Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani

Astronauts Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Maris Wicks (9781626728776)

The team who brought us the Primates graphic novel continue their focus on women in science. This time they tell the story of Mary Cleave and how women were finally able to enter NASA has astronauts. It is the story of hard work and dedication, of insistence on being heard and knowing when to push. It is a story of proving the worth of women, undergoing a battery of tests and still being told no. The tale is a compelling one, a story of politics and science, of women’s right to be seen as valid scientists, engineers and pilots.

There are so many heroines on these pages! Women who changed the course of NASA along the way. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, is also shown as the space race intensified between the United States and the Soviet Union. Throughout, Cleave narrates the history for the reader, as she floats in space herself, testimony to the progress that would eventually be made. Just as with any fight for equal rights, this one took a lot of time and a lot of women to enact. It is a story worth exploring.

The graphic novel format works particularly well with this subject as the story plays out almost as a documentary across the pages. Wicks makes each woman recognizable on the page as an individual, eventual side-by-side illustrated version and actual photograph show how deeply she connected the images to the actual women.

A stellar look at gender in space and science that is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

Review: Small World by Ishta Mercurio

Small World by Ishta Mercurio

Small World by Ishta Mercurio, illustrated by Jen Corace (9781419734076)

Nanda was born into the circle of her mother’s loving arms. As she grew, her world grew too. It grew to include more circles, branches in trees, blocks, steel, and cogs. Her world got bigger as she traveled to college where she built her own helicopter and then became a pilot. Her world continued to grow as she roared into the atmosphere aboard a space shuttle. She was bigger than she had ever been before when she stood on the moon’s surface and looked at the stars above her and Earth glowing in the sky.

Mercurio’s prose plays with perspective right from the first pages. She also includes shapes and components of engineering into Nanda’s childhood. A girl fascinated with science and engineering becomes an astronaut in this book that offers an inspiring look at a girl who grows up as her world grows around her.

The illustrations play with shapes on every page, from the patterns of trees and their branches to the quilt below plane wings made up of farmland. Even the stars above form circles at the end of the book along with Earth, guiding readers right back to the circle that the book started with.

An inspiring look at a young girl of Indian descent who reaches the stars. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

 

Life on Mars by Jon Agee

Life on Mars by Jon Agee

Life on Mars by Jon Agee (9780399538520, Amazon)

A child astronaut heads to Mars because he just knows that there is life there. He travels all alone, exploring the barren landscape of rocks and mountains. He even brings a wrapped gift of cupcakes with him for the creature he encounters. He does find a yellow flower blooming, proof that he was right all along. But along the way, he completely misses the huge martian following him around. That is until he gets ready to return to Earth and discovers the cupcakes have been eaten.

Agee is a master of riotous yet understated humor. Readers are in on the joke throughout the entire book, easily seeing the huge orange creature on the page. They will wonder if the astronaut will ever spot him. The use of the flower as proof of life on Mars is cleverly done, offering proof of life without the astronaut ever seeing the larger find right near him. As always, the illustrations by Agee are simple and friendly. His use of thick lines works well with the alien landscape of Mars, creating a dramatic feel.

A winner of a book that combines the joy of a mystery, a secret, aliens, space and cupcakes. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.