Just Imagine

Counting on Katherine

Authored by Helaine Becker
Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Published by Henry Holt and Co.

The story of how Katherine Johnson played a critical role in the success of NASA’s first space flights.

Katherine loved mathematics and longed to be a mathematician, however in the segregated, gender biased 1930s America; this seemed like a dream out of reach. Through determination and the support of her family Katherine was able to complete further education and when NASA started to advertise for female mathematicians she jumped at the chance becoming one of their ‘human computers‘.  Her talents in being able to calculate trajectories for space craft led her to be an integral part of the team and saved the lives of the Apollo 13 crew.

Counting on Katherine is an interesting and inspirational story, with illustrations that are vivid and help carry the tale along. The text is a mixture of simple to read to more complicated sentences, with the central thread of ‘You can count on me‘ being repeated throughout. It’s biggest draw is that it’s based on a real person’s life and offers a window into understanding both racial and gender difficulties in an accessible, child friendly way.

This book would compliment any topic on space, promoting STEM subjects to both girls and boys. It could also be used for a PSHE lesson, or as a Philosophy for Children book stimulating talk about roles and diversity and for Black History Month.