A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington, is a picture book biography of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut. Since the book is spare, without much concrete information about her life or her path, it's best for the youngest kids, who'll come away with the simple and clear message that when she was young, Dr. Jemison had a dream of what she wanted to do, and her parents encouraged her, even when peers scoffed and her teacher tried to redirect her. A very short afterword gives a bit more information about Jemison's impressive scholarship and accomplishments.
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What's the story?
In MAE AMONG THE STARS, young Mae has a dream. She wants to see Earth from space. Her mom tells her she'll have to become an astronaut, says anything's possible if she believes it and works hard for it, and takes her to the library for books about space and astronauts. Both parents continue to encourage her, even when her teacher tries to redirect her career choice by saying, "Nursing would be a good profession for someone like you." Still, her parents encourage her, and when Mae finally gets to space, she "waved to her mom and dad on Earth."
Is it any good?
A biography of an African-American woman who triumphed in a STEM field is always welcome, though this picture book about astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison could have had a bit more substance. Mae Among the Stars focuses on Jemison's childhood, when "Little Mae was a dreamer" and got the idea that she wanted to see Earth from space. Her mom takes her to the library where she "searched for books about space and astronauts," and Mae makes an "astronaut costume out of old orange curtains and cardboard boxes." These details help bring young Mae alive for the reader. When she asks her dad, "But how do I become an astronaut?" he answers, "If you can dream it, believe in it, and work hard for it, anything is possible." This refrain, strong on emotional encouragement but light on specifics, is repeated throughout by her supportive parents.
The art by Stasia Burrington is cute and appealing, though somewhat generic, making this portrait of a smart, determined, science-minded girl and her supportive family best for the very young.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mae's dream in Mae Among the Stars. Do you have a dream of what you'd like to do when you're older? Have you told others about it? How do they react?
Why do you think the boys in Mae's class wanted to be a firefighter and a football player? Why did the girls choose teacher and mom? Why do you think the teacher told Mae, "Nursing would be a good profession for someone like you"?
Do you have anyone who encourages your interests the way Mae's parents encouraged hers?
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