#SurvivalStories2021 Binge-Read Book Series Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Series Of Katherine Johnson Biographies – Part 2 of 3

"You can count on me." - Katherine Johnson

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

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Our reading theme from July-September is Binge-Read: Book Series Marathon. We are expanding the range of this theme to include books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre
  5. Stories written by same author

I am thrilled to feature a series of picturebook biographies done on Katherine Johnson’s life. This is Part 2 of 3. See here for Part 1.


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Counting On Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Put Astronauts On The Moon (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Helaine Becker Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Published by Henry Holt & Co. (2018)
ISBN: 9781250137524 (ISBN10: 1250137527) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Each time I read a biography of Katherine Johnson, I am struck by her tenacity and grace – an unlikely combination, especially since most people tend to associate grit and determination with being cutthroat and aggressive. Katherine Johnson was anything but.

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As found in other PBBs, the role played by Katherine’s father cannot be underscored. It is gratifying for me as an academic to read these accounts, because the gifted education literature points towards the all-significant role played by fathers in nurturing the talents and gifts of eminent women in STEM professions/fields.

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Once again, I am struck by the fact that Katherine was the only brown face amidst a room filled with White men. Yet it took decades for the entire world to even recognize her name and her contribution to the space race.

When Apollo 13’s spaceship was crippled and parts of it exploded in outer space, it took Katherine’s keen mind and accurate mathematical calculations to help save the astronauts, yet the image below struck me as particularly poignant:

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She was not even allowed in the room as events were unfolding, because as a woman, and a woman of color at that, she was not allowed to.

Yet she took everything in stride and with unflappable dignity. I wish more young people would get to know Katherine Johnson and more female scientists/mathematicians of color. Hopefully they can build a much better and more inclusive place when our generation couldn’t.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 75 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Series Of Katherine Johnson Biographies – Part 2 of 3

  1. Completely Full Bookshelf

    This looks like another great biography of Katherine Johnson! You’re right, that last spread is very poignant—it is striking how much prejudice and segregation Johnson put up with throughout her career in order to do what she loved. I also appreciate your point about the role of fathers in raising women that go into STEM fields! Thanks so much for the thoughtful review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] A Series Of Katherine Johnson Biographies – Part 3 of 3 – Gathering Books

  3. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] A Postscript to the Series of Katherine Johnson Biographies – Gathering Books

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