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OCTOBER SKY by Homer Hickam

OCTOBER SKY (original 1998; edition 2000)

by Homer Hickam

Series: Coalwood (1)

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2,108463,119 (4.11)57
Authors:Homer Hickam
Info:Dell Publishing (2000), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:rocket building, coal mining, inequality, abuse, family, futility, success

Work details

Rocket Boys by Jr. Homer H. Hickam (1998)



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Book on CD read by Beau Bridges

Homer Hickam Jr (a/k/a Sonny) grew up in Coalwood, West Virginia – a “company town” in built and owned by the mining company for whom his father worked. The only thing that mattered in that small town was coal and high school football. And Sonny hadn’t much interest in either. Sonny and his friends, fellow misfits, didn’t seem to have much future to look forward to, until their imaginations were ignited by watching the Soviet satellite Sputnik. They began with simple “kitchen experiments,” learned from their failures, improved their rockets and garnered the admiration and support of the town.

In his memoir, Hickam brings the residents of Coalwood to life. He shares stories of growing up, of high school football, a beloved teacher, unlikely allies, young love, and his mother’s determination that her boys would NOT go into that mine. All the “Rocket Boys” went to college, three of them in engineering. The town of Coalwood was eventually abandoned when the mine was closed and allowed to fill with water.

Beau Bridges does an excellent job voicing the audio book. He has great pacing and a delivery that is just perfect for this story. ( )
  BookConcierge | May 8, 2017 |
Excellent book about a young boy coming of age, and his fascination with rockets. The boy grew up to become a rocket scientist. Highly recommended. ( )
  ramon4 | Nov 21, 2016 |
This book is set in the 1950's when Sonny sees that the Russians have sent a rocket into space. In Coalwood Sonny decides to build a rocket as well.
He starts off by using the powder from his 4th of July stuff. In the end it blows up. So Sonny with his friends Roy Lee, o,dell, Quentin decide to try to make it to space. They next use saltpeter. By mixing sulfur and coal they get a mixture that will help them reach about 20 feet. They get the coal from sonny father for he is a miner in Coalwood.

Once they find the right rocket fuel after using tons of different types. With this they used zinc dust and heated water. After reaching a mile they decide to enter the science fair. When they get to national level they end up winning. Back at Coalwood Sonny discovers his father's lung are clogging up coal dust. He also discovers his favorite teacher has cancer and can barely walk. The rocket boys launch their last few rockets and then they all go their own ways. ( )
  ryanKB1 | Oct 26, 2016 |
Read for the Dewey Decimal challenge on LT. Great book that I listened to on library audio, since I was driving. I loved the way Beau Bridges pronounced Coalwood and the mine with a drawl out drawl. The book focuses on the author's teen years in the late 1950's in a West Virginia mining town, where his father is the superintendent, and his mother just wants to get her sons out of going to work in the mine. When the Russian's launch Sputnik, rocketry captures Sonny & his friends' fancy. With his mother's admonition, as they set off learning the principles of fuel and ignition - "Now don't blow yourselves up!" Of course, the first thing they do is blow up her Rose Garden fence in a launch, and then are chased away to better suited launch pads - the slake of abandoned coal mines nearby. ( )
  nancynova | Aug 4, 2016 |
A well-written memoir by Homer Hickam that captures the solitude of adolescence in a rural mining town and the challenges of finding identity and purpose. Hickam captures the bumpy transition of realizing a childhood hobby into a lifelong dream. The excitement of the experiments, failed and successful, and dubious lengths that Homer and his friends go to in making their rockets fly is truly entertaining. His story also paints a poignant picture of family dynamics when the industrial age was giving way to the new space exploration era. A read you won't want to miss. ( )
  A.E.Martin | Jul 10, 2016 |
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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
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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:48 -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)

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