The Only Astronaut
The Only Astronaut
Space is full of meteoroids and comets and aliens. They don’t scare me.
Asteroid belts are tricky, though. I’m a crew of one against a thousand.
At the beginning of this colourful tale, Avni is a lone astronaut taking on the missions she imagines. She decides when, where, and how the mission is going to go – until her rocket is grounded in an accident. Faced with all the work of planning the mission and repairing the ship, she decides to find an assistant. The reader follows Avni’s adventures looking for, and failing to find, the perfect assistant who will follow instructions and do what she wants. Instead, she stumbles on Aya who has his own ideas about what adventures they could have together. With a little cooperation, Avni may learn having a copilot takes compromise, but a copilot also means having twice the worlds to explore!
The Only Astronaut combines several important themes for this age group, including friendship, failure as part of the learning process, and persistence. It is also a welcome addition to the STEAM bookshelf as it features a diverse cast of characters. Older classes will find it useful as a mentor text. It is a great example of how illustrations and text work together to tell the story. The use of the Astronaut’s Log, for example, is a clever device that reveals to the reader how Avni’s requirements for an assistant change. Jain and Stegmaier are particularly skilled in showing the reader through illustrations how the story evolves instead of relying primarily on the text.
Jain made space for the illustrator to tell a significant amount of the story, which is why it will work especially well as a read-aloud. Depending on the class, a teacher will be able to cue students to focus on different details and discuss how Stegmaier depicted the different perspectives Avi and Avni interposed on their neighbourhood. Alternatively, a teacher can use the book to initiate social emotional learning conversations or as part of a maker activity. In fact, the illustrations are the star of this picture book. Stegmaier created spreads that shows how Avni’s imagination augments her neighbourhood into new worlds to explore.
My favorite aspect of The Only Astronaut is the interplay between the illustrations and the text. Mahak Jain and Andrea Stegmaier were excellent copilots of this sweet story of perseverance and friendship.
Jonine Bergen is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.