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  • Astronaut Handbook
  • Written by Meghan McCarthy
  • Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780375844591
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Astronaut Handbook

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DO YOU HAVE what it takes to be an astronaut? Meghan McCarthy blasts readers off to astronaut school in her new, young, nonfiction picture book. Take a ride on the “Vomit Comet” and learn how it feels to be weightless. Have your measurements taken—100 to be exact—for your very own space suit. Meghan McCarthy has created the perfect book to share with children who want to be astronauts when they grow up.
Meghan McCarthy

About Meghan McCarthy

Meghan McCarthy - Astronaut Handbook

Photo © courtesy of the author

"I was great at painting and gluing and sculpting. I was terrible at reading and math and paying attention. Thankfully, I didn’t let my poor academic performance dissuade me from accomplishing my lifelong dreams."--Meghan McCarthy

Meghan McCarthy is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


I was a wild child and barely stayed stationary for more than a minute, according to my mother. I grew up in a small town in Rhode Island called Clayville, which at the time, was comprised of about 200 people, trees, lakes, grass, dirt roads, and more trees. There wasn’t much to do and there weren’t many kids to play with. My kindergarten class consisted of only 12 kids. To make matters worse, my sister vomited on the back of the
family television one day, when I was about five. That tragic event was a catalyst for my parents’ monumental decision——no TV. From that day forward, my sister and I were to entertain ourselves.

For over a year, the family television sat useless and dusty. It was, however, resurrected after our toothless, 1950s-truck-driving, lawnmower-loving neighbor couldn't stand our cultural oppression any longer. During dinner one night, Mr. Parker stormed through the dining room, into the living room, and absconded out the back door with the TV. He brought it back a week later——repaired——much to my parents’ dismay. But by that time, it was too late. I didn’t care to watch TV. I had more important things to do.

A few of those “important” things included inventing a flying machine, jumping off the garage roof with an umbrella, and publishing a children’s book. I never did finish the flying machine——I think my father eventually dismantled the metal pieces and put them
out with the trash. I did jump off the garage roof and, thankfully, landed in one piece. And as for the children’s book, well, that didn’t happen right away. I hit a few speed-bumps.

One of those speed-bumps was encountered early on. My elementary school teachers often lectured “Meghan, pay attention,” and “Meghan, stop daydreaming,” and “Meghan, doodling is not important.” I was great at painting and gluing and sculpting. I was terrible at reading and math and paying attention. Thankfully, I didn’t let my poor academic performance dissuade me from accomplishing my lifelong dreams.

I continued to draw, paint, and write stories throughout my high school years——often while sitting in math class. Although I kept hitting those all too familiar speed-bumps, my hard work got me into art school. Thankfully, the Rhode Island School of Design didn’t care about my math grades!

After art school, I moved to New York City, population of more than 8 million——a far cry from little old Clayville. I moved to New York to get a children’s book published and I wasn’t going to leave until I did it! Despite the culture shock, I adjusted.

I’d like to say I’ve changed a lot since the Clayville years. I’ve hopefully matured. I can actually finish an entire novel from front to back and can even balance my checkbook. But, somehow, I haven’t changed that much. My head is still in the clouds. I still have a few lifelong dreams to accomplish, such as being a lounge singer and jumping out of a plane, but my most unattainable dream has been attained.

That kid who swore she could fly by simply flapping her arms is still lurking. That’s why I’m a children’s book author, and it’s the perfect job for me.
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Blast off to astronaut school with Meghan McCarthy and the Astronaut Handbook. Take a ride on the “Vomit Comet” and learn how it feels to be weightless. Try a bite of astronaut food, such as delicious freeze-dried ice cream. Have your measurements taken–one hundred of your hand alone–for your very own space suit. Featuring McCarthy’s trademark humor, Astronaut Handbook contains fun facts about what it takes to become an astronaut. Includes an author’s note with additional resources.


Meghan McCarthy is the critically acclaimed author-illustrator of The Adventures of Patty and the Big Red Bus, Aliens Are Coming!, and Strong Man. For more information,visit her Web site at www.meghan-mccarthy.com.


Who can become an astronaut? Would you like to become one?

Which type of astronaut would you most like to be? Why?

What does “take a lot of preparation” mean? What other types of jobs
take a lot of preparation?

Why do you think a fitness test is so important for aspiring astronauts?

What types of exercise do you like to do?

Are you a good team player? How do you improve on this important skill?

Why is survival training so important for an astronaut?

If someone offered to take you up on the Vomit Comet today, would you go?

Why or why not? What would be the best part of being weightless?

Did you notice the astronaut’s utensils for meals? Why are scissors
important? Which food would you most like to try?

What’s the most interesting fact you learned in the book?

Where can you learn more?

Why is it best to like small spaces if you want to be an astronaut?

Do you like them or not? Why?

Which illustration is your favorite? Why?


Ask students: What is a handbook? Have you ever used a handbook for a sport, club, or activity? What kinds of things did it help you do? What could you write a handbook for?

Language Arts —
Lead a class discussion about career choices and then have students interview someone who
has a career they might be interested in learning more about. They should write at least three questions that they
think are most important to know. After the interview, have them send a thank-you note for sharing their time.

Have students design a gadget or tool that they think an astronaut would find handy in space.
It could help them do their job or just do simple tasks like writing, reading, cooking, or playing a game. What
things do you need to consider that are important in your design?

History—Send students to the NASA Web site at www.nasa.gov to discover great games and resources.
Have them create a time line of human space flight with at least five important events included, or have them
create a poster about one of the missions and share it with the class.

Art—Share images from space on the NASA Web site and in books. Then, inspired by what they see, have
students create their own piece of art celebrating the universe. It can be a painting, sculpture, collage, or line
drawing. Lastly, have them write a brief paragraph that explains what inspired their piece.

Vocabulary—Distribute a chart based on words from the book to the class for them to fill out. For the first
two columns, students should check which description is more accurate for them. In the last column, they should
try to use the word in a sentence.

Download a PDF of the Teacher's Guide

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