FICTION

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

illus. by Dow Phumiruk. 40p. bibliog. Holt. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250137524.
COPY ISBN
Gr 1–3—-Featuring engaging text and captivating illustrations, this picture book introduces the amazing life of mathematician Katherine Johnson to young readers. Becker captures the drive and determination of Johnson through well-written text and a few puns; for instance, the phrase "You can count on me" is repeated by Johnson and once by her father. The narrative details both Johnson's joyful childhood and her fury at segregated public schools; however, in discussing the challenges Johnson faced at NASA, Becker mainly focuses on sexism. The text doesn't mention segregation at NASA, but it is portrayed in the illustrations. Becker compellingly conveys Johnson's reputation for accuracy and her critical leadership role supporting many NASA programs, including Friendship 7, Apollo 11, Apollo 12, and Apollo 13. John Glenn would not fly until Johnson had signed off on the numbers for his trip. Phumiruk's renderings help to elucidate scientific principles and bring the story to life. In addition, the images of blackboards teeming with mathematical equations that appear on the endpapers add to the book's appeal. The work concludes with additional in-depth information about Johnson's life along with a list of sources.
VERDICT Sure to inspire a new generation of mathematicians. A solid addition to biography collections.

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