Sarah's Stars

Tanya Lee Stone. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Candlewick $27.50  ISBN 978-0-7636-3611-1 133 pg.
Reviewed by Mena, Age 14

This is a history of the 'Lovelace Women' and their bid to go to space in a time when women were thought to be weak and needing to be cared for.  These women were professional pilots who had to undergo (and pass) the same testing as the 'Mercury 13' men, which included isolation tanks, endless physical and psychological tests.  The women did these tests and outdid the men, but NASA was firm; there would be no women in space.  But the Lovelace Women's dreams and efforts paved the way for the women who would get the chance to go to space.

This is what happened to one of the men who tried the women's isolation testing:

One reporter asked Shurley if he could give the tank a go, in order to write a story about it. For thirty minutes, he was calm and quiet. But for the next four hours, he couldn't keep his mouth shut.  He babbled.  He sang.  He heard a dog barking.  He had a fit of hysterical laughter.  He whistled to keep up his courage.  He saw copper-coloured coins that weren't there.  He acted as though he were drunk, talking to a voice he believed he heard talking to him.  He said, "I didn't know it was possible to be so alone." Finally, he said he was bored and climbed out.  "I honestly believe, if you put a person in there, just kept him and fed him by vein, he'd just flat out die!" 

Jerrie Cobb, the first woman to take the test, was silent in the tank for almost ten hours. The following women did even better.

I really enjoyed this book because it had all the background info and told the story very clearly. It's highlighted by black and white pictures throughout, which really helped to visualise the events. This book is well organised and doesn't read like a textbook, which is what I was expecting. Showing the women's lives as well as their dreams gives the book extra depth. 

I give Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream four stars and recommend it for ages 10 and up.


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