DARING DOZEN (+Giveaway)

Do you know how many people have walked on the moon? (Hint: check out the post title.)

That’s right! Only twelve astronauts—ever—have visited our beautiful moon.

You’ve probably heard a lot about the moon’s first guests, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and their famous Apollo 11 landing. Yet most people know very little about the five missions which later landed on the lunar surface.

All the moon missions were remarkable. Each one faced their own challenges and accomplished astonishing goals! (Fyi: Each of the six moon landing missions carried two brave astronauts, hence the “Daring Dozen.”)

My new picture book DARING DOZEN: THE TWELVE WHO WALKED ON THE MOON shares the exciting adventures and incredible discoveries of all of these heroic space pioneers.

Illustrated by Alan Marks, DARING DOZEN releases March 5—just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing! (July 20, 2019)

As part of my research I had the privilege of interviewing the fourth man on the moon, Alan Bean, before he passed away in May 2018.

Captain Bean was gracious, funny, smart, and very punctual! One Monday morning I called him a few minutes before 9 am (our agreed upon time interview time), and he politely asked me to call back at the scheduled time. So I hung up, dialed again three minutes later, and he was ready to talk!

Alan Bean working on the moon (Pete Conrad’s reflection in helmet)

Alan Bean was kind enough to write a special note for DARING DOZEN. The note shares his first-hand account of how it actually felt to walk on the moon. The story also includes actual quotes from other astronauts as they explored the moon, so readers can feel like they’re part of the action.

When I began working on DARING DOZEN years ago, eight of the twelve moonwalkers were living. Now only four remain: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), David Scott (Apollo 15), Charles Duke (Apollo 16), and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17.)  

The book also contains 14-pages of back matter with stunning photos of the Apollo crew and spacecraft, plus fascinating details about each mission.

Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin saluting the flag 

I’m so grateful Alan Marks agreed to illustrate DARING DOZEN. His illustrations elegantly capture the action and excitement of these phenomenal moon missions. Alan is also a super nice guy who agreed to share his insightful answers to a few questions about the project below.

Question 1. Your illustrations are colorful and fun, yet you also accurately depict many details of various spacecraft, spacesuits, and more. What was your research process like for this book?

I’m not a scientist or an engineer, my work is about visual representation and my understanding of what I’m drawing comes through looking. That could be true for a humming bird as much as for a spaceship; drawing is a great way of understanding things.

Fortunately NASA makes a lot of its images publicly available; pictures of astronaut training were particularly helpful. There are also documentaries about the how Grumman and Co. made the lunar lander and videos often show how an object moves and view it from different angles. I also had help from Alyssa and Diane at Charlesbridge, who fact-checked all of the work. But, as you say, I want fun and drama as well as accuracy; darkness and shadow are very helpful for concealing areas of an object that I’m not sure about and also add atmosphere and mystery to an image, as does the glint of light on a dark background.

2. I love the gorgeous black/blue space backgrounds with lovely sparkling stars. How did you create such stunning depictions of space?

I use watercolour which is a wonderful medium for creating evocative and mysterious backgrounds. I apply washes of colour and often work on wet paper so that the washes spread and create their own patterns. Blue/black washes are not the easiest to work with; it’s quite easy to obliterate details of a drawing that you want to keep, so it’s a question of controlling the paint without losing the spontaneity. 

I read that stars would have been visible but not picked up by NASA’s cameras so added specks of white paint to represent the myriad of other galaxies. The contrast between the dark skies and the lighter surface of the Moon was also important as it gives a sense of luminosity.

3. It’s amazing how you captured the astronauts’ action so colorfully and accurately, such as a lunar rover zooming over the dust, an astronaut leaping in little gravity, and Alan Shepard’s impromptu golf outing. Were there any special challenges to creating such realistic action?

This was a challenge but also part of the fun of illustrating the book where I imagine what it would be like to visit the Moon and draw the reader into how that might feel. The movement of the astronauts’ came from lots of rough drawings; exploring the restrictions of wearing a cumbersome spacesuit together with the freedom of lower gravity; I reckon that small movements would take you a long way, and the astronauts themselves described the sort of jumping movements they made across the surface.

My editors at Charlesbridge might then say something like, ‘We don’t think they could have jumped that high.’ or ‘ Perhaps their knees couldn’t have bent that much.’ So it’s a process of trying to understand how it might have been.

