Countdown, 2979 Days to the Moon

These days, picture books come in all sizes and lengths. There are so many new ones that are longer, meant for upper elementary and middle school aged kids. Yes, picture books are not just for little ones anymore! Yay! Because I think this unique art form is perfect in so many ways—and here’s an example of one for older kids for Perfect Picture Book Friday!



Title: Countdown, 2979 Days to the Moon

Written by: Suzanne Slade

Illustrated by: Thomas Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishing 2018, nonfiction, 150 pages

Suitable for ages: 10-14 (I think 9+)

Themes/topics: space, astronauts, moon



Chapter 1: A Daring Dream

At first
it’s only a dream—
an ambitious, outrageous idea.

The dream seems so big,
so impossible,
that few people dare to say it out loud.

Until one day,
May 25, 1961,
one man,
President John F. Kennedy,
bravely announces the dream to the world:


Powerful free verse and stunning illustrations tell the true story of the American effort to land the first man on the Moon.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would try to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. During the two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine days that followed his speech, eighteen astronauts climbed into spaceships; three of them died before even leaving the ground. Eight rockets soared into space. And four hundred thousand people—engineers, technicians, scientists, mathematicians, and machinists—joined Project Apollo in hopes of making the dream a reality.
Award-winning author and former mechanical engineer Suzanne Slade joins up with New York Times best-selling illustrator Thomas Gonzalez to tell the powerful story of the successes, failures, triumphs, tragedies, and lessons learned from Apollos 1 through 10 that led to the first Moon landing.

Resources From Publisher

Teachers Guide
Discussion Questions
Author Q&A 
Poster and Timeline

Why I like this book:

Though the book has plenty of amazing details and is chock full of interesting aspects of the endeavor, this book isn’t technical or blatantly informational. Instead, this account of the mission to land men on the moon depicts the human side, the investment of time, effort, and lives; the power of dreams. It’s the story of planning, talent, resilience, and perseverance.

Today children see the focus on Mars and beyond. Travel in our solar system appears almost matter of fact, a given. COUNTDOWN provides a fascinating look at how it all started, the complicated nature of the endeavor, and an emotional connection for the reader.

What a fantastic experience it would be for an adult who witnessed this time in the 1960s to sit and read the book with children, sharing experiences, questions, and thoughts.

Told in free verse, the thoughtful text lets spectacular illustrations fill the page. This is truly a gorgeous book, both in the art and the text!


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

Visit the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on Kid Lit Frenzy for more great nonfiction books for kids! 

7 thoughts on “Countdown, 2979 Days to the Moon

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