Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Liftoff: A photobiography of John Glenn

Liftoff: A photobiography of John Glenn

For ages 12 to and up
National Geographic, 2006   ISBN: 978-0792258995

John Glenn was, like so many other people, fascinated by the story of Charles Lindbergh's achievements and when he was eight years old he and his father were able to get a ride in an old biplane. After that ride John was "hooked on flying" and when he went to college in 1939 he volunteered for a government-sponsored civilian pilot training program. There was every indication that was would soon be breaking out in Europe and who knew when the United States might become involved. Just before his twentieth birthday, in July of 1941, John got his pilot's license.

When the United States went to war just a few months later in December of that same year John was determined to do his duty and soon after he joined the Navy as a pilot. Before he began his training he got engaged to Annie, the girl he used to play with back home in New Concord Ohio.

In early 1944 John went to war and performed his duty with great skill, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and ten Air Medals. He loved being a Marine pilot so much that he decided to stay in the military. He flew during the Korean War and when that was over he became a test pilot. This was dangerous work but John enjoyed it enormously and pushed hard to see that projects he cared about got a fair trial.

When it looked as if the Soviets were going to get the upper hand in race to explore space, the United States started looking for pilots who would be able to work for the space program. The pilots would be the first American astronauts and John was chosen to be one of them. Initially there was a team seven man team. The team was given the name Mercury and on May, 1961 one of their number was the first American to go into space. Then on February 20th, 1962, John became the first American to orbit the Earth.

One would have thought that this would surely be enough for any man but John Glenn still wanted to do more. Being a fight pilot, a test pilot, and an astronaut was not enough. He wanted to serve his country in yet another capacity. And so John Glenn pursued a career in politics and in 1974 he succeeded in getting a Senate seat for Ohio.

In 1995 John read about some critical research which concerned aging and bone density loss. One of the ways to test some theories regarding this important medical problem was to look at the way in which astronauts were affected by weightlessness. John, being older, thought that it might be useful to send him into space as a guinea pig. He was also itching to get back into space again. So, in 1998, at the age of seventy six John was told that he would be going back into space. It was a dream come true.

This is truly the story of a man who spent his life serving his country and apparently, having an amazing time doing it. No doubt there must have been hard times, there always are, but on the whole John Glenn loved the work that he did. He loved to learn about new things, and he loved to make a difference. And no matter what he was doing, John was constantly doing both of these things.

Well written and packed with wonderful annotated photographs and meaningful quotations, this is biography which leaves the reader with a very real picture of what John Glenn is like.