If someone asked you to name the first astronaut that popped into your head, you might say, “Neil Armstrong.” Or, “Buzz Aldrin.” Or, maybe, “Sally Ride” or “Mae Jemison.”

You probably wouldn’t say “Alan Bean.”

But after you read Dean Robbins’ newest picture book — THE ASTRONAUT WHO PAINTED THE MOON; THE TRUE STORY OF ALAN BEAN (Orchard Books, 2019) — you’ll never forget this astronaut again.

Bean, who was part of the Apollo 12 mission, was the fourth man to walk on the moon. He had all the qualities most astronauts have — intelligence, bravery, curiosity and a scientific bent. He also had one quality no other astronaut to visit the moon has possessed. He was an artist.

So after Bean returned to Earth, he began painting what he’s seen on the moon. In some ways, his paintings were very scientific. Before he painted anything, Bean built a model of the moon’s surface and used a light as the sun to make sure he got the angles and shadows right.

In other ways, Bean’s paintings were creative. He used bright colors not found on the moon to convey how being on the moon made him feel. As Robbins writes:

He added red and purple to the gray dust.
Blue and green to the black craters.
Yellow and orange to the white sunlight.
The Moon didn’t look exactly real, but Alan didn’t want it to.
The painting showed how stunning outer space looked through his eyes.

Bean used actual moon dust in some of his paintings. He also used tools he’d used on the moon — and his very own moon boots — to give the paintings texture and dimension.

This book is a beautiful work of nonfiction. Robbin’s text is poetic and does a great job of taking the reader through Bean’s life without getting bogged down in extraneous detail. And there’s wonderful back matter including a timeline, bibliography, author’s note and samples of Bean’s actual paintings.

The book is illustrated by Sean Rubin, and it’s a visual delight. The endpapers are purple and yellow moon footprints, and the center spread is a wordless look at Bean’s first glimpse of the moon.

This book is wonderful for space fans — of which Robbins is one — and for artists and dreamers of all kinds.

Dean Robbins talks about his love for space and how he researched and wrote this book at Mystery to Me, an independent bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.


  1. Such a compelling topic! I interviewed Alan Bean during research for my books, Countdown and Daring Dozen (which Captain Bean kindly wrote a Foreword for). He was such a kind, sharp, and interesting man. One of the highlights of my writing career was hearing him talk about his fascinating Apollo 12 mission! (His rocket was hit by lightning twice during launch!) Can’t wait to check out Robbins new book!

  2. Love the use of moon dust and moon boots -that sounds like a great title! This book looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Such an amazing story! I’m in awe! Thanks, Pat, for introducing me to this picture book.

  4. Avatar
    Susan Apps-Bodilly

    He used actual moon dust on the paintings?? Can’t wait to read this one.

  5. Can’t wait to see the moon through artist’s eyes. I had never heard of Bean, either. This will be delightful.

  6. This sounds like an amazing book. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Thanks, Pat!

  7. I always enjoy a non-fiction picture book as it’s a great way to introduce children to subject matter.

  8. Wow! What a thrill to speak to Alan Bean! Looking forward to reading the story!

  9. Avatar
    Angie Quantrell

    Fun book! I love the imagination! Can’t wait to read it.

  10. What a great book. I am looking forward to reading this one! Thank you for hightlighting it Pat!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing book, Pat. It’s on Hold at my library.
    Can’t wait to see it!

  12. An artist astronaut. Sounds like a new twist on space exploration.

  13. This is incredible! I’d never heard of Alan Bean or his paintings before this post. Looking forward to reading ASTRONAUT!

  14. I love anything Apollo related (I grew up during the 60s) and I will for sure check this out. Just wanted to mention Aldrin did a picture book autobiography a few years ago illustrated by Wendell Minor that was great. Also highly recommend Suzanne Slade’s book Countdown. I haven’t seen Daring Dozen yet but am anxious to read it.

  15. I love this concept – so much fun! I hadn’t heard of Alan Bean either and can’t wait to read his story.
    Thanks for sharing it with us, Pat.

  16. This is wonderful. I had no idea about the paintings. Thanks for sharing!

  17. I’m so happy that you brought this book to my attention, Pat. Can’t wait to see it, thank you!

  18. Many scientists have an artistic bent. I never knew this about Alan Bean.

  19. Pat, you are so right. This book is a visual delight–especially the art that reflects Bean’s own art. Combine that with Robbin’s lyrical text and I think this one book commemorating the Apollo missions no one should miss.

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