Homer H. Hickam, Jr. had dreams...and he wasn't about to remain in Coalwood, West Virginia. The town was dying, as do miners from the day they set foot into mines. Homer's father, however, was the superintendent of the mine. Fighting your father for the right to your own future can be a very big deal. Sputnik 1 raced across the "October Sky" and grabbed the interest of everyone but especially the interest of Homer and a few of his friends.
Supporting the dreams of Homer and his friends was Miss Riley, their chemistry and physics teacher.
She urged them to enter a national science fair in 1960. The "Rocket Boys" won gold and silver medals for their work in propulsion. Later, Hickam served in the Vietnam War for the US Army. He worked as an engineer for the army and then for NASA. He was also a scuba instructor and has written about that as well as about war-related topics. Sky of Stone is another non-fiction book of his, a follow-up project to October Sky. Hickam also works as an amateur paleontologist and to his credit are the finds of two tyrannosaur dinosaurs. He has written a fictional novel titled The Dinosaur Hunter.
October Sky was made into a film in 1999. The film runs extremely true to the book. I was quite impressed by both. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the role of Homer Hickam. Chris Cooper plays his father, while Laura Dern plays Miss Riley. October Sky is also an anagram of "Rocket Boys", the initial title of Hickam's manuscript, which was changed by studio executives as the book was adapted to film. It was felt that the new name would bring with it a broader viewing audience. I imagine that proved to be true.