How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps

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In this simple, step-by-step instructional picture book, learn how you too can visit the moon on your bicycle! All you need is a very long garden hose, a very large slingshot, a borrowed spacesuit, and a bicycle . . . and plenty of imagination. With tongue firmly in cheek, Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstein outlines the steps needed in glorious comic book-style panels and a deadpan voice, leaving nothing out: the food you'll eat, how to deal with loneliness in space, how to water those sunflower seeds ...

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In this simple, step-by-step instructional picture book, learn how you too can visit the moon on your bicycle! All you need is a very long garden hose, a very large slingshot, a borrowed spacesuit, and a bicycle . . . and plenty of imagination. With tongue firmly in cheek, Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstein outlines the steps needed in glorious comic book-style panels and a deadpan voice, leaving nothing out: the food you'll eat, how to deal with loneliness in space, how to water those sunflower seeds once they're planted—even how to deal with the media attention back home after a successful trip. An inspired work of whimsy, How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers is a spacefaring adventure for daydreamers and a starter kit for the imagination.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Pamela Paul
Gerstein, who won a Caldecott Medal for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, has cooked up another winning story about far-flung dreams and their realization.
Publishers Weekly
Caldecott Medalist Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers) kicks his imagination into high gear in this fantastical how-to book. A boy with spiky red hair and glasses shares his 24-step plan for planting sunflowers on the moon to cheer it up (Gerstein portrays it with droopy eyes and a frown). The Rube Goldberg–worthy expedition, chronicled in exuberant cartoon panels and comically deadpan narration, involves creating a giant slingshot to launch a flag pole/anchor harpoon into the moon (the satellite looks understandably alarmed as the boy’s homemade missile approaches); then, wearing a spacesuit kindly donated by NASA, one can simply bicycle up to the moon on the 238,900 miles of garden hose attached to the harpoon (“Your mother will be sobbing, your father will shake your hand, and everyone else will say good luck and take care”). Throughout, the boy’s emotions are genuine and infectious: he’s moved by the beauty of Earth from space, shares feelings of loneliness on his journey, and is elated to see the results of his work after he returns home. Ages 4–8. Agent: Joan Raines, Raines & Raines. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"A grand flight of fancy perfect for a new generation of dreamers and planners." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Gerstein, a Caldecott-winning illustrator, offers a uniquely entertaining picture book that glows with the satisfaction of a boy who knows he could travel to the moon." -- Booklist, starred review

 "...genuine and infectious..."--Publishers Weekly

 "Readers . . . are sure to enjoy the ride." -- School Library Journal

"There’s enough reference here to the actual challenges of space travel to justify a quirky side trip in a solar system science unit—not that flights of fancy require justification." - BCCB

Children's Literature - Debra Lampert-Rudman
Caldecott Medal Winner Mordicai Gerstein has once again sent young readers scampering up a tightrope, only this time, instead of The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, it is a young man bicycling to the moon to cheer it up. In a clever twenty-four step plan, a young inventor creates a "simple but brilliant" resource for aspiring space travelers. How about 2,000 used truck inner tubes for a slingshot? Now that is clever. The text and illustrations build and build as we travel along on this incredible journey. The details including clamps for the bicycle (how else would a bicycle stay on a garden hose tightrope if it were not clamped on?) and a NASA space suit (how else could the young inventor go into the moon's atmosphere?) are all added in a way that even skeptical young readers will suspend their disbelief and think that, maybe, just maybe, they could bicycle to the moon to plant sunflowers. Reviewer: Debra Lampert-Rudman
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—The "can-do" attitude of this redheaded, gap-toothed hero; the outlandish plot; and quirky caricatures conjure up Gerstein's collaboration with Elizabeth Levy in the popular "Something Queer" series (Delacorte). The sensitive boy has always thought that the full moon looked sad. When his parents suggest that loneliness may be the cause, he determines that sunflowers are the solution. Speaking in the first and second persons, he describes his plan in illustrated steps, because "with homework, soccer, violin, and all that other stuff…I never had the time to carry it out…. Maybe it will be you!" In richly saturated panels, Gerstein imagines the things a child would gather to create a secure path between Earth and its moon-one that could also be used to water the plants. He suggests collecting 2000 used truck inner tubes (Uncle Russell has them), old garden hoses, an anchor, a flagpole, a long rubber band, and a good friend-to help create the giant slingshot that will launch 238,900 miles of hose/tightrope into space. Help from NASA and practice balancing a bicycle on a backyard hose would presumably prepare one for the longer trip. En route, the scenes switch to soaring vistas on full spreads. The protagonist imagines pedaling through clouds, sleeping within a panoramic sunset topped by twinkling stars, bouncing through craters with seeds and nozzle. Depending on which side of the brain readers favor, this story will either allow them to discriminate between fact and fiction or delight in the suspension of disbelief. Either way, they are sure to enjoy the ride.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Sensing that the moon needs cheering up, a young inventor provides instructions for an expedition to plant sunflowers there. Gerstein, who profiled The Man Who Walked Between the Towers in 2003, had begun by imagining an even greater challenge, which he describes here. Addressing readers directly, his busy narrator offers a "simple but brilliant" 24-step plan for space travel using 2,000 used truck inner tubes for a slingshot; 238,900 miles of garden hose for a tightrope to the moon; and a suit borrowed from NASA. Special clamps will help the bicycle stay on the hose, which serves double duty; it's also a conduit for water for the plants. Step by step and sub-step, the boy explains the process. His instructions are straightforward but cheerfully outlandish. They include details with special appeal for listeners (the "really cool sound" of the launch). The pacing is perfect, and illustrations add to the humor. (Pay careful attention to the moon's changing expressions.) Pen-and-ink and oil-painted panels expand to show the journey. Captions, which had been securely attached to the edges of the frames while the boy was earthbound, float around on full-bleed double-page spreads until they sink back to the bottoms of the concluding panels. The whole is a grand flight of fancy perfect for a new generation of dreamers and planners. (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596435124
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 363,935
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: NC690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 10.64 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Mordicai Gerstein

