Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 11
- Grade: 3 to 6
- Reading age: 8 to 11
As the US/Soviet Space Race heats up in 1961, eleven-year-old Arno finds his dreams of becoming an astronomer exploding like an extragalactic supernova.
It is the summer of 1961, and eleven-year-old Arno Creelman wants nothing more than to be an astronomer. His claustrophobia rules out flying in a cramped space capsule, so instead, Arno dreams of exploring the galaxies with powerful telescopes back on Earth.
Arno’s first move: Enter a local radio contest and win a visit to the new observatory that is about to open near his town. The ribbon will be cut by Arno’s idol, Jean Slayter-Appleton, a renowned astronomer whose weekly columns Arno clips for his own notebooks. When he finally manages to phone in and correctly answer the skill-testing astronomy question, Arno is thrilled.
Then a new boy moves to the neighborhood, and he seems to challenge Arno in every way. Robert even believes in astrology, which Arno argues is not a science at all. Before long, Arno is feeling left behind, on the outs with his friends and even abandoned by his beloved dog, Comet. How did Arno’s dream become a cosmic nightmare?
Key Text Features
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
About the author
Jessica Scott Kerrin is the author of The Things Owen Wrote, The Spotted Dog Last Seen (finalist for the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award and the John Spray Mystery Award) and The Missing Dog Is Spotted. She is also the author of the picture book, The Better Tree Fort (illustrated by Qin Leng), and is known for the Lobster Chronicles series and the bestselling Martin Bridge series. Her novels have been translated into French, Turkish, Russian and Slovenian.
Born and raised in Alberta, Jessica now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Excerpt: Clear Skies (by (author) Jessica Scott Kerrin)
The jarring music, which seemed to be coming from every direction at once, bounced off the vaulted ceiling and came down on Arno’s head. He felt as if the black theater walls were pressing in and the giant statues were in danger of toppling over, crushing those in the first row.
Arno gripped the armrests and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to catch his breath.
Please, no, he thought. Not now. Not a giant panic attack in front of all these people.
But it was happening. The dizziness, the tightness in his chest, the frantic thoughts of being trapped, of smothering.
When he braved a look at the screen, a colossal asteroid was hurtling toward him, end over end, symphony horns bellowing. It was deafening.
It was too much.
Clear Skies is a winning middle-grade novel which deals with both mental-health issues and the wonders of space exploration (along with a bit of 20th-century history) in an accessible, non-threatening manner.
Quill and Quire
A quiet reminder that the stars are not out of reach, with work and well-timed help.