Mistakes are a part of everybody’s life, but does failure have to be? Four new books show the upside of failures — the lessons they teach, the toughness they develop and the new paths they create. These books salute trying, failing and trying again, and they may inspire you to dream bigger than you did before. As Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon has said, “There can be no great accomplishment without risk.”


By Erik Slader and Ben Thompson. Ages 8 to 12.

The first two books in the “Epic Fails” series deal with two of the most ambitious goals humans have pursued: the quests to fly and to explore space. Both books begin with moments of crisis, then they backtrack to give a speedy history of previous aviation attempts in one, and the competition to reach the moon in the other. Not only do authors Slader and Thompson explain how people from around the world experimented with ideas and solutions, but they also focus on dramatic life-or-death scenes, such as when Orville and Wilbur Wright invited spectators to witness the brothers crashing their glider over and over on the sandy coast of North Carolina; it took them two more years to get it right. “The Race to Space” offers several examples, such as the Apollo 13 mission, of how technical failure can lead to human brilliance.


By Luke Reynolds. Ages 8 to 12.

In many ways, this book is more about resilience — the ability to keep going under difficult circumstances — than it is about failure. Author and teacher Luke Reynolds opens each chapter with a quick, impossibly perfect version of one person’s life and then says how that person actually had to face huge challenges to accomplish goals. Reynolds writes about men, women and children from all over the globe, including famous athletes, artists, authors, scientists and a young man from war-torn Sierra Leone who is helping his community by figuring out how to build a generator from garbage. Throughout the book, Reynolds encourages readers to define their own goals, appreciate their own perspectives and get past the occasional failure on their way to improving the world.

By Mary Morton Cowan. Ages 8 to 12.

In 1853, it took at least a week to relay a message between the United States and Europe because they had to be transported on ships over the Atlantic


Ocean. A young entrepreneur named Cyrus Field tried to reduce that transmission time to just minutes by laying a long tube at the bottom of the ocean between Ireland and Newfoundland, the eastern tip of North America. In this well-written and illustrated book, Cowan describes the challenges Field had to overcome — seasickness, engineering mistakes, destructive storms, financial pressures and even the Civil War — to achieve this major communications breakthrough. Field did not accept failure as an end result; he persisted until the job was complete and two continents were connected.