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I Want to Go to the Moon
by Tom Saunders
Illustrated by Cynthia Nugent
AGES: 3 to 7
SIZE: 7.4 x 9.25
PRICES: US $17.95, Cdn $18.95
HARDCOVER: 978-1-897476-56-7

Reading Rock Books

A nice coincidence happened in my house this week: my son (a.k.a. Jack, the bookstore baby) has fallen in love with a new book that happens to be about Neil Armstrong.

Like a lot of children, Jack likes to have a select few picture books read to him repeatedly. This week, he felt like branching out and we read I Want to Go to the Moon by Tom Saunders. The cover art immediately caught my eye and the inside doesn’t disappoint. Neil Armstrong is skillfully depicted at various ages in Cynthia Nugent’s charming illustrations.

It’s the story of a young boy growing up and never giving up on a dream, even though everyone around him says he’ll never make it to the moon. Even if the moon has never been a part of your or your child’s aspirations, the determination of Neil Armstrong is inspiring.

My son liked it so much we read it twice that night and he requested to take it with him to his grandmother’s house today. What better recommendation can I give than that?

The text of the book was originally a song, so a CD comes packaged within the back cover.


Featured book on TVO's Gisele's Big Backyard Book Club


Resource Links


I Want to go to the Moon

This is a cute book that tells the story of Neil Armstrong's unwavering quest to
get to the moon, beginning from the time he gazed out the window at the night
sky from his crib to when he finally blasts off into outer space. In spite of
the fact that he is told by everyone he meets that he'll never go to the moon.
he persists, and eventually realizes his dream.

The illustrations by Cynthia Nugent are very well done, with a lot of nice color
and interesting period details. The accompanying CD contains a song that really
augments the text. Author Tom Saunders sings the words with clarity, making it
easy for a child to follow along with the book. Occasional sound effects, such
as jets flying and a recording of the Appolo 11 lift-off and landing, add
interest to the simple tune.

This is a good book for teaching children that persistence can pay off, no
matter how big your dreams might be.

Thematic Links: The Moon; Neil Armstrong; Astronauts; Persistence

Susan Prior


CM Review:


The moon fascinates young Neil. In fact, he’s so taken by it that he wants to walk on its very surface. Although everyone around him says it’s impossible, Neil’s determination remains unwavering. Thus, begins Neil’s lifelong journey to achieve his one and only dream.

internal art

     Cynthia Nugent’s watercolour illustrations are delightfully soft. The air of whimsy that she is able to depict echoes the innocence of a young child’s dream. Nugent’s artistic expertise becomes evident as she mirrors Neil’s progress with illustrations that are both deeper and richer in colour. The sense of wonder she infuses throughout culminates in an epic double-page spread. 

     Tom Saunders’ I Want to Go to the Moon chronicles Neil Armstrong’s historic journey to the moon. Saunders’ use of rhyming couplets brilliantly lightens the disappointment Neil is inevitably forced to endure. Though the story could benefit from being shortened, its message to young readers is truly inspiring. I Want to Go to the Moon is for any child who dares to dream big.


Surrey-The Now Newspaper

In Medieval Britain, the bards of old sang their stories to the gentle pluck of ancient guitars for whomever would listen. Only hundreds of years later would ever their stories be found written down in a book.

For Tom Saunders, a musician and cameraman in White Rock, his song about a boy yearning to get to the moon took rather the same route - minus a few hundred years.

And, like all good stories, only about 80 per cent of it is true: "The other 20 per cent are things that rhymed with the word 'moon'," says the author.

Saunders is a smiling, creative guy wrapped up in his White Rock community - the place he has called home since childhood.

His music and other creative endeavours often make their way into the community: he and fellow musician Jason Dedrick wrote the entire score for Mother Goose, the pantomime currently staged by White Rock Players' Club.

His musical talents are also, on occasion, surrendered for commercial purposes: he and Dedrick wrote and performed the opening songs for the CTV show Robson Arms.

However, his song-now-book, titled I Want to Go to the Moon, took an entirely different trajectory.

"This was right out of the blue," he says.

"About 25 years ago, I'd done a cassette for my nephews and nieces. (In 2008), my sister-in-law asked if I could burn it to CD."

Lamenting the original album's "archival" quality, Saunders decided to re-record the whole thing.

This spawned a new track about a young Neil Armstrong trying to get to the moon.

"It's kind of the story of Neil Armstrong, but that's just what the story hangs on," explains Saunders.

"Everybody in (fictional Neil's) life, from his parents to his teachers to his friends- everyone was telling him he couldn't go to the moon, and he just kept his head down and kept doing it. It's about determination."

But, what was originally a project for the family's ears only was passed around to a few people in Saunders' ukulele circle, including Cynthia Nugent.

"The next day she emailed me and said, 'Do you know that I'm a children's book illustrator?'" said Saunders.

Nugent was quite taken with the last track, he explains, and suggested it would make a great children's book.

That is just what happened.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, Saunders and his good friend Dan Ross, who arranged the track and added sound bytes of the moon landing to the song's end, will be launching the book at Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock. During the event, from 2 to 4 p.m., Saunders and Ross will be performing the song-turned-tale, which is also included with the book as a CD.

The experience has been anything but painful, he said. "I could imagine putting all this work into (a book) and have it come to nothing, whereas it almost felt like I put no work into it, and it's come to this now," said Saunders.

He is quick to give much of the credit to Nugent and her colourful illustrations, and to Ross for arranging the finished song. But the words are all his.

"I'm very proud of the book."

I Want to Go to the Moon ($18.95, Simply Read Books) is available at amazon.com.




Dream big and reach for the stars.

That’s the message for young readers in a new children’s book, I Want To Go To The Moon (Simply Read Books), written by White Rock’s Tom Saunders and illustrated by Vancouver artist Cynthia Nugent.

