Rocket Boys

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Homer Hickam Jr.

The young narrator and protagonist of Rocket Boys, Homer Hickam, Jr. is a curious, adventurous, and ambitious teenager from the town of Coalwood, West Virginia. During the course of the book, Homer, inspired by… (read full character analysis)

Homer Hickam Sr.

The father of Homer Hickam Jr., Homer Hickam Sr. is a strong, stoic employee of the mining company, the institution that dominates life in Coalwood. Homer Sr. is devoted to Coalwood’s mine: he works… (read full character analysis)

Elsie Lavender Hickam

The mother of Homer Hickam Jr. and the wife of Homer Hickam Sr., Elsie Lavender Hickam is an intelligent, ambitious, and supportive woman. She frequently quarrels with her husband about life in the mines… (read full character analysis)


Homer Hickam Jr.’s friend, and the publicity manager of the BCMA, Sherman is an intelligent young man and a talented math student who calculates many of the complicated sums necessary to launch rockets(read full character analysis)


The head “scientist” of the BCMA, Quentin is a nerdy, socially inept teenager. Nevertheless, he’s a brilliant mathematician and a talented researcher who gives the BCMA some of their most important ideas regarding propulsion. While… (read full character analysis)
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Roy Lee

Homer Hickam Jr.’s friend, and the publicity manager of the BCMA, Roy Lee is a charismatic, handsome young man who’s often seen with a date or a girlfriend. Roy Lee plays an important role… (read full character analysis)

Dorothy Plunk

A student at Big Creek High School, and the object of Homer’s affections throughout the course of Rocket Boys. Dorothy Plunk is, in addition to being beautiful, an intelligent student—ultimately the valedictorian of… (read full character analysis)

Wernher von Braun

The legendary German rocket scientist, and an idol of Homer’s. Wernher von Braun played an important role in the military offensive of Hitler’s Third Reich, designing the deadly V-2 rockets, which did tremendous damage… (read full character analysis)

Mr. R.L. Turner

the principal of Big Creek High School, Mr. R.L. Turner plays a key role in the success of Homer and the BCMA’s rocketry. While he’s initially reluctant to allow Homer and his friends endanger… (read full character analysis)

Reverend “Little” Richard

Reverend “Little” Richard is the charismatic leader of Coalwood’s black church. Homer visits him many times during the course of Rocket Boys, sometimes for help obtaining supplies for rocket-building, but often to seek… (read full character analysis)

Reverend Josiah Lanier

Reverend Josiah Lanier is the preacher for Coalwood’s main church, which is owned by the same mining company that dominates town life. Lanier is instrumental in convincing the town of Coalwood—and Homer Hickam Sr.—to… (read full character analysis)

Jim Hickam

Homer Hickam Jr.’s older brother, Jim Hickam is a handsome, well-dressed, athletic high school football player. He argues constantly with Homer, and the two siblings delight in teasing one another—Jim teases Homer for his… (read full character analysis)

William Laird

The son of George L. Carter, William Laird is a charismatic and intelligent figure who oversees mining in Coalwood for years, and wields a huge amount of power over the townspeople. Laird, nicknamed “The… (read full character analysis)

John Dubonnet

The leader of the Coalwood miners’ union, John Dubonnet quarrels with Homer Sr. throughout Rocket Boys. At the same time, he enthusiastically supports Homer’s experiments with rockets, and even gives him some… (read full character analysis)

Mr. Isaac Bykovski

A friendly miner who assists Homer with building rockets at many points in Rocket Boys. Mr. Isaac Bykovski teaches Homer how to weld and design nozzles. Homer Sr. punishes him for encouraging Homer’s experiments… (read full character analysis)

Miss Riley

The young, beautiful chemistry teacher at Big Creek High School, Miss Riley is enormously important in encouraging Homer and his friends to continue experimenting with rockets. Her lessons give Homer and Quentin many ideas… (read full character analysis)

Jake Mosby

A young engineer from Ohio, Jake Mosby comes from a wealthy family, and frequently shows off his wealth by driving expensive cars and going on expensive dates. Jake is nonetheless a wise, likeable young man… (read full character analysis)


