Balloon to the Moon


Fascinating from start to finish, ‘Balloon to the Moon: The Story of the Human Journey to Space’ is a beautifully presented exploration of how humans progressed from dreams of flying to walking on the moon itself.

The book opens with a timeline of key events which looks almost like a board game as it snakes across the page and points into the future. This gives a flavour of what is to come as the book is then organised in chapters which explore each stage of this journey from balloon flights to what might happen next. The contents page (entitled ‘Countdown’) goes from 10-1 . ‘Lift Off’ then looks at the launch of the Apollo 11, ‘Lunar Orbit’ the following Apollo missions and finally ‘Re-entry’ considers the outcome of these missions and what the future might hold.


The opening chapter looks at early balloon flights and the experiments of the Montgolfier brothers whose story forms the background to Emma Carroll’s wonderful book, ‘Sky Chasers’ (review here.) The next chapter explores early flight from the legend of Icarus to experiments in the 19th century. The hero of Geraldine McCaughrean’s ‘The Kite Rider’ performs strapped to a kite which would sit well alongside the information about the development of kites as flying vehicles in China whereas Laurence Anholt’s ‘Leonardo and the Flying Boy’ explores the story of Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter. The ballooning achievements of both men and women are celebrated before the next chapter looks at the first aircraft and early aviators using a mixture of comic strip and fact boxes.


In exploring rockets, the both the science and history behind their development are investigated before the book looks at animals and then people in space. Having introduced some early astronauts, the book looks at the training and equipment needed to become one.

The next few chapters focus on the moon missions, finishing with the success of Apollo 11 and its crew. However, the story does not stop there as later moon missions, what has been discovered and learned and the future of space travel are also considered. There is so much to discover in this book which is full of fascinating facts presented in a variety of different and appealing ways. The illustrations are wonderful, many reminiscent of the 3-D pictures that required the ‘space specs’ of the 50s and 60s. This is a brilliant resource for classes learning about space which will extend pupil knowledge beyond the requirements of the curriculum.

A thoroughly enjoyable, fact-packed look at the human journey to space, ‘Balloon to the Moon’ is a must for libraries, classrooms and homes.

Balloon to the Moon Gill Arbuthnott, illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Big Picture Press ISBN: 978-1787413542

Published 27th June 2019