Bok’s Giant Leap by Neil Armstrong,  illustrated by Grahame Baker Smith

Bok’s Giant Leap: One Moon Rock’s Journey Through Time and Space by Neil Armstrong,  illustrated by Grahame Baker Smith. Crown Books, 2021. 9780593378861

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  Neil Armstrong tells the story of the Moon through the eyes of a rock named Bok, who was scooped during the astronaut’s famous visit in 1969. Handsome, full-page illustrations with just a hint of high-concept science fiction, chart Bok’s existence through the Moon’s tumultuous birth, eventful “life” (an asteroid blasts Bok to the edge of a small crater), and Bok’s rude awakening (grabbed by Armstrong and taken back to Earth). This is quite a lyrical treatment; Bok perches on the lunar surface “watching” as the Earth spouts oceans, hosts new life, fills with roaming dinosaurs and eventually humans, although he inconveniently sleeping through Plato, Hypatia, Charles Darwin, Maria Mitchell, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and Bessie Coleman. We get to see Armstrong splashing down in the lunar module and then, as an old man, accepting Bok as an honor from NASA. End matter includes more plain-spoken information on the moon and Earth as well as biographical paragraphs and photos of Armstrong. The large, lush illustrations and simple prose would work well in a read aloud setting.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Although the artwork was eye-popping, I found the text confusing and it took me a few re-reads to understand the explanation Armstrong puts forth about the Moon’s creation. Rocks don’t make for the most engaging characters; Smith gives Bok facial expressions, but that didn’t really work for me. Overall, I found the mix of science and story unsatisfying and would have preferred one or the other. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Those looking for a read aloud about the Moon with characters as opposed to straight facts may want to give this a go. There are so many great moon books (I adore How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure by John Rocco) that I would probably recommend over this one, but if you like the idea of a book by an actual astronaut and American hero, then this may be for you.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 26, 2022

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