The book will have an official launch party – timely for Christmas shoppers – on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 to 4 p.m. at the Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.

For the multi-talented Saunders, authorship is a new feather in the cap – most people recognize him as a ukelele balladeer/multi-instrumentalist, and theatre and soundtrack composer (his original score can be heard in the current White Rock Players Club pantoMother Goose, as well as his clever topical lyrics for The Wonderful Year We Fell In Love).

Others know the lifelong White Rock resident as an original humourist of distinctly off-kilter sensibility and a go-to man for extraordinary theatrical props – locals with longer memories will probably remember his work as a community television host and co-creator of a legendary Elvis Presley parody, This Is Orest.

The irony of his new role, Saunders said, is that it was totally unplanned on his part.

“I didn’t realize I’d written a book until six months after I’d first written it,” the tall, quiet and typically unassuming scribe noted.

“I almost feel like I can’t take any credit for it – it came right of the blue. In all truthfulness, I wrote a song that has been adapted as a book.”

The song, I Want To Go To The Moon, a catchy, easy-to-sing-along-with ditty, is also included on a CD inside the sturdy covers of the colourful and quite delightful little volume.

With what Saunders admits is some poetic license, it celebrates the achievement of astronaut Neil Armstrong, famed commander of the Apollo 11 mission and the first man to walk on the moon’s surface.

But there’s a deeper and broader purpose to the book, he said.

“It’s mostly an allegory for following your dreams and not being dissuaded when other people try to counter them,” he said.

As he points out – and Nugent’s drawings charmingly illustrate – Neil is a boy who dreams of flying to the moon, but everyone in the story, including his parents, friends and teachers, tell him it’s impossible.

“Nobody is doing it maliciously,” Saunders said. “They’ve all got good, solid reasons why it can’t be done.”

But Armstrong’s determination to live his dream wins through, of course, with results that are historic.

Saunders said that when he first started writing the piece – for a private album of original songs intended to entertain the children of family and friends, produced by longtime musical collaborator Dan Ross – he hadn’t thought of basing it on the career of Armstrong.

“When I was a kid, everybody had a little fantasy about going to the moon. I watched (the Apollo 11 mission and the lunar landing) on TV and it was pretty exciting,” he recalled.

“I got this interesting thought about a really determined kid who was going to the moon, no matter what anybody said. Three verses in, I realized I could make it a half-fact, half-fantasy version of Neil Armstrong, and from that point, a lot of it filled in itself.”

Saunders gives much of the credit for what I Want To Go To The Moon became to Ross’ production skills – including a sound-effects section complete with recreations of the moon landing.

“It’s a fairly long song,” Saunders said, adding, with a chuckle, “Dan called it the American Pie of children’s songs.”

But credit for the book’s existence he gives to Nugent, who took the lead in illustrating the text and successfully pitching the project to Vancouver-based Simply Read, which has built a strong reputation for quality children’s books, distributed through Raincoast Books.

“A couple of years ago, I gave a copy of the song to Cynthia, who I knew from the Vancouver Ukelele Circle – she’d told me she was a fan of my playing, singing and uke-ing.

“The next day I got an email from her saying ‘Do you know what I do for a living?’

She told me she was an illustrator and she thought my ‘moon’ song would make a good children’s book.”

Saunders said it was the beginning of a particularly painless partnership in which his work was practically over before it started.

“I’d get emails from her with her latest illustrations, and I loved everything she did,” he said.

“There was nothing she did I wanted changed, and there was nothing I did she wanted changed. The only change was requested by the publisher – the song was originally called You’ll Never Go To The Moon, but it was felt I Want To Go To The Moon was more positive for the title.”

The book has already had good feedback from those who’ve seen the few advance copies, Saunders said, and a lot more will be available for sale at the launch on Dec. 17.

Saunders said he plans to send a copy of the book to Armstrong himself, although he has no idea what the reaction will be – the former astronaut is not noted as the most gregarious of men.

“I don’t think we’ll get him out to the book launch,” Saunders quipped.

But he’s happy to see the fruition of the current collaboration, he added.

“Whatever else happens with it, my biggest thrill is in seeing my music and lyrics illustrated.”


Winnipeg Free Press:


For all would-be astronauts, the story of Neil Armstrong, I Want to Go to the Moon by Tom Saunders (Simply Read books, 32 pages, $19) will be inspirational.

Based on the lyrics of Saunders' song (which is included in the book as a CD), it describes how Armstrong wanted to go to the moon from the time he was very young. He faced many obstacles and many skeptics before he realized his dream. Both the author and illustrator, Cynthia Nugent, live in the Vancouver area.

Kirkus Review


The inspiring life of Neil Armstrong, set to music.

"Neil was born on an August morn" and, to hear Saunders tell it, pointed out the window at the moon as he lay in his crib. When he's old enough, he climbs out and shakes his sleeping father awake, declaring "I want to go to the moon!" Dad explains gently that rocket ships are just in storybooks, that he'll never go to the moon. But Neil holds on to his dream, building a rocket ship that looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption and studying exhaustively. His teachers agree that it's good to have a goal, "but yours is too extreme." When he finishes college, the only job he can find is working at night as a dishwasher, but this leaves him time to practice flying during the day. In 1962, he becomes an astronaut, "the finest of the finest," and in 1969, a general asks Neil the question he's waited all his life to hear: "Do you want to go to the moon?" and the rest, as they say, is history. The enclosed CD puts the rhyming text of the book to pleasant music. Nugent's illustrations are colorful, and the solid message is presented with upbeat clarity. But Saunders' writing is often clumsy, and the tone of the story inconsistent.

Sunny, but unlikely to add much to children's knowledge. (Picture book. 3-5)