In “I Love You, Michael Collins,” Lauren Baratz-Logsted creates a perfect melding of history and fiction in this middle grade story that will be enjoyed by boys and girls and adults.
The protagonist, Mamie (who was named after a President’s wife), is different from the other kids her age. Is she on the spectrum? Probably. She thinks differently and speaks in a manner that is much more mature than others her age. She also thinks more maturely, as is evidenced when all the rest of her classmates choose to write to Buzz Aldrin or Neal Armstrong and she decides to write to Michael Collins. No one can understand why she wants to write to the guy who isn’t going to step foot on the moon, but as the story unfolds, her choice becomes more and more apt.
Mamie doesn’t stop with just writing Michael Collins one letter. She continues to write to him after school ends for the summer, and the letters tell the story — beautifully. Mamie’s only friend, Buster, lives next door and he’s a truly good best friend. When he learns that Mamie is fascinated with Michael Collins, he joins in and enthusiastically researches the launch and everything about the mission. They celebrate the events together.
The reader slowly finds out that Mamie’s parents are not happy. When Mamie’s mother walks out one night, it’s the start of Mamie feeling as if everyone is leaving her alone — even Campbell, their cat. But like Michael Collins, who has to stay with the ship to make sure that it’s there when Buzz Aldrin and Neal Armstrong return to the ship, Mamie must be strong and guide the ship when no one else is there.
Baratz-Logsted pulls off a fabulous feat by providing a great deal of essential background material about the trip to the moon and what was involved, being true to the time period in terms of food and living, while creating a character who is likable, sweet and smart.
This book would be a great read aloud and a precursor to studying about the history of space exploration. It’s also a wonderful book to lead into talking about family dynamics and friendship.
Please note: This review is based on the advanced reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux, for review purposes.