‘Papa Put a Man on the Moon’ Book Review

Books Entertainment Reviews Space & Astronomy
Image via Penguin Random House

Papa Put a Man on the Moon is a delightful picture book by Kristy Dempsey. It puts the huge scope of the Apollo program into the perspective of Marthanne (the author’s mother), who’s growing up in Slater, South Carolina. Marthanne’s father works in the J. P. Stevens textile mill and is one of the workers weaving Beta cloth*.

This material was a key component in the Apollo space suits** used to walk on the moon, other Apollo hardware, and has been used on the space shuttle and ISS. Marthanne is very excited by this, but her father is more sedate with a stoic “just proud to make a living” attitude. This is a secret truth of the Apollo program that this book underscores.

An estimate of 400,000*** men and women worked all over the United States to successfully launch, land on the moon, and return the Apollo astronauts to Earth. Sarah Green’s illustrations are colorful and switch between stylized realism and Marthanne’s more colorful and kid-drawn style imagination.

I like the artwork and it was done quite well, with the exception of the page with Armstrong descending the Lunar Lander’s ladder. This was done in Marthanne’s imagination style, and it just feels off to me. Maybe it’s just the imagined perspective and scale.

Papa Put a Man on the Moon is a reminder to parents that what we see as making a living can be quite wonderful to our children, and it shows everyone that we can do very small things to accomplish something very big. Neil Armstrong summed this up most eloquently saying, “That is one small step for (a) man… one giant leap for mankind.”

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher for this review.

*Beta cloth is made from silica fibers with a very fine weave (similar to fiberglass) and is then coated in Teflon. It is very resilient, does not burn, and its melting point is over 1200oF (650oC).

**The Beta cloth was then sent to The International Latex Corporation (ILC Dover still makes the EMU space suits) to be fashioned into the space suits. While you may not recognize ILC, they are the industrial division of Playtex, whom I’m sure you’ve heard of.

***Approximately 10% were direct NASA employees while the rest were contractors and sub-contractors. In Saturn V: The Complete Manufacturing and Test Records by Alan Lawrie, there is a list of “Major Contractors” (Boeing, North American, Douglas, and IBM) for the Saturn V with a list of their major subcontractors, and by my count, thirty (30) states are listed as having a subcontractor headquartered in them. Lawrie even states that there are many more program contractors that he could not name.

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