Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nonfiction Shortlist: Almost Astronauts

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Tanya Lee Stone
2009; Candlewick Press; ISBN 978-0-7636-3611-1 (hardcover)

Summary: A desire to explore, go fast, and have an adventure isn't just a male one. Women too wanted to fly higher and faster--not just on Earth but into space. But in the 1960s, mainstream American society did not accept the idea that any woman would want to be an astronaut. After all, everyone knew that women are weaker then men: mentally, physically, emotionally. Everyone might have known that, but there was no scientific proof of those facts. But what if there was evidence? How would that change the mindset of NASA and Americans? Thirteen women were recruited to undergo tests to gauge woman's ability to handle the pressure of spaceflight. This is the story of those women.

Almost Astronauts brings to life a different time in America, when women were related, even expected, to stay in the home. For today's teens, this mindset is so alien thanks in part to the existence of the Mercury 13--the women who underwent medical and psychological testing that demonstrated their fitness for space exploration. Tanya Lee Stone patiently and meticulously explains just how different a woman's life was just fifty years ago, in order to give the full context to the courage fo the female pilots who wanted more. And their story can still inspire girls and women who are, even now, facing prejudice and barriers to their achievement. By taking a historical event and explaining it, but also showing its continuing importance, Stone has crafted an inspiring story of women who dared.

Accuracy or Agenda? Take a look at this post on School Library Journal's Heavy Medal blog for discussion about the position taken by Stone in this book.

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