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Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition was written by Margot Lee Shetterly and published by HarperCollins; Reprint edition (2016).

Many of us cheered watching the film Hidden Figures, an amazing story until then largely unknown. Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition follows the lives and careers of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden. In a time when few women entered professions in math or science and when African Americans were being actively excluded from many arenas of American life, these four women broke through barriers because of their intelligence, character, fortitude and vision.

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in the community where these women’s names were familiar to all. Her unique perspective gives readers the inside scoop on an exciting part of American history.

This version is better for younger readers (ages 8 to 12) than the original book that inspired the movie. It condenses the story line, simplifying while explaining events for young readers in a way that might not be needed for adults who lived through that time or are familiar with the history.

The book begins by “setting the scene,” giving a summary of the kind of prejudice and injustice typical in the United States prior to World War II. It then talks about the opportunities open to women and African Americans in the aeronautics industry with the advent of the war.

We follow each of the four women as they make their way into the industry and eventually into that industry’s space race. We see how each woman finds an environment where her excellent skills become valued and rewarded, and how each makes contributions to the improvement of flight and the dream of sending astronauts to the moon.

Dorothy Vaughan was a teacher, a “computer,” and a manager, working first for NACA, then NASA. Mary Jackson was a mathematician for NASA. Katherine Johnson was “the girl” who checked the computations for John Glenn’s space flight. She did hours of analysis as a mathematician in support of the space program. Christine Darden worked in NASA’s wind tunnel.

This book weaves their lives together through the common factor of careers at NASA against the backdrop of a dynamic time in our national history. We see their education, their struggles, their family life, their sacrifices, and their determination. We see rich community life, mentoring, friendships, and love.

We learn to understand the kind of teamwork and stamina required to put a man into space. We see the quiet confidence of these women as they answer their country’s call to serve, using their exceptional gifts in math and science, while blazing trails for many who have followed in their footsteps.

Photographs, a timeline, and a glossary support the text. The book is just over 200 pages. It should be available in your local library. It can be purchased at bookstores as well as online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also check online at the NASA website and you’ll find stellar biographies of each of the women in this book.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

Book Reviews

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