Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara Larry

Science Fiction

Library CertificateClick on certificate to see reading list Miss Pickerell Goes to MarsReading list

Books read that summer. Note that I started printing instead of using cursive writing.

When summer of ’63 came around Mom again started taking us to the public library where I discovered science fiction. After reading about so many interesting things in Popular Science, I found books in the children’s section that had space and science in them. 

Miss Pickerall Goes to MarsI started with the Miss Pickerell books,  Miss Lavinia Pickerell an unlikely young lady wearing old‑fashioned clothes and an outlandish hat, who manages to inadvertently stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure. In book two, Miss Pickerell's hears that her collection of rocks from Mars has gone down with the shipwreck of Liberty Bell and then finally must put on a diving outfit and search for the wreckage herself!  Miss Pickerell was wonderful, she used scientific principles and addressed topics like weightlessness in space travel, atomic energy and carbon-14 dating, nuclear-powered submarines and the continental shelf, the "bends" affecting divers who surface too rapidly, just like I had read in Popular Science. My first woman hero. 

Rocket MouseThen there was Rocket Mouse, like a scientific version of the Saturday morning cartoon Mighty Mouse, who, equipped with home-made goggles, sand pail helmet, parasol parachute and the fiery spirit of a pioneer, undergoes a series of tests, some designed by himself, others inside the pockets of missile men, all climaxing in his hazardous journey into space and back. Ok, it was in the children’s section.

Fredd and the SpaceshipFreddy and the Spaceship wasn’t much better, after all Freddy was a Pig.  Freddy and his friends decide to take a trip to Mars in Benjamin Bean's spaceship, but they are knocked off course and find themselves on a strangely familiar planet, where danger (and Martians) lurk. There were other Freddy books, all simple and quick reads and I soon bored with them.

Sprickes the RobotSprockets a Little Robot I found amusing, a robot, no bigger than a boy, named Sprockets, and though small, has the most powerful electronic brain on Earth.  The modern “computer” didn’t exist but there were electronic brains as I had read in the Tom Swift books.  Sprockets, pursued by the foreman, escapes, runs through the moonlit city, pushing his little body as hard as he can until rain starts to fall and he begins to rust. At the last minute, Sprockets is rescued the kind Dr. Bailey who adopts the little robot and sets off to save the universe and learning what it is to be alive.

The 21 BalloonsThe 21 Balloons I found fascinating, a story not set off in space, but using technology here on earth. Professor William Waterman Sherman, a recently retired schoolteacher, sets off leaving San Francisco on a giant balloon to fly across the Pacific Ocean determined to spend a year drifting alone, relaxing on the balloon basket house but then he and his balloon disappear.  Three weeks later his is found,  in the middle of the Atlantic ocean floating among a strange wreck of twenty deflated gas balloons.  Sherman then describes how he landed on the island of Krakatoa, and discovered a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.  When he tries to leave the island in a balloon.  I had long forgotten this book and throughout my life I had daydreams of inventing and building a giant balloon with a house underneath and floating around the world.  As I got older the balloon house got more sophisticated with solar power, ability to pick up water from the ocean to make hydrogen to keep the balloon in flight and so on.  It wasn’t until I was seventy that I read the list of books I read that summer in 1963 and realized that this was the book that started those dreams.

The Fabulous Flying BicycleThe Fabulous Flying Bicycle was a simple story about a boy who invents a flying bicycle and the adventures he goes on flying around on it.  It inspired me to make my own inventions.

Space CatThen there were the Space Cat books09op- in which Space Cat, yes an actual cat named Flyball, and his pal, Colonel Fred, travels in a spaceship.  While they are on their way home from Venus, the astronauts (astrocat) are forced to make and emergency landing on Mars.  Typical for a cat, Flyball’s a bit bored by the Red Planet at first until his curiosity is roused by its sole surviving fishing cat, a friendly, bright red, female named Moofa.  Will she  turn out to be the cat’s meow?  Very cute, and it had cats in it.

Rocket Ship GallieoBut the book that captured me the most was Rocket Ship Galileo by Heinlein.  After World War II, three teenage rocket experimenters are recruited by one of the boy's uncle, Dr. Cargraves, a renowned physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project (like in the atomic bomb that ended the war), to refit a conventionally powered surplus "mail rocket” to run on a thorium nuclear pile which boils zinc as a propellant. Upon completion they stock the rocket, which they name the Galileo, and take off for the Moon, which upon arriving establish structure based on a Quonset hut and they claim the Moon on behalf of the United Nations. Soon thereafter, the boys find evidence of an ancient lunar civilization, and postulate that the craters of the Moon were not formed by impacts from meteorites, but by nuclear bombs that destroyed the alien race.  It didn’t get much better, the book was based on hard science I read about in articles in Popular Science by Dr. Wernher von Braun.  Kennedy had announced the moon program, the Apollo rocket was being built, although not nuclear power, was to take man to the moon.  What was science fiction was becoming a reality and I dreamed of my own inventions and of going into space.

It was the trips to the library, the books I read, the articles in Popular science came together in my immigration that set me on a course of science and technology that carried though my life.

Updated: 08-06-2022

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