Inspired by the early life story of astronaut Mae Jemison this 36 page AR 3.0 children’s picture book is inspiring and encouraging. It is not a biography of the first African American woman in space for children, infact with the exception of the note at the end, there really are very few specifics about how she went from being discouraged by a teacher to flying in outer space. That isn’t to say the book isn’t beautiful and impressive, because it is, and it shows how no one should limit your dreams or your success. The book radiates warmth and determination and for children, preschool to third grade, if desired, offers a way to start a discussion about racism and sexism all while celebrating the amazing accomplishments of Mae Jemison.
Mae is a dreamer and her homework one day asks her what she wants to be when she grows up, she tells her family she wants to see the Earth from up there, pointing to the sky. Her mom tells her that she will have to be an astronaut to do that. Nervous that it might be too lofty of a goal, her family reassures her that if she can dream it and believe it and work hard for it, that anything is possible.
From then on, Mae reads books about space from the library, plays pretend, and makes herself a space suit from old curtains and a cardboard box. She dreams about being in space and looking back at Earth, and she tells everyone she can about her dream to be an astronaut.
At school when the teacher asks what everyone wants to do and be in the future, Mae’s answer gets her laughed at. Ms. Bell tries to encourage her to be a nurse instead. Once home, Mae breaks in to tears that her teacher didn’t believe in her. Mae’s mom tells her that her teacher was wrong and that she hoped Mae didn’t believe her. She told Mae that no one could stop her from pursuing her dreams.
With her family’s unwavering support and a lot of hard work, Mae goes to space. The book ends with her keeping her promise of waving to her parents and looking down on Earth.
The book touches on a lot of powerful issues that I really hope adults will point out and discuss with their children. Why her teacher didn’t think she could be an astronaut, not as a belittling of the nursing profession, but as a woman of color what would make her teacher think that was her best option. When and how should we handle when teachers, or people in authority, do or say something that we disagree with. I also hope that the note at the end that tells more about Dr. Jemison’s accomplishments is poured over again and again and again and appreciated. Truly she is a hero!
There is nothing Islamic in the book, I’m assuming the author is Muslim, but honestly I didn’t find anything in my Google searches that would indicate that she is or isn’t. It is really just my assumption about the name and my wanting to share this inspiring story with beautiful illustrations with the people who frequent my blog. Enjoy!