________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 16. . . .December 17, 2010.


Roberta Bondar: Canada's First Woman in Space. (Crabtree Groundbreaker Biographies).

Judy Wearing.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
112 pp., pbk. & hc., $14.95 (pbk.) $24.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2549-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2540-4 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Bondar, Roberta Lynn, 1945- -Juvenile literature.
Women astronauts-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Astronauts-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Suzanne Pierson.





Everything is different in space, so astronauts have a lot to learn. NASA even has a simulated "space toilet." Going to the bathroom in space is not as easy as it is on Earth, because everything that comes out of the body floats. That can get rather messy. The shuttle's waste disposal system uses a vacuum to suck up waste as it leaves the body and put it into a container for disposal. New astronauts are provided with practice before they leave the ground. NASA calls the experience "potty training."

A book about a living role model, who is Canadian and female as well, should be easy to recommend. We need these books for our students. Unfortunately, Roberta Bondar: Canada's First Woman in Space isn't as good as it could be, and so a decision to purchase this book will be based more on what else is available, rather than the merit of the book alone.

     Roberta Bondar: Canada's First Woman in Space is part of Crabtree Publishing's "Crabtree Groundbreaker Biographies." The author, Judy Wearing, has written an informative, well-organized research book for junior/intermediate students. The text is clearly written, telling the story of Roberta's early interest in space - "As a girl, Roberta had a space station in her bedroom, along with a plywood spaceship with cockpit controls made of wire" - to her journey into space on the space shuttle Discovery. The last two chapters of the book look at Roberta's life after leaving the Canadian Space Agency.

     The book has a good index and glossary, and a section for Further Information which includes book titles and website addresses. Some of the websites are aimed at adults but some, such as the website for the Canadian Space Agency, have information that will appeal to everyone. Also included is a chronology beginning with Roberta's birth in 1945 and ending with the scheduled retirement of the space shuttle in 2010.

     Roberta Bondar: Canada's First Woman in Space addresses the question of tokenism versus merit in the space program. A member of the Canadian astronaut hiring committee is quoted as saying, "If there's a woman, there will be a woman in there because she's among the best." Being a female role model in an unusual job put extra pressure on Bondar, but, by virtue of being a role model, the way will be easier for others who follow.

     Although the layout of the book is sufficiently consistent, with enough variety to not be boring, the decision to use only black and white photos detracts from presentation. Students looking for research material for a biography of a famous Canadian will find lots of 'facts' in this book, but they are unlikely to be inspired by her accomplishments.

     Roberta Bondar deserves better. The presentation of this book fails to convey any of Bondar's passion for space or her love of Earth.

     In the end, the decision to purchase this book will depend on whether you think having a second rate book on a first rate Canadian is better than having no book at all.


Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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