A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Crammed full of historical information about the civil rights movement, segregation, and Jim Crow laws in Virginia. Includes mention of Tuskegee Airmen, Greensboro, North Carolina, lunch counter sit-in, and Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech. Historical information about America's push to develop faster planes during World War II includes scientific information about aerodynamics and how planes were tested. Information about American space race with Russia includes the birth of NASA, the first manned spacecraft, orbits, and so on.
African American women can excel at math. Even when others doubt your abilities, you can have faith and confidence in yourself and your strengths. If others block your way, you can press your case and push it forward. When life provides windows of opportunity, seize them.
Positive Role Models
Important STEM role models for African-American girls. These women got math degrees at a time when few women did, and they weren't allowed to enroll in white institutions. Their keen math minds secured them work doing complex computations at a time when they couldn't even use the same bathroom as their white coworkers and had to sit separately in the lunch room. They stuck up for their rights -- one won the right to join the men at meetings -- while proving their worth with their computational smarts and skills, hard work, and consistently exemplary work.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition, by Margot Lee Shetterly, is a kids' version of the best-selling book for adults that inspired the Oscar-nominated film of the same name. It brings to light the story of four African American women mathematicians who worked on the teams developing aircraft and spacecraft for the United States. The book starts earlier than the film, during World War II, when one of the women first got hired as a "computer" (someone doing mathematical calculations) helping to develop faster planes for the war effort. The stories of the four women are set squarely in the context of the racial climate of segregated, pre-civil rights Langley, Virginia. These real women role models, previously unsung, are a powerful inspiration for young African American girls interested in considering careers in STEM fields. There's an audiobook version narrated by Bahni Turpin.
Is It Any Good?
Chockablock with historical detail, this book celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of four African-American female math whizzes who worked for NASA during segregation inspires mightily. Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition covers much of the same territory of the film Hidden Figures, though it starts earlier than the space race, in 1943, giving readers a sense of the World War II years as well. Author Margot Lee Shetterly excels at providing historical context, and since she wrote this version of the book for young readers, she's careful to explain information that might be familiar to adults. For instance, she provides a list of ways blacks and whites were kept separate under segregation laws and explains that in World War II the Germans "were fighting on the other side of the war."
Shetterly also takes her job as historian seriously and doesn't overly spice the story by attributing unverifiable thoughts or dialogue to the women; the sources for all dialogue are credited at the end of the book. This might make the material a bit drier in places than kid readers are used to, so the book and film could enrich each other with pairing. These powerful STEM models who succeeded despite societal restrictions are a potent inspiration to young African-American girls -- and everyone.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.