Shetterly, Margot Lee and Winifred Conkling. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. Laura Freeman, Illus. Non-fiction. HarperCollins, 01/2018. pp. $17.99. 978-0-06-274246-9. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 1-5.
Hidden Figures is the picture book adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s popular adult book of the same name (Morrow, 2016). It introduces the same four black pioneering women who were “really good” at math and instrumental in furthering aeronautic design and space travel in the 1940s through the ’60s. Shetterly does an excellent job of paring down the information for young readers, while retaining the spirit of wonder at how amazing these women were. Their accomplishments are set in the context of the Civil Rights Movement as well as the feminist movement and makes their stories all the more inspiring. Freeman’s digital artwork is equal to the task of accompanying the text with a deceptively simple style that perfectly captures both the time period and the characters’ inner lives. One scene in which Katherine Johnson repeatedly asks her boss to let her attend an aeronautic design group meeting has small vignettes of her and her white male boss; “So she asked him again. And again. And again,” reads the text as the boss becomes increasingly worn down in each illustration. Then, after she is finally allowed to attend the meetings, we are reminded that “Katherine was good at math. Really good.” This refrain is repeated throughout the text, a lovely reinforcement of their talents and the strength of their abilities. Though the picture book format does not allow room for much detail, this is a fine introduction to these four amazing women, inspiring in ways that go beyond just being really good at math.
Renee Ting, Independent