I continue to be genuinely pleased and impressed by the consistently high quality of this children’s graphic novel series, that speaks just as meaningfully to any adult with an interest in popular (and sometimes not-so-popular) history as to any curious child.
The tenth installment of the Magical History Tour has Annie and Nico discussing spaceflight, with a focus on moon landings. It’s a very of-the-moment topic even despite the events discussed within the book’s pages having occurred over half a century ago: with the United States’ Artemis program currently in more or less full swing, interests are running high in space exploration once more. And while the recently delayed Artemis 1 was meant to be an uncrewed mission, our intrepid sibling narrators discuss the more interesting, at least to me, topic of all the crewed missions to have left earth for, orbited and landed on the moon.
The book begins with Nico on his trampoline, and Annie jokingly cautioning him not to launch himself to the moon. This leads to their discussion of the history of space travel, from the fanciful/prescient pop culture fantasies of the early 20th century to the actual rocket science developed by German engineers during World War II. The end of that conflict saw the United States and Russia scooping up German scientists as part of the nascent Cold War, with the space race beginning in earnest once the Soviets sent Sputnik I into orbit. After cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth, US President John F Kennedy vowed to send and safely return a man to and from the moon by 1970. Mission accomplished, as this book details, tho President Kennedy was no longer alive when that historic moment finally came.
Annie expertly breaks down what it took to fulfil that vow, and goes on to describe the state of moon landings since then, with Nico providing color commentary throughout. They even discuss the Chinese robotic Jade Rabbit landings of the 2010s, though Artemis itself is too recent to have made it into the book. But perhaps most importantly, in my opinion, is the way they talk about what it takes to be a good astronaut. The men — and alas so far it’s been all men — they sent to the moon were all highly educated and highly skilled, but the main reason Neil Armstrong was chosen to lead that first mission was because he was the calmest of the bunch, a far cry from the usual hot-headed hero celebrated in far too much media. I mean, I enjoyed Top Gun: Maverick as much as the next red-blooded movie fan, but Professor Armstrong — and oh yes, he retired from the space program and went straight into academia — is a much more realistic hero to me.
Speaking of realistic, editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup discusses the bizarre issue of people believing that the moon landings were a hoax in his afterword. Hopefully, continuing expeditions into space will shut up these naysayers for good, tho even so, the environmental impact of such launches will need constant evaluation. Worth it for the purpose of furthering scientific knowledge and options, less so for simply commercial reasons *cough*Starlink*cough*.
Beautifully and thoughtfully written and illustrated by the dynamic creative duo of Fabrice Erre and Sylvain Savoia as always, this is another winning chapter of a truly outstanding series, with Nanette McGuinness’ excellent translations continuing to make the contents accessible to we non-Francophones.
Magical History Tour #10: The First Steps On The Moon by Fabrice Erre & Sylvain Savoia was published today August 30 2022 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including