Cricket Magazine Publications
Here are some brief excerpts of the narrative biographical pieces I've written for the children's literary magazine Cricket. It's an honor to have had this work recognized by the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. The full magazine issues can be ordered from Cricket Media at 1-800-821-0115, or their digital versions can be read in Apple News+.
'The Path to the Moon:
The Story of Katherine Johnson'
"For Apollo 11, the first attempted lunar-landing mission, a complex step would be added: full use of a lunar module. In NASA's approach to a moon landing, once the command module entered lunar orbit, a lunar lander would detach and travel down to the moon's surface carrying two of the astronauts. Katherine was called on to work out the exact time the lunar module needed to lift off from the moon in order to rejoin the orbiting command module for the return home. There was little room for error. Any deviation that didn't bring the modules together at the right moment could strand the lander and doom its two astronauts. 'Everybody was concerned about getting them there,' Katherine later said. 'We were concerned about getting them back.'"
The Story of Robert H. Goddard'
"On the clear day of March 16, 1926, on his relative "Aunt Effie" Ward's farm in Auburn, Massachusetts, Bob and his assistant Henry Sachs placed this rocket into a launch frame made of iron pipes. Lifting a blowtorch attached to a long pole, Henry ignited the engine. For about twenty seconds, flame spewed from the nozzle, and there was a steady roar. Finally, the rocket rose slowly. Clearing the launch frame, it gained speed rapidly, then swerved and crashed into the snowy ground, 184 feet from the launch site. Bob's rocket had flown for only two-and-a-half seconds, having reached a height of just forty-one feet. But the world's first flight of a liquid-fuel rocket had been achieved!"
The Story of Alexander Calder'
Artwork by Alexander Calder, May/June 2015
"After he graduated in 1919, Sandy took a job as an auto engineer to help design cars. He lasted only two weeks. More jobs quickly followed. He colored water-flow diagrams for a hydraulic engineer. As a draftsman for an electric company, he made technical drawings. None of this work suited him, and Sandy began to doubt he was cut out to be an engineer.
"Just before he turned twenty-four, and still unsure of his path, Sandy was working as a mechanic aboard a steamship traveling from New York to San Francisco via the Panama Canal. Early one morning off the coast of Guatemala, he was dozing on his 'couch'—a coil of rope on the ship's deck—when he noticed a change in the light. Gazing east, he found a fiery red sun just rising above the calm sea, while across the dark blue sky to the west a full moon shone like a silver coin. The wondrous sight gave Sandy goose bumps. He felt the urge to paint it. Something shifted inside him, and he knew he had to face the truth about himself: he really was meant to be an artist."
The Story of Maria Sibylla Merian'
Artwork by Maria Sibylla Merian, April 2013
"A few weeks later, a curious Maria observed silkworms being born from tiny, lemon yellow eggs laid by female moths. So there were stages to the growth of a moth—four, if she had seen them all: egg, caterpillar, casing, moth. Silk moths were not devilish creatures arising mysteriously from mud; they were the product of an extraordinary transformation.
"Wanting to see how other caterpillars changed, Maria, dressed in her everyday gown and pinafore, wandered the rolling green hills around Frankfurt. Strikingly beautiful butterflies danced above flowers as she observed a surprising variety of caterpillars. Her favorite caterpillars were green with a black stripe and four white round beads that glistened like pearls. She smiled as the little beings gobbled the leaves of cherry, apple, and plum trees."
The Story of Luke Howard'
Artwork by Luke Howard, April 2011
"On a cold December evening in 1802, thirty-year-old Luke shivered with anticipation as he rose in front of the Askesian Society, ready to read his handwritten paper, 'On the (Classifications) of Clouds.' He was wearing a simple black coat and a high white collar. A roll of his watercolor paintings lay against a chair.
"He began. 'My talk this evening concerns itself with what may strike some as an uncharacteristically impractical subject... the (classifications) of clouds.' Luke assured his audience that studying the forms of clouds was not 'a useless pursuit of shadows,' but an important step toward a scientific understanding of weather. Clouds, he said, are the countenance of the sky, visible signs that reflect conditions in the atmosphere the way a person's face can reveal his or her thoughts or feelings."
The Story of the Montgolfier Brothers'
Illustrated by John Bobbish, Cover illustration by Stephen Costanza
"Not only did they finish in time, but Étienne took the opportunity to add a wicker basket to the new design. This aerostat would carry passengers---animal passengers, to be precise! No living thing had ever flown in a machine. No one knew whether it was even possible for a living creature to endure the air at a high altitude. Étienne felt it was time to try.
On 19 September, near the royal palace at Versailles, the king and queen watched expectantly as the Montgolfier aerostat took off, with a sheep, a rooster, and a duck in its basket. A gust of wind knocked the balloon against its support mast, tearing it slightly. Once in the air, another gust tilted it and sent a plume of smoke streaming out its side. Étienne grimaced and closed one eye. But the aerostat continued at an angle, traveling two miles in eight minutes before landing in a small meadow. All three animals had survived!"