Rocket Boys

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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. Sherman suffers from polio, and has a “bad leg.” Nevertheless, he plays an invaluable role in building interest and support for the BCMA. Tragically, Sherman dies of a heart attack when he’s only 26 years old.

Sherman Quotes in Rocket Boys

The Rocket Boys quotes below are all either spoken by Sherman or refer to Sherman . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell edition of Rocket Boys published in 2000.
Chapter 9 Quotes

“We’re making progress.” I put out my hand, palm down. “Come on, put your hand on mine, like the football team does.”
One by one, Sherman, O’Dell Roy Lee, and Quentin solemnly placed their hands one on top of the other, all on top of mine. “Rocket boys,” I said. “Rocket boys forever!”

Related Characters: Homer Hickam Jr. (speaker), O’Dell , Sherman , Quentin , Roy Lee
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Homer and his new friends christen themselves the "rocket boys." The scene is full of symbolism; most importantly, the rocket boys take on the behaviors of football players, cheering for their "team." As Homer has already made clear, science and math have eclipsed football as the point of emphasis in Coalwood schools. It's only appropriate, then, that the rocket boys behave like football players—the science students have replaced the jocks.

More generally, though, the scene establishes the importance of groups for Homer and his friends. Homer doesn't always have much in common with his fellow rocket boys, and yet they're all united in their ambitions of building rockets and going to college. By working together, the rocket boys all benefit. There are many times throughout the novel when one of the boys considers leaving the group altogether, and it's only because of the encouragement of the rest of the group that everyone remains involved. Individually, the rocket boys have their own strengths and weaknesses: together, their strengths multiply and their weaknesses disappear.

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Chapter 20 Quotes

There, with nobody around but Roy Lee, Sherman, and O’Dell, I could be just another boy again. I put Coalwood and even my parents out of my mind and took in all the sounds and sights and smells of God’s nature everywhere about me. For the first time in months, I was genuinely happy.

Related Characters: Homer Hickam Jr. (speaker), O’Dell , Sherman , Roy Lee
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Homer and his friends on the BCMA take a camping trip outside of Coalwood. During the course of their trip, Homer begins to get over his sense of guilt for Isaac Bykovski's death. He's been fixated on having caused Isaac's death for weeks and weeks. In part, he's been feeling so guilty because he's been surrounded by the same buildings and people—each one a reminder of some connection between Homer and Isaac, and therefore a reminder of Homer's guilt. Outside of Coalwood and away from most people, Homer finds it easier to move on with his life, focusing on what he's most passionate about—rocketry and his friends. In general, Homer finds here that his friends are one of his most important "resources" in life. On the many occasions when he's at the point of quitting rocketry altogether, his friends encourage him to stick with it.

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Sherman Character Timeline in Rocket Boys

The timeline below shows where the character Sherman appears in Rocket Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Coalwood
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Growing up, Homer’s friends at school are Roy Lee, O’Dell, Tony, and Sherman. He invents a fictional Indian tribe, the “Coalhicans,” and acts out stories about the tribe... (full context)
Chapter 2: Sputnik
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...environment, and appreciates that he’s still going to school with his closest friends, Roy Lee, Sherman, and O’Dell. He notes that the key “milestone” in his life happened on October 5,... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...first grade. He notices his friend O’Dell, who’s sleeping on the bus. He also sees Sherman, an intelligent boy with a shriveled leg as a result of a polio infection. There... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Homer gathers his friends, Sherman, O’Dell, and Roy Lee, to help him launch a rocket outside his house, near Elsie’s... (full context)
Chapter 6: Mr. Bykovski
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...himself the president, and Quentin the scientist. Roy Lee covers transportation, O’Dell is treasurer, and Sherman handles publicity and sets up the rocket range. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...weeks, Homer makes three more rockets: Auk II, III and IV. Accompanied by his friends, Sherman lights the fuse for Auk II and the group watches the rocket’s progress. Auk II... (full context)
Chapter 7: Cape Coalwood
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Homer’s family attends Sunday church service. Homer sits with O’Dell and Sherman. The preacher, Reverend Lanier, gives a sermon about a disobedient child who caused his father... (full context)
Chapter 9: Jake Mosby (Auks V-VIII)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...and the blockhouse established, the BCMA concludes that it’s ready to fire rockets once again. Sherman posts a notice at the post office and Big Store. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...calls Homer and summons the BCMA to the Coalwood Club House. Homer, accompanied only by Sherman (the only one available), goes to the Club House, and finds Jake carrying a long... (full context)
Chapter 10: Miss Riley (Auks IX-XI)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...better, but the fuel gets “clogged” at the nozzle, meaning that there’s no net propulsion. Sherman proposes a dangerous tactic: melt the rock candy slightly before packing it into the rocket... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Rocket Book
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...aren’t running, meaning that Homer stays home from school. Along with O’Dell, Roy Lee, and Sherman, Homer goes to sled around Big Creek. They hitch rides toward the high school, stopping... (full context)
Chapter 14: The Pillar Explosion: Auks XVI-XIX
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...another from the launchpad to the blockhouse. Homer gives a countdown over the telephone, and Sherman launches the Auk XVI. It shoots straight up—much straighter than any of its predecessors, and... (full context)
Chapter 15: The State Troopers
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...algebra. Homer admits that Hartsfield is right, though he points out that his friends—Quentin, O’Dell, Sherman, and Roy Lee, are all good math students. Hartsfield seems somewhat sympathetic to the BCMA’s... (full context)
Chapter 17: Valentine
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
One day in April, Sherman calls Homer and tells him that it’s time to take a short break from rocketry—the... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Sherman and Homer successfully hitchhike to the Dugout, where they find Ed, his girlfriend, and a... (full context)
Chapter 19: Picking Up and Going On: Auk XXI
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
A few days later, Sherman calls Homer, and tells him to come to the Little Shore bus stop. When Homer... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...time the group must use a combination of zinc dust and sulfur. Roy Lee and Sherman are confused by this news. Homer angrily insists that he’s going for maximum altitude, so... (full context)
Chapter 21: Zincoshine: Auks XXII, A, B, C, and D
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...the launch. There, Auk XXII-A shoots up so high that no one can see it. Sherman uses Newtonian physics to calculate that the rocket attains a height of 5,776 feet—a BCMA... (full context)
Chapter 22: We Do the Math: Auks XXII-XXIV
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...to approach the rocket to fix the problem. While everyone is reluctant to do so, Sherman and Homer eventually agree to crawl toward it and try to fix it. (full context)
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
When Sherman and Homer crawl toward the rocket, they see that Homer was right: the nozzle is... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Homer lights the fuse, and the rocket launches instantly. Homer and Sherman are unharmed—and Homer calculates the rocket’s height in his head: 8,500 feet. Pooky, who’s in... (full context)
Chapter 25: The National Science Fair
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...diagrams on nozzle functions. O’Dell prepares a beautiful case for the BCMA’s rocket parts, and Sherman and Billy photograph Cape Coalwood to make Homer’s presentation more visually interesting. (full context)
Chapter 26: All Systems Go: Auks XXVI-XXXI (June 4, 1960)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...to use the GI Bill to go to college for free. With his parents’ help, Sherman finds the money to attend West Virginia Tech. Homer decides to accept his mother’s help... (full context)
Epilogue
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...before the age of Sputnik. Roy Lee became a banker, O’Dell became a farmer, and Sherman died, tragically, of a heart attack when he was only 26 years old. Billy, Quentin,... (full context)