When I was a child, my teacher read fifteen minutes of a book to the class every day. In the middle of the best book he ever read to us, I was taken out of school and never got to hear the end. For the last fifty years I have been trying to find it, but do not know what the title was. I seem to have some kind of emotional attachment to it.

The book starts off with an old reclusive man putting an ad into a newspaper saying he had a seat available on his rocket ship and was looking for someone to go with him on a journey.

Some of the titles of the books he read to us were A Wrinkle in Time, and The Hobbit, so I think it would be along those lines? I am desperately trying to finish the book before I die, which is not far off. If anyone can help me, I would be so very grateful….

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    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This question would be improved by going through the checklists here; How to ask a good story-ID question?
    – Valorum
    Jul 15, 2018 at 23:13
  • Ha, this sounds like Safety Not Guaranteed
    – Möoz
    Jul 15, 2018 at 23:33
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    When were you a child? Like 2 years ago, or 20? Or 50?
    – Möoz
    Jul 15, 2018 at 23:41
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    @Möoz - well, he does say fifty...
    – Radhil
    Jul 15, 2018 at 23:46
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    If dying is contingent on finishing the book, I suggest you read it very, very slowly.
    – Strawberry
    Jul 16, 2018 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


"WANTED: A small space ship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be sturdy and well made, and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California."

This is the newspaper ad, printed in green, that David Topman's father shows him. If that strikes a bell, your book is The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron.

But as you can see, the spaceship is built by the boys; the scientist adds rocket motor, fuel, control panel, air system, etc. to make it actually work. And the scientist does not go on the adventure himself. But after fifty years, details may fade.

It was published in 1954 and spawned a number of sequels.

  • There were sequels to that book, too, by the way.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 16, 2018 at 3:09
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    I don’t know if this book is the answer, but I ordered it from Amazon just after your post. I am 62 years old and have never been able to read a book on my own. I have severe Dyslexia and cannot read or write without the help of computers. However, for reasons unknown, I am starting to be able to read and write on my own. Maybe my brain has figured out how to make sense of letters and words. I will get the book in a few days and I am going to try and read it without my computer. I will let you know after reading it if it is the book I have been looking for over the last fifty years… Jul 16, 2018 at 4:41
  • Wow! The neat part is that this is the book I thought of just after reading the first paragraph of the question. I read it or had it read to me as a child, and they were fun stories. As for the dyslexia, I saw a couple of used audio CDs of this book for sale, but they wanted about $100 for them. Jul 16, 2018 at 5:03
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    If I cannot read by myself, then I scan it into my computer and have it read to me. When I cannot read a particular word, I type it into the computer and have it read it to me. Without my computer, I would not be able to read or write… Jul 16, 2018 at 6:40
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    @MarkMaloney: BTW, google says there is an audiobook of this (worldcat.org/title/wonderful-flight-to-the-mushroom-planet/oclc/…). IDK if it's unabridged. I don't have reading problems, but I find my mind wanders when reading fiction, so I prefer my stories in audio form. (And a good narrator can add a lot to a story.) I sometimes follow along in the text in places where it's hard to follow (complicated descriptions, or unusual formatting that doesn't translate well to audio). IDK if you'd enjoy doing that, or find it helpful. You might have to slow the playback speed... Jul 17, 2018 at 1:09

This sounds vaguely like Requiem By Robert A Heinlein. The story, Roughly, Is about an old man who spends a large portion of his life making commercial space flight viable. Now, in his old age, he desperately wants to go to the moon, but his health is no longer good enough to pass the required physical.

Anyway, the short story was published in 1955, and is part of Heinlein's collected short stories in an anthology Titled Requiem

It was also done as a radio drama way back when. I could be way off, but this is what sprang to mind.

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    This seems less likely. I read this as a teenager and it’s not really as readable or as kid-friendly as The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, all of which were written for children. Jul 17, 2018 at 1:56
  • @JamesMcLeod Didn't think of it from that standpoint. You are probably right.
    – Paul TIKI
    Jul 17, 2018 at 18:47

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