Balloon to the Moon by Gill Arbuthnott & Chris Nielsen


Published by Big Picture Press, 2019.

7458FC14-824B-45B9-B773-15FFBD35665EBalloon to the Moon is an incredibly in-depth and beautifully illustrated book about the human journey to space, from the Montgolfier brothers’ balloons in the late 18th century up to the Apollo moon landings of 1969-1972.

The book explores our fascination with flight. Humans have always wanted to fly, from as long ago as the story of Icarus in Greek mythology and Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for flying machines during the Renaissance.

Balloon to the Moon charts human progress and endeavour. Each chapter describes a key stage of flight. There’s a chapter about early aircraft and pioneering aviators. Next there’s a history of rockets. This is followed by the race to break the sound barrier and fly at Mach 1. We then learn about the animals that were sent into space.

846153C9-3924-47C9-8698-3A2C6B8DAC7DThe remaining two thirds of the book are about humans in space: the early space explorers, the Space Race, the Apollo missions, and the famous moon landings. There’s a really interesting section about astronaut training, including a description of the Vomit Comet! I was also fascinated by the list of things that astronauts left behind on the moon, although the containers for human waste products were less impressive than the commemorative plaques and medals! I really liked the section at the end of the book which examines the space technology that is now part of our everyday life on Earth: solar panels, memory foam, and cordless power tools and vacuum cleaners. 

B65D3003-9857-49CE-B331-545B9B605D5CThe book has been cleverly structured around the famous NASA countdown to launch; chapters count down from ten to one, there are then a further three chapters: lift-off, lunar orbit, and re-entry.

Balloon to the Moon is extremely well-presented and accessible. I really like the page layout; there’s an excellent balance of text and image, and the page design is attractive and varied. There are really clear timelines and carefully labelled diagrams, fact-files, mini biographies, comic strips, text boxes, and visual overviews of technological developments. I love how the vintage-style illustrations reflect the feel of the 1960s.


The book is packed full of innovation and technology and the stories of the people who helped to make history. The book doesn’t shy away from complicated content; there are explanations of gravity, g-force, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and sonic boom. Inevitably, the history of flight and space is dominated by men but I really liked how the book included women’s achievements too.

I loved how Balloon to the Moon frames the moon landings in their historical and technological context. It’s fascinating to view them as part of a centuries-long process of innovation and endeavour. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Big Picture Press for sending me this book to review.

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