An important story to tell about four heroines, one that will lead young readers to the longer, more-nuanced coverage...

HIDDEN FIGURES

THE TRUE STORY OF FOUR BLACK WOMEN AND THE SPACE RACE

At a time when “colored” water fountains and separate bathrooms also meant that African-Americans were excluded from many good jobs, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden made themselves indispensable to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which became NASA in 1958. 

These four African-American trailblazing mathematicians worked as NASA computers before machines performed mathematical computations for the space program despite sexism and segregation that made their jobs extremely difficult. In one spread, Freeman uses the gutter to separate these four women from several white women, illustrating how the black and the white computers worked apart, used separate bathrooms, and ate in separate lunchrooms despite working on the same kinds of assignments. While Shetterly and co-author Conkling emphasize these women’s tenacity, the picture-book lacks some aspects of their characters that the Hidden Figures film to which this is a companion captures well: their subversion, their senses of humor, and the community they built among black NASA employees as conditions improved. Their somber expressions throughout most of the illustrations imply that they found little enjoyment in their work, but their longevity at NASA suggests otherwise. Rich backmatter offers a timeline of historical events, biographies, a glossary, and an author’s note from Shetterly.

An important story to tell about four heroines, one that will lead young readers to the longer, more-nuanced coverage available when they are ready . (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274246-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2018

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Informative yet optimistic, this cri du coeur from Planet Awesome deserves wide attention.

OUR PLANET! THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE EARTH

From the Our Universe series , Vol. 6

The sixth in McAnulty’s Our Universe series focuses on Earth’s human-caused problems, offering some family-level activities for mitigation.

Vivaciously narrated by “Planet Awesome,” the text establishes facts about how Earth’s location with regard to the sun allows life to flourish, the roles of the ocean and atmosphere, and the distinctions between weather and climate. McAnulty clearly explains how people have accelerated climate change “because so many human things need energy.” Soft-pedaling, she avoids overt indictment of fossil fuels: “Sometimes energy leads to dirty water, dirty land, and dirty air.” Dire changes are afoot: “Some land is flooding. Other land is too dry—and hot. YIKES! Not good.” “And when I’m in trouble, Earthlings are in trouble, too.” Litchfield’s engaging art adds important visual information where the perky text falls short. On one spread, a factory complex spews greenhouse gases in three plumes, each identified by the chemical symbols for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Throughout, planet Earth is appealingly represented with animated facial features and arms—one green, one blue. The palette brightens and darkens in sync with the text’s respective messages of hope and alarm. Final pages introduce alternative energy sources—wind, hydro, solar, and “human power—that’s from your own two feet.” Lastly, Earth provides excellent ideas for hyperlocal change, from buying less new stuff to planting trees. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Informative yet optimistic, this cri du coeur from Planet Awesome deserves wide attention. (author’s note, numerical facts, atmospheric facts, ideas for action, sources) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-78249-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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