Review of In the Shadow of the Moon: America, Russia, and the Hidden History of the Space Race

In the Shadow of the Moon: America, Russia, and the Hidden History of the Space Race
by Amy Cherrix
Middle School, High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    336 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-06-288875-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-288877-8    $9.99

Starting with an intriguing preface, ­Cherrix informs her audience that the space race was in fact run “in the shadows by a former Nazi and a Russian who was jailed for crimes against his country.” The former Nazi, Wernher von Braun, had created the deadliest weapon in Hitler’s arsenal (the V-2 missile), and through a classified U.S. government program known as Operation Paperclip was able to bypass the U.S. immigration system in exchange for scientific intelligence. In the Soviet Union, Sergei Korolev was a Russian engineer and victim of Stalin’s secret police force who had spent roughly five years falsely imprisoned in various gulags until his release and acceptance of a mission to develop a Soviet missile program. Von Braun’s and Korolev’s subsequent parallel careers are the focus of Cherrix’s suspenseful, engaging narrative. Political and social context are ever present, and connections are frequently drawn between the scientists’ work and historical events such as World War II, the Korean War, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. Frequent quotes are effectively woven throughout the text, while occasional historical photographs (many unseen) and sidebars feature key subjects. Significantly, the scientific accomplishments of these two men are shadowed by the reality that their work (sustained by government propaganda/secrecy campaigns) led to needless deaths and the ­existential threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles. This eye-opening look into a typically venerated aspect of ­American history is a stark reminder, as stated by ­Cherrix, that “scientific advancement comes at a price.” Extensive back matter includes an author’s note, a bibliography, endnotes, and an index.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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