Katherine Johnson by Ebony Joy Wilkins

cover image

Ill. by Charlotte Ager. DK Life Stories. DK; Penguin Random House, 2019. ISBN: 9780241358580.
(Age: 8 - 13) Highly recommended. Themes: Biography; Katherine Johnson; Mathematicians; Space; NASA; STEM; Discrimination. Katherine Johnson may not be well known to Australian readers, but her story has now been told in the movie Hidden Figures. This amazing Afro-American woman was born in the era of segregation in USA in 1918. Her family though were determined that their children would explore every opportunity for education and it was obvious from very early in Katherine's life that she had considerable talent with numbers. No human restriction was going to stand in the way of her inquiring mind and determination to let numbers and their ability to describe the world to be understood and communicated. Working eventually as a 'human computer' and Mathematical analyst within NASA, she defied both discrimination of her race and gender to become an elite force to be reckoned with, originally in the Academic world and eventually within NASA. During the incredible era of the Space Race and the first Moon Landing, it was Katherine's role to create mathematical certainty for the astronauts. At the age of 97, Katherine was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, an incredible honour for a long and incredible life. For someone who loves counting, she certainly has a lot of years of a rich life to count!
This is a book that should be read! Katherine Johnson is such an inspiring advocate for STEM learning and is also just an amazing person, not letting social obstructions be a barrier to learning and success. Her resilience and determination are also worthy of being shared with a younger generation. The presentation of this biography in the DK Life Stories series is simple with plenty of illustrations in a cartoon style, and with photographs dotted through the simple text. With some text boxes and bubbles explaining unfamiliar terms this is a book easily accessible for young readers and visually 'youthful'. The family tree and timeline of Katherine's life appears at the end of the biographical detail.
Carolyn Hull