Reaching for the Moon: The autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson

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Recommended by Paul Brackenridge @mr_brackenridge

Author: Katherine Johnson

Form: Prose Autobiography

Length: 248 pages

Brief synopsis: The autobiography of Katherine Johnson, who broke boundaries as an African-American girl growing up in an era of brutal racism and sexism. Showing an exceptional aptitude for Mathematics, she was hired as a ‘computer’ by the organisation that would later become NASA. She later computed the trajectory for Alan Shepherd’s first space flight and worked on the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first men on the moon.

Age recommendation and challenging content: Would recommend for lower Key Stage 3 readers as it is designed/written to be accessible to younger readers. Would be a great non-fiction option for book groups/clubs. Warning: some references to lynchings/violence (though never described in detail) and death of family members.

Notable reason for recommending this book: A great non-fiction option which is also useful in providing context of America in the early to mid twentieth century e.g. details are given about the impact of the Great Depression and segregation.

Other useful information: A great book for Maths departments to promote, as Katherine is hugely enthusiastic about the subject throughout the book.

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