The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put a Man on the Moon
Maverick Arts, 2019. Hardcover Non-fiction Picture book, 36pp.
“There is a competition to make the spacesuit for the first moon landing Ellie, an ordinary woman, is asked to lead a team of other talented seamstresses. No one believes they can win, but they are determined to try.
“Based on the incredible true story behind the spacesuit that astronauts wore on the first moon walk and the team of women who sewed it together.”–jacket copy
I read relatively few non-fiction books shelved in history sections, even picture books, but I’m glad I picked this one up. That it was about woman involved with the space program caught my attention; that it was about her involvement as a seamstress meant I had to read it.
The endpapers contain cool spacesuit facts. Along the title pages, the space-race timeline runs along a seam (cute). FACTS are placed throughout the story; like how she worked for Playtex (of bras and cloth diapers fame), and this one: “It wasn’t unusual for the undergarment industry to try new things. In World War One they designed flight suits for pilots.” I found this fact thrilling cause a dear friend who is a seamstress makes corsets among other things and she is always learning and experimenting with her craft.
The illustrations have a nostalgic appeal, and is accessible and easy to track narratively. Landy’s details like the button planet are nice compliments to the way Donald writes Ellie’s youth in the language of outer space adventures. The way Landy has Ellie looking up at the moon, as if predestined; as if she’s always held it in her imagination. Isn’t this a common element of astronaut stories? I love it.
The story Donald recollects echoes much of the drama of the time, the race to compete under an intense timeline. The space race had so many moving parts and it is wonderful to read the story of very important participants. While we follow Ellie, it is clear there was a team of skilled women and men, and that the project and production took a lot of collaboration.
I appreciate author Alison Donald’s inspiration, sharing an unusual space-related non-fiction. A great addition to any collection.