Similarly, Alan Shepard wouldn’t have been able to strike a golf ball as he would on Earth, it’s likely that he couldn’t even see it properly. I read that he only used one arm to swing at the ball and that it travelled ‘miles and miles’. The text plays a big part too; you describe the rover as travelling at speed and soaring through the air every time they hit a rock, so I gave it a slightly exaggerated movement and perspective; and ultimately it has to look right on the page.

* * * * * * GIVEAWAY! * * * * * *

Three winners randomly selected from those who leave comments on this post will receive a personal Space Selfie photo! (YOU in a spacesuit!)

“Space Selfie”

[I’m also happy to email a Space Selfie to anyone who purchases DARING DOZEN and emails a photo of yourself with the book!]

* * * * * * * For Space Lovers * * * * * * *


Apollo Lunar Surface Journal – Astronauts’ dialogue while on the moon

NASA Kids’ Club

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*Booklist STARRED Review – “An outstanding choice for children …”

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com


  1. This sound incredible. How neat you were able to get Alan Bean’s interview ! I love that he asked you to call back 3 minutes later. Hilarious!

    • It was hilarious. Although at first I thought I had the wrong time entirely. Then I noticed on my computer’s clock it was 8:57 and decided to try him again in 3 minutes. It was worth all the stress because talking to him was incredible!

  2. What a great story idea and congratulations for bringing it to life. Wow!

  3. Wow. What a beautiful deep-dive into a topic, Suzanne! Looks like a wonderful book.

  4. What a wonderful story to tell! And an interesting interview. Congrats!

    • Glad you enjoyed the interview! Alan had his work cut out for him with the technical nature of the spacecraft and such, but he somehow made it all so colorful and fun for young readers.

  5. Angie Quantrell

    Fantastic topic! I know my husband would love this one. I know, not the usual audience, but he is fascinated by space travel. Congratulations!

    • It’s funny, with this and my other space books, I’m finding dads and moms are just as interested, if not more, than their kids. Space exploration is a fascinating topic for all ages.

  6. Wow! What a fantastic followup to Countdown! Can’t wait to see it! It seems that the later men who walked on the moon aren’t household names. So glad you got to talk to one of the few remaining!

    • Would you believe Daring Dozen actually spun off of Countdown? (although the style of the books and intended audiences are quite different) I was thrilled to have the privilege of talking with Alan Bean, and so excited to share the adventures of all 12 moonwalkers with young readers!

  7. Wow — what a fascinating fact and what fodder for topics to write about! Can’t wait to read this book!

    • “fact and fodder” — love it! Yes, the adventures of the only human who’ve visited the moon is fascinating to me, and I hope young readers enjoy it too. Thanks for the kind note!

  8. This is such an important book in our day and age!

  9. The book looks beautiful–congratulations, Suzanne and Alan! And what an interesting backstory, Suzanne. I especially love the Alan Bean anecdote. It’s important to be punctual! 🙂

    • Yes, I learned the finer points of punctuality from Alan. He was also so interesting to talk to because he was very honest and open. His interview will always be one of the highlights of my writing career.

  10. Suzanne, congratulations on this fabulous celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing! The book looks beautiful – coffee table quality. I can’t wait to read it.

  11. What a great book. I can’t wait to read it with my class and introduce my students to some of the lesser know astronauts.

  12. The illustrations are amazing! My son recently started this obsession with space. He said he wants to have a solar system birthday party and dress up like an astronaut. i look forward to reading this book with him.

  13. A solar system birthday party sounds fantastic! Maybe you could play pin the planet (whichever one you pick) in the Solar System, or do a game with stomp rockets, etc. Have fun, and I hope your son enjoys the book!

  14. This is great! Will definitely be on the look out for it! SPACE IS AMAZING! Thanks, Suzanne.

  15. Congratulations Suzanne!!! What a beautiful companion to Countdown!!!

  16. Thanks Vijaya! Yes, you’re right, this book begins where Countdown ended, with Apollo 11’s historic first moon landing. Daring Dozen is geared for the picture book crowd, so I hope curious grade schoolers enjoy discovering interesting details about all the moon landing missions and what they found on the moon!

  17. Can’t wait to read this one. Also, 14 pages of back matter! I know some littles who will be so excited by that. 🙂

  18. Yep, the back matter is awesome. One page about each mission with NASA photos, more details about all the spacecraft, a note from Alan Bean, Timeline, Source Note, and more! Thank for your kind note Mary!

  19. Congratulations, Suzanne!!!!! What a beautiful and fascinating book. I’m excited to see it in person!

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