Dawn Cusick
Headshot for Dawn Cusick
Agent: Reiko Davis
Personal Website

Dawn Cusick is the author of The Astrochimps, Animal Eggs, Bug Butts, and Get the Scoop on Animal Poop, among many other titles aimed at young activists, reluctant readers, and animal lovers. Her books have been named a Best Children’s Book of the Year by Bank Street College of Education, an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teaching Association, a Children’s Choice Book Award finalist by the Children’s Book Council, and more. She lives in Clyde, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches general biology and zoology courses at Haywood Community College.


A Junior Library Guild selection

“Usually relegated to brief mentions in histories of the space race, the NASA program’s chimps take center stage here as Cusick draws on a mix of interviews and archival sources to present a vividly portrayed, meticulously researched picture of their strenuous training and experiences... All hail these pioneering primates!”—Kirkus (starred)

"As NASA prepares to return humans to the moon, Cusick reminds readers of America’s often forgotten first astronauts: chimpanzees. Her riveting and reverent account, packed with fascinating details and archival photos, traces the role these astrochimps played in the Space Race."—Booklist (starred)

Before Mercury Seven astronauts began their explorations, NASA recruited and trained six chimpanzees to compete with Sputnik, which Cusick perceptively depicts in this fascinating work...By touching on subjects of animal rights and experimentation, as well as gender equity within Homo sapiens society, Cusick breathes life into a seldom heard story and reminds readers that while 'we cannot undo the past... we can create a new future.'"—Publishers Weekly

[A] propulsively page-turning narrative...We learn that the chimps were not merely passengers but instead highly skilled astronauts performing difficult mental challenges throughout their flights..[A] compelling aspect of astronautic history."—The Horn Book

"Memorializing the unsung space travelers whom the US first launched into orbit, Dawn Cusick’s charming history book The Astrochimps zooms in on peculiar and enlightening moments in the race to put a person on the moon...This is the story of the ethically-fraught yet unbelievable role that six such chimpanzees played in the Space Race...Poignant and hilarious photographs document the frowned upon relationships that blossomed between the chimpanzees and their human pilots and veterinarians...The Astrochimps is an exciting, specialized history of the Space Race."—Foreword Reviews

“With engaging narrative style and boundless sensitivity, Dawn Cusick introduces the astrochimps, America’s first astronauts. A must-read for space race fans, future scientists, or anyone who has ever loved an animal.”—Amy Cherrix, author of In the Shadow of the Moon

“Astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn are celebrated today as American heroes, but it was Ham and Enos—the astrochimps—who rocketed into space before their human counterparts. Author Dawn Cusick tells the seldom-told story of these and other history-making primates who helped the United States win the space race. It’s a blast!”—Jerome Pohlen, author of The Apollo Missions for Kids

  • THE ASTROCHIMPS: America's First Astronauts
    Chicago Review Press, 2024