Review by Sara Francoeur
Crown Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), February 2021
40 pages, hardcover, $22.99 CAD, 9780735263451
Ages 3–7, Grades K–1
Picture Book, Biography, Fiction, Science/Nature
Goodnight, Astronaut combines the excitement and wonder of life as an astronaut with story and illustrations that would convince even the most excitable little dreamer of the importance of a good night’s rest.
Fans of astronaut Scott Kelly might already know that he and his brother Mark are identical twins! In Goodnight Astronaut, Scott Kelly shares the story of the brothers’ many adventures on their paths to becoming the first identical twin astronauts. The opening verse brings the reader into the world of Scott and Mark as young boys exploring, playing, and, of course, going to sleep at the end of the day. Several spreads depict the brothers’ childhood adventures before the occasion of Scott Kelly’s first solo trip into the woods. The story leads readers into exciting environments, from a submarine and a military jet, to the space shuttle and the International Space Station (I.S.S.). Despite the excitement of the various expeditions, the verse is calm and Kelly is always able to wind down for sleep. Goodnight, Astronaut reminds readers that dreaming big dreams starts with getting a restful sleep.
Illustrator Izzy Burton’s digital illustrations for Goodnight, Astronaut feature a rich colour palate with carefully chosen focal points. The vibrancy of the settings depicted by Burton mirror the impressive accomplishments of the subject character. The warm glow of sun, moon or lamp light is used to warm each scene. Serene night skies throughout the story are unique from page to page, with varied colour schemes, stars, and moon phases. I can just imagine the dreams that will arise from the incredible settings portrayed on the pages. The cover illustration is a stand-out image of a huge, brilliantly glowing crescent moon that cradles young Kelly falling asleep in homemade astronaut dress-up costume. The back cover cleverly mirrors the front, with the now-adult Kelly in his white NASA astronaut suit asleep in the waxing crescent moon.
The sights portrayed are beyond impressive but the reader learns that even in the most unexpected environment, Kelly managed to settle down to rest. In the final illustrated scene, the text encourages a dream-filled slumber and shows a young girl with long black braids resting peacefully under her covers while glowing stars illuminate the NASA posters that adorn her walls. I appreciate the nod to diversity that invites all readers to dream big dreams.
If you daydream of space like I do, then you will love this story that blends the wonder of our biggest dreams with the peace of a restful sleep. Following the story, two pages of photos document the experiences of Scott Kelly that inspired Burton’s illustrations. The photos add intrigue and weight to the delightful story that will definitely capture the interest of any wannabe astronaut or excitable dreamer.
Sara Francoeur lives with her family in a beachy neighbourhood just outside of Vancouver, B.C. With a degree in comparative religion and a background in fashion, Sara now studies creative writing at UBC.