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The Picture Book Buzz

The Little Spacecraft That Could - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

"The exploration of Pluto was a landmark event.

This fascinating book tells the whole amazing story!"

~ Dr. Alan Stern, leader, NASA's New Horizons Mission.

This Friday, I get the distinct honor to share with you for #PPBF a sneak peek at the newest picture book collaboration by the amazing duo Joyce Lapin and Simona Ceccarelli, which releases May 18th.

The Little Spacecraft that Could: New Horizons’ Amazing Journey to Pluto and Arrokoth

Author: Joyce Lapin

Illustrator: Simona Ceccarelli

Publisher: Sterling Kids Books (2021)

Ages: 7-18

Informational Fiction


Space exploration, Pluto, science, and discovery.


Ride along with the New Horizons spacecraft as she rockets three billion miles to Pluto! Watch her take the first close-up photos of Pluto, and then journey another billion miles to mini-world Arrokoth. You’ll whiz through space at more than 10 miles per second; learn how giant planet Jupiter helped the little spacecraft reach Pluto; and discover the astonishing surface feature that made the world fall in love with Pluto.

Opening Lines:

"Five. . .Four . . .Three . . .Two. . .One. . ."

At "Liftoff," the spacecraft let her launch

system carry her skyward. She was gunning to

be the first spacecraft every to fly to Pluto.

What I LOVED about this book:

What an ingenious way to introduce space exploration, science, and recent discoveries about Pluto by telling the story from the viewpoint of the New Horizon spacecraft herself. Told in a very relatable third person voice, Joyce Lapin lightly personifies this little spacecraft. And Simona Ceccarelli gives her just the right amount of personality and pluck. I mean just look at that face as New Horizons launches into outer space.

Text © Joyce Lapin, 2021. Image © Simona Ceccarelli, 2021.

And when New Horizons learns that scientists had downgraded Pluto to a "dwarf planet" -

Text © Joyce Lapin, 2021. Image © Simona Ceccarelli, 2021.

"Well, this stung a bit. . . The spacecraft felt more

determined than ever to complete her mission."

How could you not be interested in her journey and root for the success of her mission. It is wonderful way to get kids (and adults) excited about discovering new information about space and NASA's exploratory spacecraft missions.

Interspersed, and interwoven, throughout this wonderful informational fiction picture book are tons of technical (rocket stages), astronomical (solar system tidbits), mythological (planetary names), and scientific facts. They occur in New Horizon's thoughts - such as "What was distant Pluto made of? What color was its sky? Were there gross creepy-crawly things?” and accompanying fun thought bubbles, traditional sidebars, and stunning illustrations. Such as the alignment and orbits of the planets which set the foil for showing New Horizon's trajectory toward Jupiter, the detailed look at Saturn and its rings, and of course the peaks into the control room scenes.

Text © Joyce Lapin, 2021. Image © Simona Ceccarelli, 2021.

There's a wonderful, detailed diagram of New Horizons that explains her "seven sensory measuring and recording devices" for exploring everything she could about Pluto and it's five moons. And wait until you see the reaction of New Horizons and everyone on Earth to her first images of Pluto. I really love space and enjoy looking through the Hubble telescope images. And I have to say I was floored by Simona's illustrations of Pluto and Arrokoth. When New Horizon reaches Pluto, Joyce does a great job setting out many of the discoveries - a saltwater ocean, ice dunes, and ice volcanoes! Pluto is still active and its sky is blue! And so much more information.

This book does a phenomenal job of raising questions and inspiring future scientists to think about all the amazing data New Horizons collected and continues to collect as she flies farther into space. A detailed timeline, glossary, further reading, and a "get up close and personal with Pluto and New Horizons" section round out this spectacular look at an important and spunky spacecraft. Overall, it's a great book for every library, school, and space-loving reader.


- make your own origami spacecraft ( Where would you send it to explore?

- what do you think New Horizons will discover next? Write a story, or draw a picture, or the planets or marvels you think she'll find.

- using a cardboard box and recycled items, build New Horizons or your create your own spacecraft.

- check out NASA's Kids Club ( - all their amazing STEM activities and especially the New Horizons section (

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with both Simona Cecarelli and Joyce Lapin (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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