#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 3 of 3

"If you want to know, ask a question. There's no such thing as a dumb question." - 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 for 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 3 of 3. See here for Part 1 and Part 2.


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A Computer Called Katherine (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Suzanne Slade Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers (2019)
ISBN: 9780316435178 (ISBN10: 0316435171) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This is the final book in the series of Katherine Johnson picturebook biographies that I have featured over the past several weeks. In this version, Katherine’s love for counting things was once again highlighted from the very beginning of the story, her family’s support for her astounding skills, and the fact that her school rapidly accelerated her at a very young age, allowing her to enter college at the age of fifteen.

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I also like the fact that this version did not shy away from depicting the racism she and her family encountered, as they tried to find a school that will provide Katherine the academic support that she needs, given her remarkable proficiency in mathematics. The book creators managed to render a light-heartedness to the narrative, by adding equations to infuriating situations thereby demonstrating its illogicality, such as what is found above:

Their arguments seemed wrong to Katherine – as wrong as 5 + 5 = 12. She believed everyone should be treated the same.

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Things only improved ever so slightly when Katherine started working in NASA. However, conditions remained deplorable, yet she persisted nonetheless, and as can be seen above, she asked lots of questions, and insisted on a seat at the table, which she eventually received.

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The fact that she has only received the recognition she deserved fairly recently – and her story came to be known to more people around the world, owing in great part to the movie, Hidden Figures – is something that should give us pause as educators. Evidently, we need to advocate more for gifted female of color, not just in STEM professions, but across all fields and disciplines.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 76 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).

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

  1. Completely Full Bookshelf

    It’s so fun that you tracked down all three of these biographies of Johnson! This one looks like a wonderful depiction of her life as well. And I completely agree with your last point! Thanks so much for the great review and the fun series of posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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