Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 20, 2021


Joyce Lapin has written a new picture book, THE LITTLE SPACECRAFT THAT COULD illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli and published by Sterling Childrens Books. It is the sequel to IF YOU HAD YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY ON THE MOON, which was featured with a book giveaway last week. It is coming out on May 18th, but is available now for pre-order. Sterling has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Joyce  and Simona.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Ride along with the New Horizons spacecraft as she rockets three billion miles to Pluto! Watch her take the first close-up photos of Pluto, and then journey another billion miles to mini-world Arrokoth. You’ll whiz through space at more than 10 miles per second; learn how giant planet Jupiter helped the little spacecraft reach Pluto; and discover the astonishing surface feature that made the world fall in love with Pluto.


Creating this book and watching it come to life has been incredible for me— mostly because of the wonderful team I’m part of: My agent, John Rudolph; my wonderful creative partner, illustrator Simona Ceccarelli; my science consultants, Prof. Stephen E. Schneider and—I still can’t believe this!—Dr. Alan Stern, Leader

of NASA’s New Horizons mission; and of course, the outstanding editors at Sterling Children’s books, including Rachael Stein, Eve Adler, and Suzy Capozzi (who stepped in during Eve’s maternity leave).

I’ve always loved reading about other worlds. And one day when I was pretty young, I found a paperback book in our house called The Search for Planet X.

(At the time, Pluto was often called “Planet X.”) To this day, I don’t know what that book was doing in our house, since it doesn’t seem like something my parents would have bought. It must’ve been some sort of kismet, though, because I read that book, and after that I always felt a kinship with Pluto because I knew more about it than other kids.

I love watching TV documentaries on the planets, and I’d seen a few on the New Horizons mission to Pluto. In one such show, it was explained that just days before New Horizons was to rendezvous with Pluto, its Earth team suddenly lost contact with the spacecraft.

I couldn’t imagine the angst of the New Horizons team during this time. After years of planning and preparation, and then 10 years and three billion miles of space flight! Man, what they must’ve gone through!

It turned out that the spacecraft’s computer was handling so many tasks that its backup computer kicked in. The New Horizons team worked madly 24/7, and contact was re-established in time for the Pluto flyby. But the whole episode really grabbed me by the throat and stuck with me.

Shortly after this, I was in a Barnes & Noble looking for something to read and

saw the book Chasing New Horizons, by Alan Stern and his colleague, David Grinspoon. Since I had Pluto on the brain, I bought the book and was enthralled when I read it.

What’s ironic to me now is that one of the main things that grabbed me about the New Horizons mission—the loss of contact just before reaching Pluto—didn’t make it into my book! I had thought it would add terrific suspense, but instead it somehow slowed the story’s momentum. So, I very reluctantly took it out.

Not too long reading Chasing New Horizons, I was meandering around B&N again and saw The Little Engine That Could. Something clicked and I began thinking about The Little Spacecraft That Could. It was perfect, because the New Horizons spacecraft was (and is!) so feisty! Can you imagine a craft smaller than a piano crossing four billion miles of space? What a spitfire that little probe is!

My agent, John Rudolph, liked the manuscript very much. And the timing was uncanny: Just as John was reading the manuscript, New Horizons was approaching her next target in space after Pluto, the incredible mini-world now called Arrokoth. I actually wrote the section on Arrokoth in real time, as the information was coming in!

I had hoped that UMass astronomer Stephen E. Schneider—who’d been my science consultant for If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon—would be available to work with me again, and he was! One part I remember being difficult to write was the section on Pluto’s sky. The science behind its hazy blue color is complex, and Steve was very patient as I worked to get it right without “losing” the reader. With Steve’s help, I found a description I was happy with.

It had always been my plan to loop in Dr. Alan Stern; everything concerning the New Horizons mission came down to him. Once I had the deal with Sterling, I felt it was time to contact Dr. Stern.

I must’ve spent days crafting that email! I was nervous about if and when Dr. Stern would reply. But he responded that very evening, and—I’ll never forget this—the first sentence of his email said, “Joyce, please call me Alan!” I knew everything would be okay then, and I was thrilled!

Alan was fantastic, working with me by both email and phone. Revising for him was nerve-jangling, because I was so mindful of who he is. But Alan couldn’t have been kinder, more patient, or more generous with his time. When he offered me a cover quote, I was bouncing off the walls!

