Neil Armstrong and Nat Love, Space Cowboys

Neil Armstrong and Nat Love, Space Cowboys


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Using his in-depth knowledge of American history, award winning author Steve Sheinkin and illustrator Neil Swaab create exciting adventures through time with historical figures going AWOL and true fun facts about each person.


Well, you can believe some of it. There is some real history. But also hijinks. Time travel. And famous figures setting off on adventures that definitely never happened—till now. Time is getting twisted, and it’s up to two kids to straighten things out.

The students of Ms. Maybee's class used to think history was boring, but that was before time started to get twisted! When a spaceship carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leaves 1969—and lands in 1869 Texas—cowboy Nat Love decides to trade in his horse for a trip to the moon. Can siblings Doc and Abby untwist history and get everyone back where they belong? Houston, we have a problem!

History will never be boring again! Check out Neil Armstrong and Nat Love, Space Cowboys and don't miss the other books in the Time Twisters series, including Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler and Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250152589
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Series: Time Twisters
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 498,264
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 520L (what's this?)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Steve Sheinkin is the acclaimed author of fast-paced, cinematic nonfiction histories for young readers, including The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights; The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery; Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon; and Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. His accolades include a Newbery Honor, three Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, a Sibert Medal, and three National Book Award finalist honors. Sheinkin lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, with his wife and two children.

Neil Swaab is a New York City–based illustrator, designer, and author. His work has graced the covers and interiors of numerous books for children including the New York Times bestseller Big Fat Liar by James Patterson and Neil's own series, The Secrets to Ruling School. He has also animated for TV and enjoys teaching at Parsons School of Design.

Read an Excerpt


One summer day a spaceship appeared in the sky above Texas.

A teenage cowboy named Nat Love gazed up at the craft. It looked like a giant metal spider, with smoke shooting from its feet. Love rubbed his eyes, sure he was dreaming.

The year was 1869. Just to be clear, there were no spaceships in 1869.

At least, there weren't supposed to be.

Nat Love looked up again. The flying spider was still up there, rocking and tilting as it swooped down toward the plains.

Nat was about to call out to the other cowboys, but saw there was no need. They were all staring up, pointing, mouths open in shock. Hundreds of startled longhorn cows started pawing the ground and sniffing loudly.

"Easy," Nat called to the cattle. "Easy there, girls. It's nothing but a ... well ..."

He had no idea what to tell them.

The spaceship landed in the grass, kicking up a huge cloud of dust. The terrified cows took off running in all directions.

Nat groaned. It would take half the day to round the herd up again.

But first things first. What was this thing that had just dropped out of the sky?

Nat and the other cowboys rode toward the ship. It was about twenty feet high, with four long legs, covered in shiny metal. On one side was an American flag. But with too many stars. The flag Nat was used to seeing had thirty-seven stars. This one had — he counted them up quickly — fifty.

A CLANK came from inside the spaceship. Then a loud WHOOSH of rushing air.

"Look out, boys!" Nat yelled as a hatch on the side of the ship swung open.

Someone — some kind of space alien, Nat figured — backed out of the hatch. It was wearing a puffy white suit and a huge helmet. It climbed slowly down a ladder attached to one of the ship's long legs. As the alien hopped from the bottom of the ladder to the grass, it said:

The alien stopped and looked around. Its face was covered by a gold-tinted visor, but Nat could tell it was surprised by what it was seeing. Cowboys on horses, that is, and grass to the horizon.

"Houston," it said. "We've got a problem."

"Looking for Houston, mister?" Nat Love said. "You're about three hundred miles off course."

The alien looked right at Nat. Nat saw his own reflection in the alien's visor.

Another alien popped its head out of the spaceship. It said, "I told you, you should have let me fly."

"I'm not sure that was the problem," the first alien said. It reached up and started to pull off its helmet.

The cowboys yanked their horses back.

But inside the alien's helmet was a pretty normal-looking human. Late thirties, blue eyes, brown hair.

"Sorry to drop in like this," the man said.

He pointed to the man coming down the ladder.

the second man said, hopping to the ground.

"We're American astronauts," Armstrong said.

That meant nothing to the cowboys.

"Astronauts, you know," Buzz said, pointing up. "We fly to space?

The cowboys stared at the astronauts.

The astronauts stared at the endless plains of grass.

"Let me take a wild guess," Neil Armstrong said. "This is not the moon."


