CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 22. . . .February 11, 2011.
Sally Ride: The First American Woman in Space. (Crabtree Groundbreaker Biographies).
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
112 pp., pbk. & hc., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2550-3 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-2541-1 (RLB.).
Ride, Sally-Juvenile literature.
United States-National Aeronautics and Space Administration-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Women astronauts-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Astronauts-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.
Review by Jessica Kluthe.
Sally Ride is an exceptional woman with humble beginnings. As a student, Sally was considered clever, but not extraordinary. What she did do as a teenager - what she has always done - was set her goals on things that appealed to her. Success did not follow her everywhere, but she always explored her options. In the end, it was this openness that led her to the stars.
In this book, we meet Sally Ride, an astronaut aboard the shuttle Challenger's 1983 Mission STS-7 and the first American woman in space. This classroom support text situates Ride's accomplishment in the social and political context that marks her particular mission as significant in terms of women's equal access to careers in the field of science. For instance, author Tom Riddolls cites the gendered manner in which Ride was portrayed in the media at this time:
Even Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show joked that the shuttle launch was being postponed until Sally Ride could find the purse to match her shoes. Prior to her space flight, Sally had many thoughts about the media and their strong reaction to her gender, and she felt that "It may be too bad that our society isn't further along and that this is such a big deal."
Further, as an addition to the text, nine websites are listed and annotated at the end of the book to encourage students' own exploration and study of the topics covered in the text. As well, a clear glossary of related vocabulary terms, such as fiber optic, molecule, shock wave and space walk, is provided.
The images used in the seven chapters, as well as the backgrounds, the boxes with additional information and the popped-out quotations are in grey scale and give this new work a dated feel. However, the inclusion of extra-textual elements, like a clearly labeled diagram of a space shuttle and an actual image of the Challenger's liftoff and mission simulators, even if black and white, could still be engaging to those interested in space and space travel. There are 15 light grey boxes throughout the chapters that help with context that offer further information. These areas of the book that break from the primary story could also serve as moments to pause and discuss the extra topics introduced, topics like the Canadarm, minutemen missiles and space particles.
There are many intense and well-described moments during Ride's mission, and these instances are the highlights of the text. Throughout the book, the language moves from direct to descriptive at an appropriate pace, keeping the reader engaged while covering a lot of material. For instance, the first chapter opens with a description of the Challenger's liftoff and immediately draws the reader in to this moment:
The shuttle rattled and shook, and the intense roar of the engines echoed deep in Sally's stomach... Eight and a half minutes later, there was suddenly silence as the shuttle's engines were shut down and the void of space enveloped the shuttle.
The next chapter then moves into Ride's personal background and the decisions that led her to astrophysics and eventually to become an astronaut on the Challenger, as well as the historical context such as NASA's 1977 call for applicants in which Ride was selected. The rest of the chapters follow the chronological developments in space technology that happened alongside Ride's career with NASA as her other science-related pursuits.
Jessica Kluthe is an MFA candidate in Writing at the University of Victoria and is currently writing an Italian-Canadian memoir.
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