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on July 2, 2000
For those who loved the movie "October Sky", this book gives even more insight to the life of a teenage boy in Coalwood, West Virginia, in a time where the "outside world" was concerned with the Cold War and Dr. von Braun's team with "cashing up to the Russians in rocketry." The residents in Coalwood, however, were more concerned with what was below them rather than above, and with their dominant high school football team. 14-year-old Homer Hickam, Jr. (Sonny)is aware that only football stars (like his older brother Jim)ever get college scholarships, and the glory that he and his ragtag group of friends envy. It is common knowledge that the rest must work in or for the mine in the company-owned town. However, seeing Sputnik fly in 1957 and the attempts of Dr. von Braun's missiles, Sonny is inspired to launch his own rockets. With the support from his Mom, teacher, and friends (little from his father, the manager of the mines), Sonny, Roy Lee, and Sherman form the BCMA- Big Creek Missile Agency. They are later joined by Quentin and Billy, becoming widely known throughout Coalwood as the "Rocket Boys". They suffer through many mishaps during their teenage years, but manage to pull through. Sprinkled with humor, romance, and sadness, this book tells of a boy growing up trying to earn the approval of his father, his town, and ultimately himself. Many parts will make you laugh- Mom's constant warning not to "blow yourself up", Roy Lee's advice to Sonny about his love, Dorothy, and the Rocket Boy's experience getting moonshine for rocket fuel- and ending up drunk! Other parts will make a shiver run down your spine- how Sonny had to face his bitterness after the mine accident, and his arguments with his father. I got the same tingle reading the last chapter that I got from watching the movie- which is also wonderful. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever fought hard to accomplish a dream. It is a truly inspiring memoir that will leave anyone with a feeling of happiness, sadness, and satisfaction all rolled into one. Read "Rocket Boys"- you won't forget it.
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on November 20, 2000
I get so depressed by some of the books on the market. Heavy themes, hidden meanings, verbose authors. October Sky is a get what you see book. It is simple but not too simple. It is an honest story about an honest guy growing up in West Virginia. His life is like ours. He has friends and enemies, successes and failures, girlfriends and conflicts.
But his life is also a model for our time. Homer Hickam is a very special person and he has told the story of his life in this book. Mr. Hickam grew up modestly in a coal mining town. His love of rocketry, no his passion for rocketry pulls him out of an average community and propels him to success inspite of his family and surroundings.
Few books appeal to adults and young adults alike. This is one. I want my wife to read it as well as my 13 year old son. Hickam is a mentor and I've never even met him. This is such down to earth honest writing it makes you smile.
Read this wonderful story and you will have a hard time approaching your next mystery or drama. It is refeshing. I don't even want to see the movie after reading this book. I want the images I have to last not the ones Hollywood created.
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on January 23, 2000
Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys was one of those books that I couldn't put down, and I thought about for a long time after I finished it. There is humor mixed in with the story of one boy's determination to succeed in achieving his goals. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for an inspiring story. It is about growing up in a rural mining town in West Virginia struggling to accomplish goals in space when the main concern of the town is what is below the ground, not what is above it. I thought that this was an excellent book and would recommend it to teenagers as well as adults. It's considered an adult book, but it is an easy book to read and teenagers can relate to the main character. This is one of my favorite books.
Through reading this book, I have learned that hard work and determination will allow a person to reach his or her goals in life. In this book, Homer Hickam had many obstacles to overcome in order to reach his goal of becoming a rocket scientist. This book has taught me that if I have a dream, I must try to reach it. No matter how many and how hard the obstacles are that come in the way of dreams, a person must keep trying. I would also recommend seeing the movie that was based on this book, October Sky. October Sky is an accurate presentation of the story. If you have already seen the movie, you are sure to enjoy this book.
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on September 15, 1998
For the record, I am writing this September 15, the first day Rocket Boys is available from Amazon or any bookstore. At this moment, the book's "Amazon.com Sales Rank" is 45,793. Just wait.
I was heading out of town last week for two long business travel days when a bookseller friend handed me an advance reading copy of Rocket Boys and said, "Read this and tell me what you think."
I was so moved by the book, I could not put it down. It is a classic coming-of-age tale. A sweet, poignant, inspirational tale that is good on so many, many levels. Don't get me wrong: this is no gooey memoir. It is a gritty, obviously honest and emotional story with complex characters. It is at times gripping, sad and outrageously funny. It is one of those rare books that can be read by parents and their high school-aged children with deep relevance - and inspiration - for both.
And while I could go on and on about the many facets of the book I enjoyed, I found myself most impressed by the author's ability to engage me in a story in which high school math and science play pivotal roles. While Sonny is no math genius like, say, Will Hunting, he is passionate about his quest for the mathematical knowledge that will help him break free of his coal mining hometown's gravitational pull.
This book will be required reading one day in high schools everywhere. Not only for its literary quality, but for the way in which it will surely inspire future generations of Sonny Hickams to realize winning can be found other places than on the football field; that even if your background and family seems to be overbearing burdens, you can still aim high...and soar.
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on February 17, 2000
The only reason I read this book was because I saw the movie and loved it. The book was so much better though and totally deserves more than 5 stars. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who saw the movie, and liked it, or maybe grew up in a coal-mining town and felt like reading this book. Take my word for it: it's great
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VINE VOICEon September 27, 2003
If all Hickman had done was give us a portrait of life and growing up in an Appalacian coal mining town in the 50's, this would be a great book. But Hickman uses this setting as the foundation of a much larger story...the race to space, the revolution in America caused by Sputnick, and the opening of small towns accross America to the wider world with the advent of mass communications.
Of course, at base, this is a typical coming of age teen story. During the course of the book, we watch as Hickman grows from a self centered kid into a teen with an accute awareness of the complexity, moral choices, and dangers of the world beyond the borders of his hometown--and of the dangers lurking right at home.
But Homer Hickman is no ordinary teen. He dreams of space. He knows he is destined to build rockets--though he knows absolutely nothing of rocketry, and is failing algebra. Nonetheless, he perseveres. Using his own natrual smarts, his ability to talk his parents, other adults, and many of his friends into anything, and using his "political" connections shrewdly (his father is the mine manager), he overcomes all hurdles--technological and personal--to build a rocket that works.
He doesn't stop there. Once he gets a rocket to fly, he wants to get one into orbit. It is this quest (reminiscent of so many other quest books form Don Quixote to Moby Dick) that forms the center piece of the narrative, and is the engine for opening his mind to the realities of the world beyond his coal mining town.
Needless to say, since he wrote the book, he obviously escaped. The journey is inspiring. The writing inspired. The book is a must read for adults and teens alike.
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on October 13, 2009
This book follows three years in the life of a coal miner's son in West Virginia who dreams of joining the space race. His dreams carry him further than he could imagine, teaching him invaluable lessons about his country, his town, his family, and himself.

