Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Almost Astronauts: Diversity Title #2

Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrator: N/A
Year Published: 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Awards: Silbert Medal (2010), YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, Horn Book Honor

What did you like/dislike about the book?
Tanya Lee Stone's book, Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, is a heroic tale of a group of women space pioneers dubbed the "Mercury 13".  Although they never achieved astronaut status, these women were among the brightest space minds of their time.  They were met with NASA "regulations", political pushbacks, and stereotypical gender roles.   This book is an easy-to-read nonfiction title, complete with authentic pictures, quotes, and extensive history.

My favorite detail of the book is the plot line.  I was not familiar with the Mercury 13 before reading this book and their story was inspiring.  Their courage in the face of a male-dominated career field shows true character and is an inspiration to all.  I also enjoyed the inclusion of artifacts from this time period.  These items added to the authenticity of the story.

This title has additional research resources and information about later female astronauts.

This book is appropriate for intermediate and middle school readers.  Younger readers can look at the pictures, but the vocabulary will be too advanced for them.  It can be used to teach perseverance, American history, space history, and gender roles.

Why should this title be in every classroom/library collection?
This title shows diversity by comparing gender roles and expectations in a male-dominated career.  These women had insurmountable obstacles in their way, but they did not back down.  Although their final goal was not achieved, this book can be an example to both females and males on how to break through preset expectations.  I can see many students being inspired by this story.

How does this book compare to similar books/author’s other books?
Most of Stone's other titles involve strong female American historical figures, such as Amelia Earhart and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  She also writes about America in general, including about national monuments, animals, and traditions.  In addition to these titles, Stone has a series of color books.

What did I learn about children’s literature from this book?
Chapter books do not have to be paperback and picture-less.  Including pictures of artifacts is a good way to add to the authenticity of a title.  All stories do not have to have a resolved conflict.

Other titles by this author include:

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