Cover of book shows female astronaut floating in space near space shuttleMost picture book biographies, unsurprisingly, have a linear structure. Someone did something and then did something else and then did something else. To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space uses a refreshingly different structure. One spread shows Dr. Kathy Sullivan’s interests and activities as a child or teenager, and then the next spread shows an analogous task in her adult work as an astronaut. This structure invites readers to make thematic connections between disparate parts of her life. I think it would be a fun book to use to make predictions. After reading about a childhood activity, challenge kids to think of how that might have prepared her for her work as an astronaut?

The structure is reflected in the typeface choice. Each spread that shows modern-day life for Dr. Sullivan is printed in italic, emphasizing the shifting timeframe.

The book has lots of dialogue and quotes that are unattributed in the back matter, but since Sullivan is a co-author, I trust them.

There are 2 full spreads of back matter, including a note from Dr. Sullivan and a biographical essay about her. My favorite part, though, was the list of short biographies of 13 other women astronauts. I hadn’t heard of most of them. but even the short glimpse of their lives was fascinating and inspiring.

This is a great companion book to another astronaut book from last year that examined how childhood experiences shaped adult passions–The Darkest Dark.

To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella VanVleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, illustrated by Nicole Wong. Charlesbridge: 2016.

Children with book around a globe

I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.