25 October 2010

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone - Review for TWU course

BIBLIOGRAPHY Stone, Tanya Lee. 2008. ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 9780618616800.

This non-fiction multiple award winner documents the "Mercury 13" as they were called, the 13 women who won admission to the astronaut training program in the early 1960's.  The opposition they received is brought to light through their journey. 


I'd classify this book as a social history as it presents the information of these 13 women and their impact on society.   Sidman hands us a lot of factual information adorned by photographs of the women, including snapshots of newspaper articles from the period, cartoons that ran in magazines and newspapers, and telegrams as well.  This book is definitely geared toward the older reader, aged 9 and up.  

Ms. Stone is known for her works on strong women and this text does not disappoint.  There is so much factual matter covered in the book I could see it being used as a main focus for a study unit.  At the back of the book is found information for further reading, a webliography, an appendix of the Lovelace tests and a summary of results as well as further sources. 

Probably the most intriguing little tidbit of information to me, was when Ms. Stone was doing an interview with Jerrie Cobb, one of the 13 women.  Cobb revealed a very prejudicial comment against women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians which was made by Lyndon B. Johnson.  This information, along with a letter that had a very opinionated comment scrawled across the bottom by Johnson, had been hidden away for almost 40 years.

It is research such as this that makes this book such a hard hitter.  The facts that have been pulled together and compiled on one edition make this subject very intriguing.  I'd recommend this book as a read-together for families or classrooms.

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor
NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor
Bank Street Flora Stieglitz Straus Award 
2010 Sibert Medal Award

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL starred review:   "Illustrated with sheaves of photos, and based on published sources, recently discovered documents, and original interviews with surviving members of the "Mercury 13," this passionately written account of a classic but little-known challenge to established gender prejudices also introduces readers to a select group of courageous, independent women.

BOOKLIST"The chatty, immediate style (“Picture this”) and full-page photos make for a fast read, and the crucial civil-rights history will stay with readers. The long, spacious back matter is part of the story, with detailed chapter notes and a bibliography."


During a lesson on the space program, this book would be a great one to read prior to studying the Columbia tragedy.  The women portrayed in this book shaped the way for the women on that shuttle.

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