Review of “Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle” by Nan Marino (Ages 8-12)

This touching story will have you sidling up to your Kleenex box. It’s a short and ultimately sweet story about coping with loss, narrated by ten-year-old Tamara Ann Simpson, or Tammy.


It’s the summer after fifth grade for Tammy, in 1969, the same summer that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Tammy’s best friend, Kebsie Grobser, moved away a month and a half ago, and now a new foster kid has taken her place across the street, a scrawny boy her age that Tammy contemptuously calls Muscle Man McGinty. He is constantly bragging and exaggerating, even claiming that astronaut Neil Armstrong is his uncle!

The kids on the block all play kickball together, and through this medium, get to know each other’s mettle. Tammy is dead-set against the new boy fitting in; to her, he is usurping Kebsie’s place, and she blames him for Kebsie being gone. When she pushes McGinty into challenging the whole kickball team to a game, she doesn’t understand why the rest of the kids are so nice to him.

The story ends on July 20, 1969, the night Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. A lot of other big steps are taken that summer too by Tammy, as she learns all about friendship and forgiveness and the fact that what people say isn’t always what they mean.

The kids’ behavior seems age-appropriate. Their struggles with social rules and emotions and understanding how the word works strike me as just right. There are some aspects of the story, like about the Vietnam War, that a child of today might not get without a little help from adults. But the issues of bullying, rejection, loss and acceptance might provide great opportunities for parental guidance. Recommended as a good joint reading project for children and parents.

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2009


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5 Responses to Review of “Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle” by Nan Marino (Ages 8-12)

  1. bermudaonion says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this. I think I’ll be able to relate since I was 10 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

    • Your review will be very interesting since you were pretty much exactly the same age as the kids in the book at the same time. I can’t wait to see how much you think it captured that age and time in history!

  2. Bonnie says:

    I have this book TBR and it sounds great. I am hoping to do a joint review with my son who is 10.

  3. Margot says:

    I have a ten-year-old granddaughter who would like this book. I’m going to recommend it to her and her parents. There has been a little of this stuff going on among her group of friends. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Pingback: Review of the Day: Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle, and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino « A Fuse #8 Production

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