Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Tanya Lee Stone
For ages 13 and up
Candlewick, 2009   ISBN: 978-0763636111

When World War II ended, it was expected that women would go back to the roles that they had before the war broke out. Many felt that women should give up their jobs and go back to caring for their homes and children. Some women were happy to do this, but others wanted to have a career; they wanted to do something more with their lives. In 1958 NASA was created, and a team of seven men was put together soon after. Named the Mercury 7, the jet pilots soon became American heroes. No one even considered that a woman could be a member of this elite team. The closest that a woman could get to the program was to be the wife of one of the astronauts, the wife who smiled for the cameras and who stayed home waiting for her hero to return.

There were some women, however, who were not content to take the back seat. They wanted to be astronauts in the space program. They had a champion in Randolph Lovelace who thought that women were just as capable of being astronauts as men. In fact, he thought they were even better suited to the job than men were. In the end, thirteen women went through the rigorous training that astronauts had to endure. They came to be called the "Mercury 13," and though they went through the same training as their male counterparts did, they were never able to fulfill their dreams. One thing that they did do, however was to pave the way for the women who came after who did get to fly into space.

In this well written book, the author tells the story of the Mercury 13 with enthusiasm and compassion. She helps her readers to understand what the women in this group had to overcome in their male dominated society, and she shows her audience how painful the rejection was at times. Readers will see how these women made it possible for people like Sally Ride, Susan Helms, and Eileen Collins to break into this highly competitive and specialized world.