This is part of a series of reviews on books that have gifted homeschoolers of one variety or another as protagonists. A few of these books are also actually sequels or one in a series. If so, I will say. As I explain here, not all these books will be suitable for children to read. But today’s book is one of the happy exceptions. Which is a Heinlein rarity!
Title: Have Spacesuit, Will Travel
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Disclaimer: This post may have links to buy books, because if you want to read this awesome books, I want to make it easier for you – I am a book-enabler.. But you can always hop over to your local library instead – libraries are cool.
Gifted Homeschoolers: Clifford ‘Kip’ Russel – 17 year old boy, Peewee – 10 year old girl, both probably PG.
Homeschooling Style: Afterschooling high-school. Curriculum and book-based self-study (mathematics, Latin) with guidance from parents and occasional tutoring (Spanish). Home-based chemistry lab, darkroom and electronics bench. Project-based homeschool – repairing an old spacesuit and bringing it back up to a perfect space-worthy condition.
Depiction of Homeschooling: Afterschooling is depicted as a way for Kip to extend himself intellectually when the school’s options are inadequate. Peewee tends to teach herself, “I was poking around where I shouldn’t, doing things they told us not to. I always get around; it’s very educational.”
Depiction of Gifted: Peewee is characterised as a ‘brat’. “I can be an awful nuisance when I put my mind on it.” Kip as a hard-worker who doesn’t believe he is bright at all. “I’m glad you like Peewee. She is about twenty years old intellectually and six emotionally; she usually antagonizes people. So I’m glad she has gained a friend who is smarter than she is.”
Possible Sensitive Areas: Bullying, near death of protagonists, implied human-eating, potential destruction of earth.
Incorporating into Homeschool: This would be a good light introduction to SF, and for the more imaginative tween, might be a good introduction to the ideas of astronomy and physics. It also brings up philosophical ideas on how to define ethical behaviour and the role of policing and governance.
Age Range: Late primary-school to young teen. It’s hard to judge. My 6 year old was fine with the language and understood the story, but was not hooked (no trains or bridges, you see).
Review: Kip is a school kid who dreams of going to the moon; when he wins an old spacesuit, he decides to do it up and make it space-worthy. And that’s when he gets kidnapped by space-pirates; meets the alien ‘cop on the beat’, the Mother Thing; and Peewee. The three of them battle space-pirates, the travails of space-travel and asphyxiation, and even the Three Galaxies security council to save the human race, and get back home in time for Kip to start University over the summer break.
This is an enjoyable junior fiction-level book, that moves at a fast pace. It is perhaps now a little dated in some of it’s earth-based aspects, as it’s definitely set in the late fifties. But it’s still quite the yarn. Heinlein is a master of narrative, and the aspects of space-travel and space-suit design ring true (Heinlein had been an aeronautics engineer and had knowledge of pressure suits). It was nominated for a Hugo in 1959.
Adaptations: None. A movie adaptation, by Star Trek writer Harry Kloor, is currently stuck in development hell.
Other books reviewed in this series: