Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rocket Boy Roy Lee Cooke In Person

A special featured event for this year’s Galveston Reads book Rocket Boys is a guest appearance by one of the original Rocket Boys and founding member of the Big Creek Missile Agency. Rocket Boy Roy Lee Cooke was “unique among us” and has been invited to Galveston to tell his side of the story. Cooke will speak on Tuesday, March 9 at 7:00 pm at Galveston College, 4015 Avenue Q, Room FA207. Program costs have been underwritten by Galveston Reads sponsors and there is no charge to attend.
When quizzed if his remembrances of those high school days were different from
the author’s Cooke responded, “When different people witness something, it is quite common for them to remember different things in different ways. If I had written the book, I'm sure I would have written different things than Homer. That doesn't mean that he was wrong in his memory.”

The #1 New York Times best-selling memoir, Rocket Boys/October Sky, is the true story of Homer "Sonny" Hickam, Jr., a boy from the mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia, a town where everything was dying except Hickam’s dreams. This inspirational book shows readers that lives can be better through hard work, perseverance and enthusiasm. All things are possible. The movie name October Sky is an anagram of the book name Rocket Boys - the same letters, just moved around. Note: When the paperback came out at the same time as the movie, it was also titled October Sky. Cooke’s character in the Universal Pictures film was played by William Lee Scott.
Cooke’s father died at age 45 after working his entire adult life in the coal mines; and Cooke and his mother stayed on in the company town. In addition to his involvement in the rocket projects he played running back on the high school football team, was named best thespian during his senior year and was active in a variety of clubs. After high school he went on to college and worked in banking for 25 years. Since that time Cooke has been President of Carolina Domestic Coal and is owner of The Cooke Company, a company devoted to bringing new businesses and venture capital into West Virginia. His company, The Red Shield LLC is the Master Developer of the City of Fairmont, West Virginia.
Cooke maintains civic and business interests in the Appalachian area, including support of the West Virginia Access Center for Higher Education. Additionally, he has New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in several states and started the Prodigy Foundation to support education and jobs in West Virginia. In memory of the beloved science teacher Frieda Riley the Prodigy Foundation each year awards an outstanding West Virginia teacher that has overcome great obstacles to be in the profession.
Over 120 communities have read Rocket Boys together. John Augelli, Rosenberg Library Executive Director, found it to be a fascinating story and, personally one of the most interesting Galveston Reads titles. It’s not too late to participate in the Galveston Reads project. You do not have to have read the book to attend the Rocket Boy Roy Lee Cooke presentation on Tuesday evening.
For more information or schedule of events about the one city/one book project, Galveston Reads visit or contact Karen Stanley, Rosenberg Library at 409.763.8854 x119.
Roy Lee Cooke promises not to tell too many fishing stories at the Galveston Reads program.
By Karen Stanley

Read On Galveston

Even as Galveston Reads continues its 2010 programming related to 2010’s city-wide read, Rocket Boys, one Galveston Reads committee is preparing for 2011. The book selection committee, charged with finding books that will stimulate reading, discussion and community activities, has announced its three finalists vying to be the city-wide book next year. The public is invited to read the three selected as finalists and vote for their choice to be the Galveston Reads “one city, one book” selection in 2011.
Like one of the multi-stage rockets that Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys, worked on, the payload of 2010 programming is still in orbit, with discussions around town, a screening of “October Sky,” and an appearance by one of the original Rocket Boys yet to come. The exploratory capsule for 2011 has zoomed forward, though, as the selection committee read more than 50 books in search of the best choices for Galveston Reads.
The three books chosen—“Into the Beautiful North,” by Luis Urrea, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein , and “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,” by Jacqueline Kelly—were selected for their readability, relevance to the community, and broad appeal.
“Into the Beautiful North” follows a spirited band of young women from a coastal Mexican town as they head north across the border to retrieve some of the men who have left home to live in America. The tale of their road trip, as they discover both wonders and disappointments, has charmed readers with its funny, sad but always compassionate look at two cultures. “Into the Beautiful North” was written by Luis Alberto Urrea, a Pulitzer Prize finalist who draws on his Mexican-American heritage for many of his insights.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is narrated by a dog; readers will be amazed at how seamlessly his explanations of how dogs think are merged with his observations of his human family. The book blends auto racing, family drama and canine philosophy into an engaging and thought-provoking story.
“The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” is set in central Texas in 1899, a time and place where young girls were expected to concern themselves with needlepoint, household skills and etiquette. The inquisitive Calpurnia Tate, however, is encouraged by her grandfather in a more scientific direction, and the conflicts that arise between her desires and the expectations of society will be eye-opening to many readers.
All three of the Galveston Reads 2011 finalists are available at Rosenberg Library and at local bookshops. Voting continues through April 27 and can be done at the library or online at
By Karen Stanley