Most Americans remember when the first men landed on the moon. It was July 20, 1969, and everybody knows it was astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Nobody, however, remembers the third astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

His name is Michael Collins, and he was the Apollo II command module pilot. Armstrong and Aldrin may have landed on the moon, but it was Collins who got them there and brought them home safely.

“The Far Side of the Moon” is Tilbury House’s first graphic novel, a well-crafted story of space exploration. Author Alex Irvine and illustrator Ben Bishop live in Portland, collaborated to tell an exciting and smartly illustrated outer space adventure.

A graphic novel is a full-length story told in comic-strip format and produced as a book. The term graphic novel can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction, and is popular with young adult readers. This book has been recognized by the Junior Literary Guild for the quality of its writing, illustrations and content.

It tells of Collins’ career as an astronaut, his selection and training, space flight and first space walk with Gemini 10 in 1966, as well as his important and lonely role as Apollo 11’s command pilot. While Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon, Collins had to remain alone in the spacecraft orbiting the moon and out of contact with earth every time he rounded the dark side of the moon. He was alone for hours, 250,000 miles from home.

The book also discusses other Gemini, Mercury and Apollo missions, the detailed planning for the lunar mission, the design and manufacture of the lunar spacesuits, and the great uncertainty of the mission’s successful return to earth.

Readers of all ages will enjoy this fabulous story.


Every town and city in Maine has a unique and interesting history, and Biddeford has a rich 400-year history well told in Emma Bouthillette’s debut nonfiction book.

Bouthillette lives in Biddeford, and is a skilled historian and talented journalist, offering a perceptive and balanced history of a now vibrant city once ridiculed as “Trash Town, U.S.A.”

She tells of the early European explorers who visited the Biddeford area in 1603 (Martin Pring) and in 1605 (Samuel de Champlain), the early colonial settlement located at the mouth of the Saco River, the city’s surprising growth as a textile manufacturing center, its economic decline and its embarrassing episode with a stinking trash-to-energy incinerating plant, and its current economic revival.

As she reveals, the area was first settled in 1616 by Captain Richard Vines. The settlement was then known as Winter Harbor. The settlement grew based on fishing, shipbuilding, timber and farming. The colonists suffered through Indian wars and other unrest, until the 19th century’s boom of textile mills, plentiful jobs and the rapid increase of French-Canadian immigrants seeking work.

Bouthillette also smartly describes the mid-20th century economic shift, closing of mills, loss of jobs, businesses shuttered and the corresponding social changes. Within that story, however, are encouraging examples of Biddeford’s citizens and politicians making efforts to revitalize the city economically, socially and culturally — some good ideas, some bad — resulting in slow growth today, focusing mainly on restoring and using the old, abandoned textile mill buildings and bringing Biddeford back to life.

Learn which three U.S. presidents visited Biddeford, how two churches and a river divided Biddeford into two separate towns, and about the female workforce in the early mills.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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