A fellow contestant of Homer at the National Science Fair, Orville is instrumental in Homer’s success. After Homer loses his nozzles, Orville takes it upon himself to petition the Fair on Homer’s behalf, the end… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Homer Hickam Jr.’s friend, and the treasurer of the BCMA, O’Dell is an intelligent young man. He’s often responsible for obtaining materials for the BCMA’s rocket designs, and while his schemes often fail, he’s responsible for many important rocket supplies. Ultimately, O’Dell becomes a farmer.
George L. Carter
The founder of Coalwood, the first man to mine for coal underneath it, and the father of William Laird.
Homer Hickam Sr.’s father and Homer Hickam Jr.’s grandfather, Poppy works as a Coalwood miner for many years. After an accident in the mine, he spends the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Robert Lavender
Elsie Lavender Hickam’s brother, a miner.
Ken Lavender
Elsie Lavender Hickam’s brother, a miner.
Charlie Lavender
Elsie Lavender Hickam’s brother, a miner.
Joe Lavender
Elsie Lavender Hickam’s brother, a miner.
Mary Lavender
Elsie Lavender Hickam’s sister, who’s married to a miner.
Emily Sue Buckberry
A loyal friend to Dorothy Plunk, as well as a close confidant of Homer Hickam Jr.
Teresa Anello
A classmate of Homer Hickam Jr., and, at the beginning of Rocket Boys, the only girl he’s ever kissed.
Buck Trant
A loud, obnoxious bully and member of the Big Creek high school football, Buck teases Homer for his interest in rockets.
Pooky Suggs
A rude, obnoxious young man who lives in Coalwood and resents the Hickam family because he blames Homer Sr. for his father’s death in the mines. Pooky bullies and teases Homer throughout the novel as Homer experiments with rockets.
Tom Tickle
A friendly miner who encourages Homer’s experiments with rockets.
A member of the BCMA who joins later than his peers, Billy is a talented student—ultimately the high school’s salutatorian.
Valentine Carmina
An adventurous, flirtatious Big Creek High School student who often expresses her attraction to Homer. It’s implied that Homer loses his virginity to Valentina. She later marries Buck—a fact that makes Homer very nervous.
Vernon Holbook
A short-term boyfriend of Dorothy Plunk.
Mr. Leon Ferro
A worker at the Coalwood machine store who provides Homer and the BCMA with important advice and help regarding their rockets, but insists that the BCMA “pay” him for his efforts.
Mr. McDuff
A lumber worker who lives in Coalwood.
Basil Oglethorpe
A reporter, prone to speechifying, who popularizes the BCMA by writing stories about them in a local paper.
Tag Farmer
The Coalwood town constable.
Mr. Van Dyke
Coalwood’s general mining superintendent, and Homer Hickam Sr.’s immediate superior.
Mrs. Mary Bykovski
The wife of Mr. Isaac Bykovski, Mrs. Mary Bykovski loves and supports Homer, and after her husband’s death, plays the decisive role in convincing Homer to persist with his experiments.
Willy Brightwell
The head of the “tipple shop” where Homer purchases steel tubing.
Mr. Caton
A machinist at the machine shop, Mr. Caton helps Homer build rockets, even when Homer has nothing to pay him in return. He teaches Homer how to design technical, engineering drawings, and even builds rockets for the BCMA in the midst of a strike, risking his career.
Carlotta Smith
One of Homer’s high school classmates.
Carl Gustav De Laval
An engineer whose research on nozzles, air pressure, and propulsion plays a major role in the success of the BCMA’s later rockets.
Mr. Hartsfield
Mr. Hartsfield is Big Creek High School’s math teacher. He reluctantly agrees to teach calculus when Homer asks him.
Ed Johnson
A Coalwood local, popular with teenagers, who hosts lavish parties and loves to play rock 'n roll music.
John Eye
a local bootlegger who provides the BCMA with the alcohol it needs to make rocket fuel.
Mr. Fuller
The new general superintendent of the Coalwood mine, replacing Mr. Van Dyke, Mr. Fuller is a small, pugnacious man, sent by the mining company to oversee the aftermath of a union strike. He leaves shortly after the strike is resolved.
Melba June Monroe
A beautiful classmate of Homer’s, with whom he attends both his high school’s Christmas formal and the senior prom.
A childhood friend of Homer who’s forced to leave Coalwood after his father dies tragically in the mine.
“Doc” Lassiter
The Coalwood doctor, an employee of the mining company.
Geneva Eggers
A middle-aged woman and, it’s implied, Coalwood’s resident prostitute, whom Homer Sr. saved when she was only a baby. Geneva returns Homer Sr.’s gift by taking care of Homer Jr. when he gets lost in a snowstorm.
John F. Kennedy
The 35th President of the United States of America, and a key supporter of NASA and the space effort.
Mrs. Turner
Mr. Turner’s wife, and a teacher at Big Creek High School.
Emmett Jones
A miner who helps the BCMA find tin.
Calvin Suggs
The son of Pooky Suggs.
A clerk at the Big Store.