A Guest Post by Hilary Robinson
Fifty years ago, on 20th July 1969, the Eagle module from Apollo 11, landed on the moon.
Six hours later, Neil Armstrong became the first person in history to step on this moon. Planet Earth’s one and only. The achievement became a defining moment in a voyage of discovery that had begun years before.
The risks were enormous, in every perceivable way. Yet the success was such that Apollo 11 became one of the highlights of the 20th century; an era that had been brutally marred by the bloodshed of World War 1.
Fifty years later, my latest book, Jasper Space Dog, has been written to engage a new audience with that time, with space travel and to create a curiosity in worlds beyond our own.
The story takes the form of letters, written between Charlie Tanner, his loveable hound, Jasper, and Dr Isabella Starr, a Rocket Scientist. Jasper, it transpires, has canine galactic ambitions of his own and Dr Starr is keen to point out the facts.
During the preparation, I considered several factors beyond what I hoped would be a ripping good read.
I wanted the story to be accessible; one that transcended ages, abilities and genres and one that challenged gender and racial stereotypes.
I wanted to create an inclusive reading experience; one that would unite reluctant and enthusiastic readers and readers of all ages. Simply, I wanted to create a shared celebration of the love of books.
So, in the time honoured tradition of the launchpad countdown – here are our ten rocket points that we considered in bringing Jasper Space Dog to life.
10 Humour – ah – the universal language of joking!
We wanted to get creative with hilarious ideas about space, whilst being sensitive to any nuanced undertones. We did this by helping readers to find out all kinds of funny facts, prompted by imaginative questions. For example, our characters ask whether astronauts ate flying hotdogs, if they saw flying dog bowls and flying saucers and if Michael Collins bumped into a cow jumping over the moon. Jasper even discovers that Neil A, spelled backwards, reads Alien!
9 We combine science and art
Dr Suzie Imber, an astrophysicist from Leicester University was our consultant while Lewis James, a Prince’s Trust ambassador, provided the illustrations under the expert mentoring of illustrator and designer, Mandy Stanley.
8 The story combines fact and fiction
Charlie Tanner and Jasper’s wild fantasies are kept in reality check by Dr Isabella Starr, our Rocket Scientist. There are also chapters on Mission Facts and Space Facts.
7 Pages and font
We included tinted pages and Dyslexie Font. These deliberate formatting choices were geared to to minimise challenges that undermine the reading experience. The book is also pocket size so people can take it on their own adventure missions.
6 Layout and design
It’s all designed to enhance the reading experience. Indenting paragraphs and breaking up text with illustrations enables some readers who find blocks of text overwhelming.
5 A book is a friend
Jasper Space Dog has been designed to be portable, so anyone can take him on their adventures. Small enough to fit in a bag or a pocket, Jasper can be taken to the dentist, the park, on a bus – wherever – we’re never alone with a good friend in hand.
4 Space for women
400,000 people were involved in the Apollo missions. Many of those were women. Yet that isn’t obvious from the actual footage of the time. Dr Isabella Starr serves as a gentle prompt, every other chapter, of the vital role that women play in space exploration. This includes then, now and in the increasingly equal and leading roles they will play in the future.
Together we can achieve more. Apollo astronauts, with the help of the 400,000 that worked on the missions, were united in a common goal. They were there to support each other. The love and friendship between Jasper and Charlie Tanner is tangible as they rock along together, in their own imaginary world, seeking out an adventure that will change their world.
The story is divided into short, accessible chapters – a confidence booster for those that struggle with longer books.
1 There’s always another adventure
Jasper Viking Dog follows in February and already we have readers poised to join us on his next voyage of discovery, one in which he applies to be a living exhibit in the local Viking Museum!
Jasper Space Dog is written by Hilary Robinson, Illustrated by Lewis James and Published by Strauss House Productions.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.