Mordicai Gerstein is the author and illustrator of some thirty books for children, including the 2004 Caldecott Medal winner, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. A four-time winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year Award, his books include fantasy, Biblical retellings, biography, folklore, and alphabets and other works for preschoolers. He lives in Westhampton, Massachusetts.


Mordicai Gerstein has always been an artist. As a child, he enjoyed painting and eventually graduated from art school in Los Angeles. He continued painting in New York City and supported himself and his family for 25 years by designing and directing animated television commercials. He says, "I had always loved cartoons, especially Bugs Bunny, and I found I enjoyed making animated films. Even a 30-second commercial involved drawing and painting, storytelling, not to mention actors, music, and sound effects."

During the 1960s, Gerstein made several films that received critical acclaim. In 1966, The Room won the Award of the Film Clubs of France at the International Festival for Experimental Film, and in 1968, The Magic Ring won a CINE Golden Eagle.

His career took a dramatic turn when he met children's author Elizabeth Levy in 1970. He has illustrated her Something Queer Is Going On chapter books ever since, and it was Levy and her editor who encouraged Gerstein to write a book on his own. His debut came in 1983 with Arnold of the Ducks, the story of a young boy who gets lost in the wild and is raised by ducks. The New York Times hailed Gerstein's freshman effort as one of the year's best children's books, and he went on to write two more volumes exploring the theme of feral childhood. In 1998 he released The Wild Boy, a picture book based on the true story of a young 18th-century French boy who was found living in the woods and was put on display as an oddity, only to escape and be captured again years later. That same year, Gerstein released Victor, a young adult novel about the same boy.

Gerstein tells the story is of a Tibetan woodcutter who is given a choice between reincarnation or heaven in The Mountains of Tibet, which received the distinction of being one of 1987's ten best illustrated books of the year, according to The New York Times. Although the book is written for kids around age seven, Gerstein approaches the subject of death with a bold, sensitive plot and elegant illustrations. Spirituality is a major theme in many of Gerstein's books. He has interpreted tales from the Bible in Jonah and the Two Great Fish (1997), Noah and the Great Flood (1999), and Queen Esther the Morning Star (2001). Other titles such as The Seal Mother (1986), The Story of May (1993), and The Shadow of a Flying Bird (1994) also express Gerstein's reverential awe for the world.

Young readers can also stretch their imaginations with Gerstein's more playful books. Vocabulary is fun in The Absolutely Awful Alphabet (1999), where the letter P is actually a particularly putrid predator! Bedtime Everybody! (1996) has a young girl's stuffed animals planning a bedtime picnic. Behind the Couch (1996) takes readers on an exciting caper into an unknown world of grazing dust balls, Lost Coin Hill and the Valley of the Stuffed Animals. In Stop Those Pants (1998), a boy is forced to play hide-and-seek with his clothes as he gets ready for the day. Gerstein pays tribute to American composer Charles Ives in What Charlie Heard (2002), the story of a boy's unique talent for interpreting all the sounds of daily life.

Another biographical picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003) tells the story of Philippe Petit, the daredevil who walked across a tightrope suspended between New York City's World Trade Center towers in 1974. The book won the Caldecott Medal in 2004, and parents have praised the book as an invaluable tool for talking to their children about the events of 9/11.

Many of Gerstein's children's books are destined to be classics. His style of writing and illustration brings each of his stories to life, shows a passion for adventure, and relishes the joy that comes from understanding the mysteries of the world.

Good To Know

Despite a successful career illustrating children's books, the first book Gerstein wrote, Arnold of the Ducks, was turned down by seven publishers. Eventually, The New York Times called it one of the best children's books of the year.

Gerstein was inspired to write The Mountains of Tibet after reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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    1. Hometown:
      Northhampton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 25, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      Chouinard Institute of Art
    2. Website:

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 24, 2014

    I just love this book. I have read it over 80 kids already. The

    I just love this book. I have read it over 80 kids already. The book makes a trip to the moon simple, just 24 steps.  Haha

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