Rocket Boys

By Homer Hickam Jr.


Major Themes to keep in mind while reading:

  • The development of Auk I – XXXI
  • The relationship between Homer and his father
  • The importance of Homer’s mother and his teachers
  • The development of Homer’s character…. What signs of his growing up do you find?



  • Homer Hickam (Sonny)
  • Homer Hickam Sr.
  • Elise Hickam
  • Roy Lee, O’dell, Tony, Sherman, Jim, Quentin (Rocket Boys)
  • Great Six
  • Sputnik
  • Big Store
  • BCMA – Big Creek Missile Agency
  • Dr. von Braun
  • Mr. Bykovski


Timeline for Project:


August 25th – Read chapters 1 – 4 and answer questions 1-5 by Friday, 8/28


August 28th – Read chapters 5 – 8 and answer questions 6 – 9 by Monday, 8/31


August 31st – Read chapters 9 – 12 and answer questions 10 – 14 by Wednesday, 9/2


September 2nd – Read chapters 13 – 18 and answer questions 15 – 21 by Friday, 9/4


September 4th – Read chapters 19 – 22 and answer questions 22 – 23 by Tuesday, 9/8


September 8th – Read chapters 23 – Epilogue and finish questions by Friday, 9/11


September 11th – Final Project Options – due Monday, 9/21











Chapters 1 – 4


  1. Describe Coalwood.  Explain the mine’s influence on the town.




  1. Describe Sonny’s family life, especially his relationship with his father as seen in the beginning chapters.




  1. What was the town’s reaction to Sputniks I and II?  What was Sonny’s reaction?




  1. Describe Sonny’s first rocket attempt.  What was his parents’ reaction?




  1. Explain Elise’s feelings about the mine.  What did she want for Sonny?



Chapters 5 - 8

  1. Sonny becomes friendly with Quentin, a boy not popular.  Explain their relationship.




  1. Explain the contrast Emily Sue sees between Sonny and his brother Jim.




  1. What help did Mr. Bykovski give Sonny and how did it affect Mr. Bykovski?






  1. Explain how Sonny managed to get materials for the blockhouse.



Chapters 9 - 12

  1. Describe the help Jake Mosby gave Sonny.




  1. What effect did the football suspension have on the rocket boys?




  1. Explain Sonny’s father’s motivation in taking him to the mine.  What was the result?




  1. “I had a clear vision of my future in space, but the life I led in Coalwood sometimes seemed to blur.”  Explain this quote.




  1. What was Rocket Candy?



Chapters 13 - 18

  1. How did the boys’ work on rockets change their work in school?




  1. What was ironic in Sonny’s success in getting a calculus class in the high school?




  1. Why does Quentin think Sonny is the key to college for him and the other rocket boys?




  1. What are Sonny’s feelings for his father at this point in the book?




  1. “You and all the children of Coalwood belong to all the people.  It’s an unwritten law, but that’s the way everybody feels.”  Explain this quote.




  1. “Coalwood is no place to be weak, but if you are, keep it yourself and get the hell out of here as soon as you can.”  Explain this quote.




  1. Describe Sonny’s reaction to the mine accident.



Chapters 19 - 22

  1. Who was Mr. Fuller?  How did the town manage to oppose him?




  1. Describe the effect of the strike on Sonny and his family.



Chapters 23 - Epilogue

  1. Describe the science fairs the boys won and explain the effect on the town.




  1. What finally happened to each of the rocket boys?







Rocket Boys

Final Project Options

Due Monday, September 21


Option #1

How would you describe Sonny’s father?  How would you describe the relationship between Homer Sr. and his wife, Elise?  How would you characterize Sonny’s relationship with each of his parents?  How do these relationships affect Sonny and his desire to build rockets and leave Coalwood?  Write a 5 paragraph essay describing your analysis of these relationships.  Make sure to include 3 examples from the book to answer each of these questions.


Option #2

Miss Riley, the physics teacher, seems to regard education as a challenge and adventure.  Sonny rises to meet the formidable tasks she sets before him.  He writes, “I had discovered that learning something, no matter how complex, wasn’t hard when I had a reason to want to know it.”  Miss Riley motivates Sonny and the rocket boys to keep their dreams alive.  Write a 5 paragraph essay discussing Miss Riley, her view on education, and how she plays an important role in the lives of the rocket boys.  What other factors, besides Miss Riley, motivated Sonny to do his best?  Be sure to include at least 3 examples from the book to illustrate how Miss Riley affected the lives of the Rocket Boys.


Option #3

Now that you have read the book Rocket Boys, check out the movie “October Sky” from your local video store.  Write a 5 paragraph essay comparing and contrasting the book to the movie.  You must include 3 examples of how the movie and book are similar and 3 examples of how the movie and book differ.  What liberties did “Hollywood” take with the script?  What changes did they make?  What facts did they keep the same?  How would you have changed the movie to make it more or less like the book?