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ELLEN TAKES FLIGHT by Doreen Rappaport Kirkus Star


The Life of Astronaut Ellen Ochoa

From the Big Words series, volume 12

by Doreen Rappaport ; illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2023
ISBN: 9780759554948
Publisher: Little, Brown

Astronaut Ellen Ochoa reaches for the stars.

Though young Ellen is transfixed by images of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, options for women were limited. Differences between her parents (her father, the son of Mexican immigrants, wouldn’t speak Spanish at home; her mother hired a neighbor to teach the children Spanish) hint at their eventual divorce. Ellen and her mother love learning; she credits her mother for her own impressive academic achievements. Following college, Ellen works as an engineer; in 1978, the astronaut program decides to accept women and people of color, and two years later, she applies and embarks on several space missions. She eventually becomes the first Latine and second woman director of the Johnson Space Center. Her perseverance in the face of setbacks and reliance on teamwork come through clearly. The writing is excellent: Essential aspects of astronaut qualifications, training, and experience are described in clear detail, such as the feeling of G-force at takeoff. Brief quotations in a red font let us hear Ellen’s voice. The presence of her flute in both text and images reflects the importance of music to her. Brilliant, sure-handed gouache illustrations add even more vivid life to the well-paced text. Swaths of color, varied blues balancing bright orange-yellows, intensify the realistic images, and frequent changes of perspective and layout will hold readers’ attention. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A book sure to fly off shelves and into children’s hands.

(author’s and illustrator’s notes, chronology, selected bibliography) (Picture-book biography. 6-9)