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4.7 8
by Ben Mikaelsen, Dan Brown (6) (Illustrator)

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When 14-year-old Elliot Schroeder is selected by NASA to be the first Junior Astronaut, he has no way of knowing the profound effect it will have on Vincent Ole Tome, a Maasai herder who is also 14 years old. An unexpected event puts the boys in contact via short-wave radio, and an African drought and an in-space emergency bring about a climactic fact-to-face meeting.


When 14-year-old Elliot Schroeder is selected by NASA to be the first Junior Astronaut, he has no way of knowing the profound effect it will have on Vincent Ole Tome, a Maasai herder who is also 14 years old. An unexpected event puts the boys in contact via short-wave radio, and an African drought and an in-space emergency bring about a climactic fact-to-face meeting.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
Fourteen-year-old Elliot Schroeder has always dreamed of becoming a pilot, but his father expects him to manage the family's Montana ranch when he becomes older. Across the world in Kenya, fourteen-year-old Vincent Ole Tome dreams of attending the white man's "wood school," but his father wants him to become a Masai warrior. When Elliot wins the nationwide lottery to become NASA's first Junior Astronaut on board the space shuttle Endeavor, his life fills with new and unexpected experiences, among them meeting Vincent. The boys find out that differences are often easier to see than similarities, and the telling of the story alternates between them. Mikaelsen has done his research, and fans of space travel will enjoy the description of Elliot's training and flight on the space shuttle.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
The most provocative and adventurous book of 1996 is Countdown. Elliot, 14, is selected by NASA to be the first teen in space on the shuttle Endeavour. In Kenya, Vincent Ole Tome, a Maasai herder, 14, is questioning his family's traditions. The two meet via short-wave radio as the Endeavour circles the Earth. Their beliefs and values are subjects of discussion that spark worldwide attention. Told in alternating chapters, it is clear how little it takes for hostilities between people to erupt and get out of control. The author spent a month at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama and a month living with the Maasai. It rings true.
VOYA - Brenda Moses-Allen
While tending to the cattle on his father's ranch in Big Timber, Montana, fourteen-year-old Elliot Schroeder dreams of flying solo in his own airplane. He has taken flying lessons for two years and is eagerly looking forward to the day he will be in control of an airplane. Looking at the stars from his rooftop, he is filled with questions about flying and the universe. Far off in Kenya, another fourteen-year-old boy, Vincent Ole Tome, gazes at the sky with questions of his own and fights off daydreams while caring for his father's cattle. Vincent wants to go to the "wood school" to learn about the world outside of his Masai village, but his father is against the idea. The lives of both boys change dramatically when Elliot is chosen as NASA's first junior astronaut. While Elliot is in orbit the boys begin an uneasy friendship, communicating via short-wave radio. Their correspondence raises questions about people, their differences and similarities. Mikaelson provides a fascinating scenario of Elliot's nine months' training to become a payload specialist (one-mission astronaut). Explanations of every aspect of the instruction and preparation are given in vivid and exciting detail. Elliot's dreams are almost shattered when he allows his jealousy over Mandy Harris, the alternate junior astronaut, to go unchecked. Students who have an interest in the space program and who have seen Apollo 13 will find this book very rewarding. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8If you can buy the premise that NASA would randomly choose a teenager to serve as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle, then this ambitious book will make an enjoyable near-future-fiction read. Elliot Schroeder, 14, of Crazy Peak, MT, is selected to fly on the shuttle, while Vincent Tome, a 14-year-old Maasai youth living in Kenya, considers whether his future lies as a warrior or as a person educated in the white man's ways. The boys' stories merge when Elliot, whose primary assignment is to talk from orbit via short-wave radio to ham-radio operators around the world, contacts Vincent. Their vast cultural differences spark genuine conflict, distrust, and dislike. When a shuttle emergency forces a landing at Dakar, Senegal, NASA flies Vincent to meet Elliot, allowing the boys to reach across space and culture to make the world a bit more peaceful. Both boys are credibly shown to be inquisitive idealists. And they are dreamers, yearning for lives that exceed their fathers' expectations. Elliot feels he must outperform the alternate Teen-in-Space applicant, a girl named Mandy, while Vincent (more convincingly) faces conflicts with Leboo, a boastful bully. Careful research allows integration of details that lend authenticity to the tale, and the plot moves quickly enough to engage the intended audience while challenging readers to consider their own cultural biases.Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.53(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range:
3 Months to 18 Years

Meet the Author

Ben Mikaelsen is the award-winning author of many books for children, including Petey, Countdown, Rescue Josh McGuire, Stranded, and Sparrow Hawk Red. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

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Countdown 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
spacemann11 More than 1 year ago
I have been reading this book to my fifth graders as a read-aloud for several years. I am a space enthusiast and this story lets the students understand the science involved in training for space as well as the interpersonal skills needed for the adventures ahead. The characters are skillfully built and so believable, we would never send a child on a mission but this book lets us know that it would be possible. The different cultures in our world are not so really "different." Thank you Elliot and Vincent!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
We're reading this right now for 6th grade and i went and read ahead because it's such an awesome book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this bood for my 7th grade english class and i think it is soooooo good!! Everyone in my class is hooked on it! It's cool because you learn about different cultures and how everyone is alittle bit different! If you don't belive me read it for your self!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book, and by the first page I was hooked. I stayed up until midnight reading it, and it is probably the best book I have ever read. It has such a good plot, and I loved learning the trials it takes to become an astronaut.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the best books I have read. I shows more then just a basic plot outline, it shows two boys overcoming there differances to become friends
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that is perfect for middle school students like myself. It is a 250 pg. quick read book and long enough for teachers to accept as a book report. I gave this book four stars because it reminded me of a 1 hour version of Titanic. It seemes though that if this book was longer it would loss some of it's limited popularity, so I won't blame the author. It is also very noticeable that he did good research to write this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We don't need any word, just it is the greatest!