Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream Book Poster Image
Women pilots fight for a chance to go to the moon.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The women show determination and pride in the face of discrimination. They are willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals. On the negative side, there are many appalling examples of sexist and racist attitudes and behavior. According to the book, then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson told Cobb the reason he couldn't allow women in the space program because "we'd have to let blacks in. We'd have to let Mexican-Americans in, and Chinese-Americans. We'd have to let every minority in, and we just can't do it."

Positive Role Models & Representations

These women are trailblazers in fields where they are still underrepresented today.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know there is no bad language, sex, or violence in the book. Children may be shocked or confused by the 1960s-era sexism and racism.

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What's the story?

In 1960, pilot Jerrie Cobb underwent testing to show women could go up in space; she hoped scientific evidence would prevail against the era's gender discrimination. As Cobb and the other "Mercury 13" women -- dubbed "Astrodolls" and "Astronettes" by the media -- discovered, they were ahead of their time by nearly 40 years. With black-and-white pictures and personal anecdotes, Almost Astronauts weaves biographies of the female pilots into a larger history of the 1960s and changing gender roles.

Is it any good?

Stone offers a great mix of intimate details in this intriguing book about women in the space program. Included are descriptions of space tests (including a daunting description of an isolation chamber), telling facts about women pilots' lives (one mom of eight stocked her refrigerator with three carts of food before leaving her family), and appalling examples of social and political discrimination.

She explains the historical context for young readers who won't otherwise understand why it was such a big deal that women wanted to go into space. As Stone notes, for women to prove they could equal the nation's space heroes -- the guys with the "Right Stuff" -- "they would have to show not only that they were as tough or tougher, but that they could do it with a smile, never stepping out of the role of the polite, cooperative lady."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the current state of women's representation in the sciences. As the book notes, "women hold only 25 percent of technology, science, and engineering jobs." Why do families think that gender discrepancy still exists?

  • The author cites a 2006 CNN interview where Miles O'Brien asked women crew members about their children and hobbies, but focused on male astronauts' career achievements and skills. Is it surprising this is still the case in the media now?

Book details

For kids who love biographies

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