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OCTOBER SKY by Homer Hickam
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OCTOBER SKY (original 1998; edition 2000)

by Homer Hickam

Series: Coalwood (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,809None3,851 (4.13)41
Member:updo
Title:OCTOBER SKY
Authors:Homer Hickam
Info:Dell Publishing (2000), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:rocket building, coal mining, inequality, abuse, family, futility, success

Work details

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam (1998)

1950s (9) American (9) Appalachia (12) autobiography (68) biography (97) coal mining (31) Coalwood (7) coming of age (23) engineering (6) family (6) fiction (47) history (32) memoir (180) NASA (28) non-fiction (145) own (13) paperback (12) physics (10) read (22) rocket science (9) rocketry (24) rockets (53) science (77) signed (7) space (64) space exploration (8) Sputnik (7) to-read (24) unread (12) West Virginia (54)

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
An inspiring story of what a group of teenagers can accomplish when they reach for the sky, but also a bittersweet story of a dying way of life and of the distance between family members. Hickam tells his story brilliantly, making everyone who inhabits it come alive in just a few sentences. As the whole town rallies around the "rocket boys", people's true characters are revealed. The book is full of unforgettable vignettes, such as when Homer is rescued from a blizzard by a woman with a connection to him he never would have imagined. Reading this book was a pure pleasure, and I plan to read Hickam's other books about Coalwood, West Virginia as soon as I can. ( )
  datrappert | Dec 30, 2013 |
This book was fabulous. It is the type of book I will be lending to everyone. It is mostly a true story (though the author admits to taking some license) about Homer Hickam, Jr. and his rocket building club. Hickam grew up in a mining town in which the only job choice was to become a miner. His mother wanted to ensure he got out of the town and encouraged him to build rockets as a means of proving to his father that he was smart enough to go to college.

This book inspired the movie October Sky which has long been a favourite feel good movie of mine. However I think I like the book for an entirely different reason. The movie is an inspirational story of a boy overcoming the odds in order to become something that was not expected of him. While the book was about that too, it was also about a lifestyle in which children where given much greater freedoms and responsibilities.

When Hickam and his buddies decided to build a rocket they went to the corner store and bought explosive chemicals in order to make it happen. When they blew up his mother's fence her reaction was to encourage him to build more and to not blow himself up. The rocket launches were incredible dangerous especially to spectators who were repeatedly diving for cars in order to avoid being impaled by rockets. Twice he describes rockets that went out of control and ended up in the town itself, potentially deadly weapons.

The story that stands out in my mind is of Hickam and his mates riding there sleds many miles to school after a snow day was declared. He ended up getting home on his own, walking through a whiteout and suffering near frostbite before coming across a home in which he was invited. He dried off and then kept on going. On arriving home his mother and father were unperplexed, not slightly bothered that there son could almost have died.

I wonder whether the Hickam's mother was so passionate about him leaving the town that she thought it better that he die trying than have to go down into the mines.

I found this book inspirational as a parent. It reminded me that children become adults quicker than we think, and are capable of much more than our current system allows for. ( )
1 vote alsocass | Oct 12, 2013 |
"Prodigeous!" ( )
  readit2 | Sep 8, 2013 |
Excellent read. I saw the movie when it came out, but never got around to reading the book. Hickam is an EXCELLENT storyteller. I don't think I have laughed so hard while reading non-fiction ever. I kept cheering the boys on even knowing the general story. ( )
  lesmel | May 16, 2013 |
What an amazing story. This is autobiographical and done by an excellent writer. Homer Hadley Hickam, Jr. (nicknamed Sonny) was 15 when the Russians launched Sputnik and it inspired him to his lifes work, working with NASA. This story covers only three years, from the age of 15 and Sputnik to 18 and graduation from High School. Those three years follow Homer and his small group of friends who decide they need to build a rocket. Sonny is the de facto leader, Quinten is the "brains" and the other boys the cheering section, gophers and general support staff. Their first "rocket" sits on the ground and fizzles at them but not to be discouraged they keep working until they achieve flight. After that its a matter of making things better and better.

The best part of this story is not the building of the rockets but the family and community relations that go on around the rocket building. Sonny has strained relations with his father and his older brother and a strong relationship with his mother. It is during this three year period that he realizes that his parents are locked in a battle about what will happen with him, will he stay in West Virginia, following his father into the coal mines, or will he break free and go to college to become an engineer? His father is mine supervisor which adds to the tensions in town because Dad is a "company" man while most of the town is Union. Much of the conflict of the story is between townspeople and the Hickam family's perceived protection of the company - at the expense of the mine workers and their families.

I highly recommend this book and can't wait to get the next three parts of Sonny's story, all written with his deft hand, I hope.

One other note, this book was made into a movie, so if you've ever seen October Sky (an anangram of Rocket Boys), you already know part of the story. ( )
  bookswoman | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Epigraph
All one can really leave one's children is what's inside their heads. Education, in other words, and not earthly possessions, is the ultimate legacy, the only thing that cannot be taken away. - Dr. Wernher von Braun
All I've done is give you a book. You have to have the courage to learn what's inside it. - Miss Freida Joy Riley
Dedication
To Mom and Dad and the people of Coalwood
First words
Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn't know my hometown was at war with itself over its children and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This book was re-released under the title October Sky (an anagram of Rocket Boys).
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385333218, Paperback)

Inspired by Werner von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team, 14-year-old Homer Hickam decided in 1957 to build his own rockets. They were his ticket out of Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town that everyone knew was dying--everyone except Sonny's father, the mine superintendent and a company man so dedicated that his family rarely saw him. Hickam's smart, iconoclastic mother wanted her son to become something more than a miner and, along with a female science teacher, encouraged the efforts of his grandiosely named Big Creek Missile Agency. He grew up to be a NASA engineer and his memoir of the bumpy ride toward a gold medal at the National Science Fair in 1960--an unprecedented honor for a miner's kid--is rich in humor as well as warm sentiment. Hickam vividly evokes a world of close communal ties in which a storekeeper who sold him saltpeter warned, "Listen, rocket boy. This stuff can blow you to kingdom come." Hickam is candid about the deep disagreements and tensions in his parents' marriage, even as he movingly depicts their quiet loyalty to each other. The portrait of his ultimately successful campaign to win his aloof father's respect is equally affecting. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:41 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Homer Hickam, a NASA engineer, recounts his childhood in Coalwood, a West Virginia mining town, and discusses his dreams of launching rockets into outer space, and how he made those dreams come true.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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