Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition Book Poster Image
Powerful true story of African American women at NASA.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

Violence & Scariness

What 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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byJudi B. February 2, 2018

Excellent Book About Early Space Race; Great STEM, Civil Rigjts, and Women’s History Content

I bought this for my son (10) and ultimately to donate to our school library but my 8 year old daughter picked it up. We watched the movie together (also recomm... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byDeetz February 5, 2021
This is a simplified but still amazing version of an amazing book! I love outer space and I love learning more about the back story of a huge mission!!! It real... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byleedav005 February 28, 2018

Book for all ages

The book was very inspiring and uplifting. I really enjoyed reading it. I highly recommend it because of its lessons. Very touching and informational.

What's the story?

HIDDEN FIGURES YOUNG READERS' EDITION tells the story of four African American women who worked as mathematicians at NASA and its predecessor, NACA, helping to design aircraft and spacecraft. The book begins in 1943, when the U.S. needed to develop faster planes for the war effort to compete with Germany, and continues through the postwar years during the Cold War and the space race, when we competed with Russia to launch spacecraft. The four women profiled grew up in the segregated South and earned their math degrees at "colored" institutions. Talented mathematicians all, they worked under conditions of segregation -- not being able to use "white" bathrooms at work and having to sit in segregated sections in the lunchroom. Nonetheless, they distinguished themselves by their focus and work and contributed significantly to the research and development of the agency.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the racial segregation described in Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition. Did you know that there were laws banning blacks and whites from eating in the same restaurants or going to the same schools, beaches, bathrooms, and so on, as listed at the beginning of the book? What are the laws now?

  • Why were women able to get more work during World War II? What other sorts of jobs did women expand into during that war?

  • This book starts before the age of computers and personal computers. How was life different then? How would not having a computer affect you?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love math, science, and civil rights history

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