Working the fields of California’s Central Valley by day and staring up at the stars by night, young José M. Hernández had an impossible dream: to become an astronaut.
Even though the U.S.–born migrant farmworker didn’t speak English until he was 12, José swore he would realize that dream. With his Mexican parents’ support, he followed his father’s “recipe” for success: “Identify my goal, determine how long it would take me to achieve it and create a plan to reach it.” His mother added that he should strive for excellence in school, and José contributed his own special ingredient: “never ever give up!” After earning degrees in electrical engineering, he applied to NASA and was rejected—11 times. In order to better his chances of entering the program, he became a pilot, was certified as a scuba diver, and learned Russian. NASA finally accepted his 12th application, and in 2009 he blasted into space. Hernández’s descriptive narrative flows effortlessly in both English and Baeza Ventura’s Spanish translation and is easily accessible. Petruccio’s colorful and detailed paintings bring this amazing adventure to life, hazy backgrounds giving the scenes a pleasing dreamlike quality. Hernández closes his account with a heartfelt exhortation to readers to pursue their own dreams, asking them “Which stars do you want to touch?”
This outstanding bilingual autobiography encapsulates the life-changing power of having a goal and the will to achieve it. (Bilingual picture book/biography. 7-12)