"Okay, guys!" Ms. Maybee sang out to her fourth-grade class. "Who thinks it sounds like fun to go to the moon?"

"I'd rather go to lunch," Doc said.

Most of the kids laughed. Even Ms. Maybee smiled a little.

"I hear you, Doc," she said, "but first we're going to do something even better. We're going to read about history!"

The kids didn't moan and groan, like they usually did when it was time to study history. Reading about space sounded pretty cool.

Also, some very strange things had been happening in history lately.

Ms. Maybee held up her copy of the history textbook. "Today we'll read about the first people to walk on the moon, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin."

Kids opened their books.

Doc turned to his stepsister, Abby. They both looked worried.

"So yesterday we read about the liftoff," Ms. Maybee said. "Neil, Buzz, and Michael Collins climbed into Apollo 11, which sat on top of a rocket nearly four hundred feet tall. The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, zooming the astronauts into space at over twenty thousand miles per hour. As each stage of the rocket burned up its fuel, it fell away, splashing into the ocean. And Apollo 11 began its three-day journey to the moon."

"The moon's always moving," Maya said. "It's orbiting Earth."

"Right!" Ms. Maybee said. "So the engineers at NASA — that's the agency in charge of our space program — they had to figure out exactly where the moon would be in three days. They had to hit a moving target from two hundred forty thousand miles away. Incredible, right?"

"How'd the astronauts go to the bathroom?" Carter asked.

Ms. Maybee sighed. "Seriously?"

"No, it's just, there's no gravity in space," Carter said. "So how do you keep, um, you know, stuff, from floating around?"

"Okay, I see your point," Ms. Maybee said. "We'll come back to that. Let's get to the most famous moment of all — the moon landing. Abby, will you read for us please?"

Abby read aloud.

"On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin crawled into the lunar module, called the Eagle. Michael Collins stayed behind in the command module, the Columbia. The lunar module separated from Columbia. With Armstrong at the controls, Eagle fired its engines and flew toward the surface of the moon."

"This part gives me goose bumps every time," Ms. Maybee said.

Abby continued. "Moments later, an alarm rang. Warning lights flashed. The computers on Eagle were crashing! Armstrong did not panic. He had years of experience as a pilot and astronaut. He was confident he could still land the ship on the moon.

"But then, suddenly, the lunar module disappeared. Gone. Just like that. No Neil. No Buzz. No Eagle."

Abby stopped reading.

"That's definitely not how I remember the story," Ms. Maybee said. "Where'd they go? I mean — spoiler alert — Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did land on the moon."

She looked up from her book.


Doc and Abby looked at each other.

Doc's dad had married Abby's mom about three years before. Doc and Abby spent so much time together, each could usually tell what the other was thinking.

Which, in this case, was:

Doc started flipping through his textbook. "I bet they're in here somewhere."

"In where?" asked Ms. Maybee.

Doc stopped at the chapter called "Life in the Changing West." He read a few lines to himself. "Yep," he said. "I was afraid of that."

Abby read the same page in her book. She groaned.

"Doc? Abby?" Ms. Maybee said. "Do you have something you'd like to share?"

"Remember how we read about cowboys?" Abby said. "How their job was to move herds of cows from Texas all the way north to the railroad lines, so they could be shipped to cities in the East?"

"I remember," Ms. Maybee said.

"And there was that guy Nat Love?" Doc said. "Just fifteen when he started as a cowboy?"

"What about him?" their teacher asked.

"Okay, listen to this," Abby said. She read aloud:

"For cowboys like Nat Love, life was hard, and often dangerous. On the cattle trails, Love spent sixteen hours a day on his horse, for three or four months at a time. He had to watch for venomous snakes, sudden storms, and flooding rivers. The greatest fear was a stampede — where cattle run wildly, crushing everything, and everyone, in their path. One thing Love never expected to see, however, was a spaceship. Yet one day a ship did appear in the sky above Texas. It landed on the grass. Two men in puffy white suits climbed down and asked directions to the moon. Yes, life for cowboys was exciting indeed!"

Abby stopped there.

"What's going on?" Maya asked. "First Abraham Lincoln comes to our school and becomes a pro wrestler."

"That was weird," Carter said.

"Yeah," Maddie said. "And then Abigail Adams leaves the White House to be a pirate in the Caribbean."

"That was weird," Carter said.