So now kids can read about The Little Spacecraft That Could! I’m so proud to be part of this team, and SO proud of our book. Maybe some child who reads it will feel the same kind of kinship I felt with Pluto when I read The Search for Planet X. I hope so!


Joyce has enjoyed reading and learning about other worlds since childhood. A former advertising copywriter, she’s happy to have found a kinder, gentler life writing books.

Joyce is originally from Glen Cove (Long Island, NY) and now lives in Simsbury, Connecticut. Her favorite nonfiction readings include biographies and survival stories. For fiction, she loves anything by John Grisham and Elin Hilderbrand.

Joyce’s happy place is the beach. The light of her life are her 10 great-nieces and great-nephews.


Simona CeccarelliI grew up in Italy, with a passion for both art and science, a large library – which has been expanding out of control ever since – and the urge to open all doors and follow every path. Her first journey was to study science and work as a medical research scientist for over 10 years.

Art eventually lured her back to follow “the road not taken.” She studied illustration and visual development at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. After a brief detour into scientific communication, corporate marketing and even art direction, she found her happy place in children’s illustration. Her main path now is from the coffee machine to her studio, where she has all the adventure, excitement, laughter and emotion she could ever dream – and more.

When Simona is not drawing she is laughing with her kids, plant flowers, ride horses and read books (not all at the same time).

She loves colors, characters, stories, and making children smile. She gets that chance through her books and more with Sterling Children’s Books, Amicus Publishing, Scholastic Education, Thienemann-Esslinger, Dressler, Carlsen Verlag, Harper-Collins, PI Kids, Rizzoli/Mondadori, Cricket Media, Parallel Games, Haba and many others.

Simona currently lives in Switzerland with one husband two kids, three nationalities, four languages…and a cat. Simona is represented by Andrea Cascardi. Here is a link to: Simona on Illustrator Saturday. Don’t miss learning more about Simona and seeing more of her wonderful art. 

Thank you Joyce for sharing your book and journey with us. This book is just jammed pack with information that will spark kids and their parents interest in outerspace. 


  1. I am old enough to remember when Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet! I would love a copy of this book! I’m subscribed to this blog.


  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for Pluto, too. I can’t wait to read this wonderful story. Congratulations, Joyce & Simona!


  3. Congrats, Joyce and Simona! I’m signed up for the emails, too.


  4. What excitement! This is an incredible moment for boys and girls interested in space exploration and the planets. These books are geared for young minds thirsty for fun books about space. THANKS for making my job easier. I will post on FB, too. Thanks for two chances to win this amazing book.


  5. Wow, what an amazing book! Such great info paired with wonderful illustrations. Congrats, Joyce and Simona!


  6. This is going to be a wonderful read. Can’t wait to see it.


  7. Can’t wait to share this with my grandchildren!!!


  8. Creative books like this on my favorite topic of space are so much fun to read and learn at the same time. I am going to love reading this book. I’m a subscriber and shared on social:


  9. With the current surge of interest in space exploration this would be an excellent choice for lots of kid’s bookshelves. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link:,
    Shared on Pinterest:,
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day!!


  10. This book looks awesome! I love the artwork! My son would have loved this. Actually, I think he’d still get a kick out of it, LOL.


  11. Cannot wait for The Little Spacecraft That Could to be available so I can read it to my grandchildren! They learned so much from If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon that I encouraged my local library to buy copies, and they did!


  12. Congratulations, Joyce & Simona! This book sounds super-cool (loved the Moon birthday party book) and I can’t wait to get my paws on a copy:-) I’m also subscribed to this blog.


  13. Wow! This book looks incredible! And I love the title. Thank you for sharing the story behind the story with us. And congratulations! (I subscribe to the blog.)


  14. Congrats!


  15. So cute! Love it! Congratulations!

    I follow by email and I will tweet this. 🙂


  16. Congratulations Joyce Lapin and Simona Ceccarelli on THE LITTLE SPACE CRAFT THAT COULD! It sounds like a great sequel to IF YOU HAD A BIRTHDAY ON THE MOON. Both books would be awesome to read. Thanks for sharing this great 📖 opportunity @Kathytemean!


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