Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Almost Astronauts


Stone, Tanya Lee. 2009. ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763636111

Plot Summary
13 brilliant and talented women pilots were ahead of their time.  Ambitiously they broke records and sound barriers, and their ultimate goals were to become women astronauts and pilot a spacecraft.  Stone takes the reader through a brief background story of each woman, beginning with dynamo, Jerri Cobb.  They trained rigorously through mental and physical and somewhat torturous obstacle courses, and in the end proved to be just as tough if not tougher than their male counterparts.  This was not proof enough for NASA or the "social state" and although they never ventured in to space, they jet set for future women who dreamed of flying to outer space. However, in a time period when a "a woman's proper place, supporting their menfolk, keeping the home fires burning," was the social norm, these women were not afraid to dream of something more.

Critical Analysis
The the true story of the Mercury 13 is an eye opener.  Stone does a marvelous job at capturing the excitement and devastating injustice of the time, but she also documents the progress which was made by the brave women.  Readers will be engaged whether they are familiar with the story or hearing it for the first time.   Feelings of anger and frustration are evoked by the discrimination against such amazing women, which was the norm of the not-so-distant past.  The story begins in 1999 with the legendary Wally Funk yelling, "Go, Eileen!  Go for all of us!," as the first woman to command a space shuttle is taking off at Cape Canaveral.  Stone does an excellent job of showing how the women of Mercury 13 paved the way for Eileen and other female astronauts who came after her ,by blasting stereotypes and breaking records.  Including quotes from famous astronauts stating that women could "bake casseroles" in space, show readers how the world wasn't ready for the female powerhouse pilots in the 50s and 60s.  This book is a must read for generations to come, because the portrayal of Jerri Cobb and the other strong women of the Mercury 13 are inspirational role models for men and women of all ages.
Sibert Medal Award Winner - 2010
 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor

Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor
NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor 
Bank Street Flora Stieglitz Straus Award  

"The details will likely be a revelation for the intended middle- and high-school audience." --The Horn Book. 2009.
"All kids (and many others) should read this book. It is an eye-opener, clearly written and showing that, eventually, persistence counts." --Science Books & Books. 2009.
"Almost Astronauts is an upsetting book, but a much truer portrait of an era than the many self-congratulatory celebrations of the Moon landing published this year." --Natural History. 2010


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