Ready for Launch: An Astronaut’s Lessons for Success on Earth by Scott Kelly. Crown, Random House, 2022. 9781524764326
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Memoir, inspirational
What did you like about the book? This small, appealing book (about 5” x 7”) by astronaut Scott Kelly combines moments from his life with analysis and advice. An indifferent student, Scott managed to become a Navy pilot and then went on to pilot the space shuttle and serve as a commander on the International Space Station. As his identical twin brother Mark also served as an astronaut, NASA was able to run comparative tests on the siblings’ physiology to test the impact of spaceflight vs. Earth’s gravity. This isn’t really an autobiography; instead, Kelly focuses on specific lessons he’s like to pass along to his young readers: to learn from failure, to lead with compassion and humility, to value diversity, to take responsibility, and to trust science. Each lesson comes with short tales of Kelly’s real life experiences in NASA. I thought the section of diversity was especially compelling, as Kelly reckons with his life as a White, cisgendered male who never really thought that much about his privilege until he had the opportunity to work alongside a groundbreaking NASA training class with 9 women and several Black and Asian astronauts. Also prescient: the value he places on science and expertise. Black-and-white photos dot the text, showing Kelly as a fighter pilot and in space.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I knew a bit about Scott Kelly before reading the book, so I did not find his scattershot and non sequential approach to memoir problematic, but I think it would make it hard for some middle schoolers to follow his story. To give readers some toeholds, the book should have included a detailed timeline of his life. Given his struggles as a student (his grandmother, a former teacher, finally gave up on teaching him to read!), more information on how he managed to get through school would have been relevant to the target audience.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grades 5-8 who enjoy biographies. With its small size and appealing look, this would be a good next step for kids who love the Who Was books. Also, my students are constantly intrigued by the idea of leadership and success; much of Kelly’s plain-spoken advice could translate easily to the business world.
Who should buy this book? Middle and high school libraries, public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Probably with biographies, even though it’s more of a combination of memoir and advice.
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: June 18, 2022