Book Review: Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
A Heinlein novel where doing math can save your life.
There is a scene in Have Space Suit – Will Travel where the protagonist, Kip, is solving a math problem while planning an escape. He does math like his life depends upon it, because his life does depend upon it. And the entire scene remains engaging. Maybe that’s the secret to ensuring younger kids are engaged when studying Math. Make their lives literally depend upon it (though that might qualify as child abuse.)
By this point in the story, we like Kip as a person and as a hero. We are invested. That’s why we gladly watch over his shoulder while he does a quick engineering problem. And this is the main reason why this book is so good: a likable, heroic protagonist. If we were kidnapped and lost in space, we would want a kid like Kip on our team.
Kip is a recent High School graduate and his simple goal is to go to the moon, and as you can probably expect, he gets caught up in circumstances that take him not just to the moon, but also to Pluto, and then beyond…and then beyond even that. And through it all, he maintains his humor while remaining steadfast and noble. Kip is what I would call a Happy Warrior in training. He doesn’t fight just because he likes to fight, but he fights because of who is waiting for him at home. Because he has something behind him that is worth protecting. And that gives him strength and real joy in adversity.
However, there is one reason why this book stands above so much modern YA and middle-grade literature.