"So what's going on?" Maya asked. "What's wrong with history?" Everyone turned to look at Doc and Abby.

"The thing is, history is broken," Doc said. "All mixed up. We mixed it. Me and Abby. And Abraham Lincoln."

"Not on purpose," Abby added.

"Actually, it's the whole class's fault," Doc said. "We kept saying, 'History is boring!' Well, Lincoln heard that and got mad and decided not to be in history anymore."

"That's when he showed up here as a pro wrestler," Abby said. "We tried to help fix things. And we sort of helped. But sort of made things worse. Anyway, now everyone in history knows they can do whatever they want."

Ms. Maybee shook her head, still very confused. "But that doesn't explain why Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in Texas instead of on the moon in 1969."

"It really doesn't," Abby agreed.

"We can fix it," Doc said.

"Later," Abby said to Doc. "After school."

"No, now," Doc said. "Things are getting out of control. He'd want us to go now."

"Who?" Maya asked.

"Abe Lincoln!" said Doc, jumping out of his chair.

"Sit down, Doc," Ms. Maybee demanded. "And tell us what you're talking about."

"I'm sorry, Ms. Maybee," Doc said. "It can't wait!"

"Doc!" Ms. Maybee shouted. "Where do you think you're —"

But he was already out the door.


Doc raced down the hall and sped through the library, knocking over a stack of biographies Ms. Ventura was trying to shelve.

"I'm glad you're excited to find a book, but you need to —"

Doc didn't wait to hear the rest of the sentence. He sprinted past Ms. Ventura and burst into the small storage room in the back of the library. The room had bookshelves, stacks of boxes, a table, and two chairs.

And a tall cardboard box with just a few history books at the bottom.

As Doc and Abby had discovered, the box was some sort of portal or time machine — it took them to times and places they'd read about in class. Doc had no idea how it worked, and no time to think about it. He leaped onto a chair, then onto the table, and then onto a tall stack of boxes. With a he soared across the room toward the cardboard box.

He hit the top feet first and fell into the box.

And tumbled to earth on the plains of Texas. In the summer of 1869.

He stood and looked around. It was pretty much what he'd expected — grass, cows, men on horses. And, a mile in the distance, a spaceship shaped like a giant spider.

Doc had expected that, too.

He walked toward the ship, wondering if now might be a good time to start making a plan.

* * *

Over at the lunar module, the cowboys' trail boss was glaring at Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, furious with them for scaring off his cattle.

The astronauts were still trying to figure out where they were. And when.

"What did you say the date was?" Armstrong asked.

"July 20," the trail boss grunted.

"That's right," Buzz said. "July 20 is right."

"In the year 1869," Nat Love added.

"Wait, did you say eighteen?" Armstrong asked.

"It should be nineteen," Buzz said. "1969."

The boss's face turned even redder. "Look, ain't you fellers kinda old to be playin' dress-up?

"You think we should just try taking off?" Neil asked Buzz.

"The sooner the better," Buzz said.

"You boys ain't goin' nowhere," the trail boss said.

"We're in kind of a hurry," Buzz said.

"The whole world's expecting us," Neil said. "On the moon, I mean."

"That's yer problem," the boss barked. "You go when I say you go, got it?"

"Roger," Buzz said.

"The name's Burt," snapped the boss, "not Roger."

"Roger," Buzz said.

"Means, 'got the message.'" Neil explained.

The boss threw up his hands. "Enough of yer nonsense!" Turning to the other cowboys, he hollered, "Boys! Bring over our meanest mustangs!"

Then he got right up in the astronauts' faces, growling,


Doc peeked out from behind the cowboys' wagon.

He saw Neil and Buzz surrounded by cowboys. Two other cowboys were pulling a pair of horses toward the group. The horses were kicking and snorting, fighting every inch of the way.

Startled, Doc turned toward the voice. It had come from behind him.

He looked up at a very tall cowboy. A cowboy whose clothes were a little too small on him. A cowboy with a beard, but no mustache.

Okay, he wasn't a cowboy. He was Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln smiled, tipping his hat.

Doc pointed to the lunar module sitting in the grass. "What's going on here?"

Lincoln's smile faded. "Doc, I wish I knew," he said. "These astronauts are serious about their missions. They wouldn't have come here on purpose. It's almost as if ... as if someone else did it."

"Purposely mixed things up?"