I can't praise this book enough. It is a boyhood memoir told flawlessly. I have read enough memoirs to make me sick, but this one blew me away. This is technically a memoir, but it's also a first-rate novel.

Another reviewer here complains that the story meanders, but I can't think of a single sentence which could be cut from the book. It all adds to the tale and weaves around the main focus of a boy's dream to go into the wild black yonder.
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Homer Hickam grew up in a rural isolated mountain town but went on to win the National Science Fair.

This book is his story and how he was successful.

I bought 24 copies of this book to inspire my advanced 6th grade Reading class. They loved the book. In our discussions they mentioned never giving up. Homer and his friends kept trying until they had success.

Thank you for sharing your life with us, Mr. Hickam.
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on January 19, 2005
The book Rocket Boys was a very exciting and wonderful book. It can bring a tear to your eye. It is a true story about a young boy named Homer H. Hickam Jr. Who has higher hopes and dreams then just working in a coal mine. He lives in a small town in West Virginia. He becomes interested in rockets when he sees one soaring through the night sky. He dreams of one day building a rocket and sending it roaring through the sky. For a chance at leaving and going off to college he enters a science fair. Sonny's father doesn't believe in him and wants so bad to prove to his father that there are better things out there for him then mining.

Hopefully he will be able to go off to college and find a wonderful job. But the only way you can find out how this story ends is if you read it. This is an inspiring book. This is a book that you won't be able to put down. Rocket Boys is one of the best books I have read and I hope everyone who reads it will enjoy it as much as I did.
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on November 19, 1999
I like so many others picked this book expecting little and ended up reading it from cover to cover without much of a break. I agree with a reviewer below. When all the other books of this age - Angela's Ashes, Oprah's Books, etc. - are long forgotten, people are going to be studying this book around the world as representative of all that was once great about America and Americans. I hope Mr. Hickam continues to write forever. I'll never miss another one of his books.
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