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A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Teacher, His Class, and Their Unforgettable Journey Hardcover – February 23, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From a magazine article, educator Kersjes learned that students from all over the country could spend six days training and living like astronauts at Space Camp, a 450-acre theme park, museum and educational center at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama. Knowing his high school students would relish visiting the facility, he pitched the idea to a colleague; she questioned his sanity. He mentioned it to his principal, who responded, "`You should be preparing these students... for life beyond this school, not chasing some crazy dream.'" Why would an administrator be bitterly opposed to such an enriching experience? Because these students had developmental disabilities like Down's and Tourette's syndromes, as well as emotional problems. Despite the opposition, Kersjes was determined to give his students the experience of a lifetime. With co-teacher Robynn McKinney and parent chaperones, Kersjes loaded 20 students, age 14 through 17, onto a plane from Grand Rapids, Mich., making them the first group of special education students to attend Space Camp. Kersjes recounts that most of these kids had never allowed their reach to exceed their grasp, yet there they stood, ready to take on an activity that would daunt many adults. The obstacles were plenty. From the NASA education program's initial unwillingness, to the $50,000 needed for everyone to attend the camp, they met each challenge with enthusiasm and dignity, racking up some awards along the way. Kersjes's refreshing, heart-warming account proves that faith and vision can yield great things. Agent, Mickey Freiberg. (Feb.)Forecast: Jerry Bruckheimer (for Walt Disney Pictures) has purchased film rights to this uplifting story. Handselling by store clerks to junior high and high school teachers should boost sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A high school special education teacher in Michigan, Kersjes faced enormous odds when he decided that he wanted his class to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, AL, a program aimed at providing simulated astronaut training for gifted students. His 20 students had a wide range of learning and emotional disabilities and were stigmatized by other students and teachers. Readers will be genuinely moved by the many funny, sad, irritating, and even frustrating scenes, as Kersjes relates the numerous bureaucratic and educational stumbling blocks he encountered trying to convince administrators at his school and at Space Camp that his students could benefit and succeed in the challenging program. Once those barriers were overcome, he faced huge problems raising money for travel and, more importantly, preparing his students for the rigors of five days of training. Their individual and group triumphs make for a feel-good tale that's highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (February 23, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312273142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312273149
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steven E. Heicher on March 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was part of Coach Kersjes' 1995 group to go to Space Camp. As I read this, it made me think back about what myself and my other team members went through, from the training, to the actual time spent down in Huntsville, Alabama. While there was a six year difference, and some things had been different in our groups' journeys, we had a common goal... to succeed. It also helped me see what was going through Coach's mind and how hard he worked, just so myself and many others can not only have a chance to prove that we are capable of something greater, but possibly fulfil a dream in the process. Needless to say, I could not put the book down, and I had it read through in one day. I recommend this book to parents, teachers, former group members, anyone in college, or anyone else who needs an inspiration.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Slacker on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
A Smile as Big as the Moon by Mike Kersjes and Joe Layden is one of the most inspirational books I've read. This book is about a teacher that goes against all odds, taking a group of Special Ed. students to space camp. Everyone expected them to fail but he believed in his kids. One of the things that really impressed me is when three of his kids win the competition over the other camps. The story gets a little boring. Kersjes could have made the book more interesting in some parts, but the experience they went through is a great one and is inspirational for teachers and students.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Evie on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
A Smile as Big as the Moon is written by Mike Kersjes and Joe Layden. The setting is a classroom full of special students. The teacher tries to help the students be like everyone else and not feel that they are outcasts. The teacher (Mike Kersjes) helps students not be outcasts by taking them to space camp, and to do so he faces a lot of different obstacles. There are also other ways he makes them not feel like outcasts, but to find out you need to read the book. I give the book four stars because some of the areas in the book drag on and don't get to the point. Overall, the book has a great tone and is well written. The book, A Smile as Big as the Moon, is great for teachers or people who are facing difficult things in life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. Eisenberg on January 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
These are supposed to be HIGH SCHOOL kids not little kids! That cover is ALL WRONG!

But the book itself is awesome. An inspirational, funny, heartwarming story.

I hope they make a movie of it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Henry Lee on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Of all the the books I've ever read, none were quite as inspirational as the non-fictional tale A Smile as Big as the Moon, by Mike Kersjes. Kersjes is a special education teacher, who, one day while looknig through a magazine, came up with the wild idea of taking his kids to space camp. He would have to call people, sometimes dozens of times, just to set up an appointment. Eventually, through the help of a lot of people in high places he did get approval. However, funding for a trip like this was more than fifty thousand dollars. Through hard work and a lot of dedication, Kersjes and his assistant Robynn were able to overcome every obstale with relative ease. I would recomend this book to students, parents, teachers, and anyone that knows how to read, because this story is capable of putting a smile on anyones face. I would defintiely give this book five stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am a college senior at Michigan State University and soon to be a middle school science teacher. I thought this was a wonderful book for all ages. It is a great story that depicts a caring teacher and his students on an unforgettable trip to Space Camp. This book shows the trouble this teacher and his kids went through just for the opportunity to go to Space Camp. As well as the wonderful success they experience during their week at Space Camp. Growing up as a special ed student myself I can relate to many of these children and the struggles they went through just to be recognized for their gifts and talents. I would highly recommend this book to everyone I know. The book is easy to read and one you will have a hard time putting down (at least I did). One of the best books I have read in a long time. A wonderful book that I would give 5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Troy Bilodeau on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
A Smile as Big as the Moon, by Mike Kersjes is a very inspirational book. It is about a group of special education students that go to space camp. The main character of the story is the special education teacher, Mike Kersjes. This book tells how he guided his students into space camp and showed them the way. In the end, the students succeeded and won many awards, although they had many difficulties and challenges along the way. The students didn't believe they could do it at first, then they built up their self-esteem and succeeded. One reason the students were able to build their confidence, was because there teacher was very confident that the students could do it. Overall, I feel that this was a great book and it is mainly for students and teachers to read, although anyone can read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By gladys on April 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A Smile as Big as the Moon, by Mike Kersjes, is a very inspiring and encouraging book. Personally, I was happy to see a teacher who took risks to make those children with disabilities feel proud of themslves. Personally, as an employee at a school with disabled children, I know what it takes to make those children happy. I can call Kersjes a gifted teacher who devoted his time, energy, and money to help those children in special education. Based on a true story, it is very interesting and keeps the reader eager to know what happened next. I would reommed this book to teachers, parents and older children.
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