"I don't even want to think about it," Abe said. "The important thing now is to get Neil and Buzz back in their ship and on their way. The whole world's going to be watching that moon landing. We need to make sure it actually happens."

"We'll think of something," Doc said. "Soon, I hope."

* * *

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in space suits, each sat atop a grunting, furious horse.

"Okay, boys!" the trail boss shouted. "Let 'er rip!"

The cowboys holding the horses let go — and the horses jumped and kicked, trying to toss the riders. They whipped their heads around, snapping their jaws at the astronauts.

Neil and Buzz flopped around like puppets — but hung on.

The horses gradually gave in. They stood, snorting air out of their nostrils. Neil and Buzz hopped off their horses and stood, panting and sweating, on wobbly legs.

"You boys'll do," the trail boss snarled. "Yer hired. We head out in five minutes!"

Nat Love rode up and held out his canteen. "You guys did great!"

"Thanks," Buzz said. He took a long drink of water. "That kind of reminded me of astronaut training."

Neil drank and nodded. "Remember the vomit comet?"

Buzz laughed. "Do I."

"Vomit comet?" Nat asked. "Name of a horse?"

"I wish," Buzz said. "No, it was part of our training. They'd stick us in this big plane."

"They don't have airplanes here," Neil pointed out.

"A flying machine," Buzz said, holding out his arms. "With wings. It would climb high and then dive. Over and over. For two hours."

"Each loop produces twenty seconds of weightlessness, and you float in the plane," Neil said. "Supposed to prepare you for being in space."

"Mostly, it prepares you to barf," Buzz said.

"Sounds like my kind of ride," Nat said.

"But when you say 'space' ... you mean, up in the sky? To the stars?"

"Not that far," Neil said. "Just to the moon."

Nat whistled with wonder.

"Almost," Neil said. "We were trying to land when we suddenly, um, showed up here."

Neil and Buzz looked over to the lunar module. It was tied tight to the trunk of a tree. A couple of cowboys sat on their horses nearby, keeping watch.

"How do we get back up there?" Buzz wondered.

Neil shook his head. "I thought we trained for everything."

"Me too," Buzz said. "Somehow, we never practiced landing in Texas in 1869."


That's when Abraham Lincoln and Doc walked up.

"Howdy, gents," Lincoln said to Neil and Buzz. "It's me, Abraham Lincoln."

"President during the Civil War," Doc said.

The astronauts looked at each other.

"No time to explain," Lincoln said. "But here's the plan. I distract the cowboys, you make a run for your ship. Got it?"

The astronauts were far too confused to speak.

The trail boss rode up, howling, "Let's move out! Don't have all day!"

Abe Lincoln stepped forward. "You the boss of this outfit?"

The boss glared down from his horse. "Who's askin'?"

"They call me Old Abe. This here's my partner, Doc."

Doc tipped his baseball cap.

"We're looking to hire on as hands," Lincoln said.

"That so?" the boss said. "You look like a couple of greenhorns to me."

"Sir, I've been riding horses all my life," Lincoln said.

Which was true.

"I once rode a pony at a birthday party," Doc said.

Which was also true.

Doc didn't mention that the pony was the size of a large dog. Or that his dad held his hand the whole time.

The boss looked Lincoln up and down. "You're too tall for a cowboy," he said. "A big man is hard on a horse."

"Try me," Lincoln said.

The boss grinned an evil grin.

The other cowboys laughed and gathered around. The men who'd been guarding the ship rode over for a closer look.

Lincoln winked to Neil and Buzz. So far, so good.

* * *

"Careful, Abe," Abby whispered. "You too, Doc. Though, honestly, you don't seem to be helping much."

Abby knew they couldn't hear her. But it was like she was with them — everything they did showed up on the pages of her history book.

Hers and everyone else's.

"This is incredible!" Ms. Maybee said. "Are you guys reading this?"

The class leaned forward, listening to every word, as Ms. Maybee read aloud:

"It took three cowboys to hold Bad-Eye still while Abraham Lincoln mounted the horse. Lincoln's long legs dangled nearly to the ground. The moment the cowboys let go, Bad-Eye bucked wildly, kicking his hind legs high off the ground, sending Abe soaring."

Abby listened with her head in her hands.


Excerpted from "Neil Armstrong and Nat Love, Space Cowboys"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Steve Sheinkin.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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