Guest Review: Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman


Guest Reviewer: Kayla, UCF Elementary Education Student

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Illustrator: Laura Freeman

Summary: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

About the Creators: 

Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). Shetterly is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. Shetterly is a Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. She currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Originally from New York City, Laura Freeman now live in Atlanta with her husband and their two children. Freeman received my BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. She has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, Freeman’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

Review: This book was a gem to find. I didn’t really know the story of how NASA got the skills to make it to space when planning the exploration. I was very intrigued when I read the story of these four African American women who were mathematical geniuses. These women were around during the segregation era but that didn’t stop them from doing what they loved even through tough times. In this picture book I was able to explore their story and how they made everything possible to help NASA put the first man into space. I also really like the message of women entering a career we only see men in but overcoming gender and racial barriers will allow any women to be successful in her career.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in many ways. We can use in social studies when talking and exploring segregation and how these women overcame a lot of obstacles to help NASA but men into space. We can also speak about STEM based careers and how difficult it was for many women to enter science or engineering jobs or schools because it was considered a “mans” job. This book will allow many children to see that hard work and dedication pays off. We should follow are dream and work hard and overall, not let any obstacle allow us to fail.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did these 4 women make NASA hire them to work on the program to allow humans into space?
  • Was it easy for these women to get into school or even work for NASA? Why?
  • Who would you identify more with Dorothy, Mary, Katherine or Christine?
  • Descried how the segregation affected Black people?
  • What two major obstacles did Dorothy Vaughan face to become a computer at the Langley Laboratory?
  • Using the timeline in the book what were the most important events in the story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker, Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Recommended For: 


Thank you, Kayla, for your review!