

Happy Reading!

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