About the Holiday
Women have been inventing, discovering, questioning, challenging, and changing the world in the same ways and for just as long as men have—but often without recognition, the ability to take jobs in their fields of expertise, or equal (or even any) pay. This month’s observance serves to educate people on the amazing women who have blazed trails in the past and those who are continuing that tradition today. As we close out National Women’s History Month, we take a look at a book about one woman who has broken many barriers throughout her life and continues to inspire children and adults.
Blast off into Space Like Mae Jemison (Work It, Girl! series)
Written by Caroline Moss | Illustrated by Sinem Erkas
Focused, intelligent, courageous, and giving, astronaut Mae Jemison is an inspiration to millions of kids and adults around the world. Through her captivating biography, Caroline Moss introduces readers to this accomplished woman in ten engrossing chapters that, through pivotal events, dialogue, and thoughts, reveal Mae’s dreams, motivations, and triumphs. Paced in short, impactful chapters, this biography reads like a novel yet imparts factual information that will entice readers to learn more about Mae Jemison and careers in science.
Sinem Erkas punctuates this personal narrative with her stirring 3-D cut paper artwork. Vivid colors and action-packed imagery, take readers along on Mae’s journey from childhood dreams of “sailing off into space on a rocket ship” to the day she fulfills that dream and beyond. Images of Mae completing experiments in college and medical school as well as detailed depictions of Mae inside the space shuttle working and interacting with other astronauts will have children lingering over the pages.
In the first chapter, children meet Mae as a young girl and her parents who took her dreams seriously, instilled in her a strong work ethic, and guided her on her way to the stars. Is a splinter science? In Chapter 2, readers learn how an infected injury led Mae and her mom to “do a science experiment with the infection” that taught her “so much about doctors and science and health…. Mae was also excited to realize this was something that truly interested her.” Excited to share her research and discovery at school, Mae instead felt those first feelings of doubt when her teacher discouraged her goal of becoming a scientist.
In Chapter 3, children sit in on this class, but also follow 9-year-old Mae home, where her mom tells her “‘It does not matter what anyone thinks…. What matters is that you work hard, set goals, and do your best to achieve them. What matters is that you believe in yourself.” It’s also at this time that Mae watched the Apollo moon landing and thought that maybe someday she go into space too.
When she was 11, Mae discovered dance. She not only discovered it, she discovered she loved it and was good at it. Would Mae decide to become a dancer instead of a scientist? Or, Mae wondered, could she do both? Her mom gave her a bit of perspective that made sense to Mae and “helped her to prioritize her goals and dreams.” What was that advice? You can read about it in Chapter 4.
In Chapters 5 and 6, Mae is getting closer to her goal as she goes off to Stanford University at age 16 and then on to medical school at Cornell University, from which she graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1981. After grad school, Mae spent a few years in the Peace Corps overseas. When she came back, she learned that “NASA was accepting applications for astronauts. She thought of Sally Ride, a trailblazer; the first American woman in space. She was inspired.” The application was long, and so was the wait to hear back. When she finally got the letter and tore it open, she learned that “out of 2,000 people, she had been accepted to the NASA astronaut program!” She also “realized quickly that out of the fifteen people selected for the 1987 NASA program, she was both the only Black person and the only Black woman.” After her training, she was given a job in the Cape Canaveral, Florida, Kennedy Space Center, “using her math and science knowledge to work with software for shuttles.”
You know that Mae Jemison did go into space, so when does she blast off? In Chapter 7! Young future astronauts will discover what she did before that momentous trip, and in Chapter 8, they’ll read about microgravity, what experiments Mae worked on, how she slept strapped to the wall, what she ate, and other details of her eight days in space.
Chapter 9 relates what Mae has done after leaving NASA. Her teaching career and the Dorothy Jemison Foundation she began were fostered by “a pull inside her to get in front of young people to impart this wisdom. She wanted to create a better world than the one she lived in as a little girl. She wanted kids, especially girls, to know that the world needed them, and the world of science definitely needed them.” As the leader of NASA’s 100 Year Starship Program, Mae’s doing just that. Read about it and be inspired to shoot for your own stars in Chapter 10.
Quotes by Mae Jemison and motivational snapshots are highlighted throughout the text. Back matter includes ten key lessons from Mae Jemison’s life on becoming a leader, questions to prompt kids to think about science, their passions, staying motivated, making a difference, and what they want their legacy to be. There is also a list of books, websites, and organizations for further reading and exploration.
Compelling and personal, Blast off into Space Like Mae Jemison is a biography young readers won’t be able to put down. The book is highly recommended for homeschooling and home libraries as well as for school and public library collections.
Ages 8 – 12
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711245150
Discover more about Caroline Moss and her books on her website.
To learn more about Sinem Erkas, her books, and her art, visit her website.
National Women’s History Month Activity
Out-of-this-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game
You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces.
- Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
- 2 cardboard egg cartons
- Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
- Black or gray fine-tip marker
To Make the Rockets
- Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
- Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
- Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
- Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
- With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
- On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off
To Make the Capsule
- Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
- Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
- Color the curved section yellow to make windows
- With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule
Print the Moon Game Board and play!
You can find Blast off into Space Like Mae Jemison at these booksellers
Picture Book Review