Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson

S. & S./Atheneum. Jul. 2019. 256p. ­photos. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534440838.
Gr 5 Up–From a very young age, Johnson excelled as a student. Despite growing up in a time of extreme racism and sexism, Johnson not only persevered—she flourished. She surpassed her older siblings in grade level, math courses were created for her because she was not challenged enough, and she graduated from West Virginia State at the age of 18 with a degree in mathematics and French. Her first job out of college was as a schoolteacher. She went on to work at and retire from NASA as a mathematician. This autobiography chronicles her personal life, from growing up in a tight-knit family of six to having three children of her own, as well as her professional accomplishments and her career at NASA. Johnson’s story is captivating, informative, and inspiring. She neatly and accurately weaves in significant historical events that had profound effects on our country and the African American community, including the murder of Emmett Till, lunch counter sit-ins, and school integration. Larger ideas such as white supremacy are broken down with ease for younger readers.
VERDICT While the chapters are a little lengthy for the intended audience, Johnson’s story is easy to follow and hard to put down. Highly recommended for purchase in any school library

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