The title character from children’s book Rosie Revere, Engineer (Abrams, 2013) by Andrea Beaty will be joining space pioneers Sally Ride, Valentina Tereshkova, and Barbara Morgan as another female making history when the book, which stars a brilliant young tinkerer and future engineer, travels to the International Space Station (ISS) to be part of the space station’s Story Time from Space (STFS) program this summer.
STFS is a project from the Global Space Education Foundation that aims to foster literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning by having astronauts on the ISS record their reading selected titles with STEM concepts, as well as conducting concept demonstrations. Previous reading videos can be found on the STFS website under “Library.”
STFS is a venture that was cooked up by educator and former Director of Education at Space Center Houston, Patricia Tribe, while she was preparing dinner one night. Tribe approached Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr., an astronaut who’d traveled to the ISS twice and was the 200th person to ever do a spacewalk, to form the program.
“The idea for Story Time from Space was pilot tested in February 2011 on the last flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-113,” says Tribe. “[Astronauts] Alvin Drew, Michael Barrett, and Nicole Stott tested the idea by reading and providing feedback. Since then we have been working with NASA and CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) on getting items up to orbit, agreements in place, and etc. It takes determination and commitment to get something to orbit. because it takes a while to work through everything, but it is worth the effort.”
The STFS team also includes educator Debbie Brown-Biggs, veteran astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, who is designing the science demonstrations, Jack Moore, a public relations specialist at Space Center Houston who is in charge of the website and marketing, and author Jeffrey Bennett, who joined the team after five of his children’s books about science adventures in the “Max the Dog” series (Big Kid Science) were chosen for the first STFS mission in early 2014.
“The astronauts read the [‘Max’ series] and sent the videos back down over several months,” says Tribe to SLJ. “The books are still up there flying at 17,500 mph as we speak.”
The selection of Rosie Revere, Engineer for the program began last spring when Beaty met Drew at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, and gave him a book as a thank you for doing so much to educate kids about science and space and for his service to our country.
“He and Patricia Tribe loved Rosie Revere, Engineer and decided that it might be a good choice for the program,” Beaty told School Library Journal. Tribe then asked Beaty if she would be interested in having the book as part of the program.
“I have been floating ever since,” says Beaty.” Talk about living in zero gravity!”
Beaty credits the idea for Rosie, a plucky second-grader trying to build a flying machine, to David Roberts, the illustrator of her earlier book, Iggy Peck, Architect (Abrams, 2007). In that story, a little girl hides behind her bangs, trying to be invisible. That shy character eventually evolved into Rosie, her face also half-covered by bangs. Beaty also pays tribute in Rosie Revere, Engineer to her Aunt Emaline, who’d worked in a munitions plant during World War II. Aunt Emaline became personified by the character of Rosie’s great great aunt, named Rosie the Riveter.
“[Having the iconic] Rosie the Riveter as a character [in Rosie Revere, Engineer] was my way of saying ’thanks‘ to the women who did so much on the home front during that war,“ Beaty explained. “After Rosie the Riveter came into the story, it all clicked together and became the story it is now.”
The book has been on the New York Times best-seller list for over 30 weeks, and Beaty has heard from parents of both girls and boys whose kids are encouraged by Rosie’s story to brush failure off and try again. She is thrilled to hear such stories, because the purpose of her writing the book was to teach kids that “failure is not the end of the world but very liberating,” she says. “Perseverance lets us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again. And that’s where the good stuff happens.”
Beaty tells SLJ that “a program like STFS has the potential to connect [space exploration] to kids around the world, to get them excited, and to empower them to do things we can’t even imagine in the future.”
Although Tribe says she does not know which astronaut will be reading Rosie Revere, Engineer, the recording of the reading and its accompanying classroom activities will be available on the Story Time from Space website in the fall of 2015.
Watch Astronaut Mike Hopkins read Max Goes to the International Space Station (2013).