BOOKS

Cover Spectacular Women in Space
Spectacular Women in Space
Sonia Gueldenpfennig. Second Story Press, 2004. 110 pages, $10.95.
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Reviewed by Vicki Harding

Spectacular Women in Space is a collection of short biographies of female astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world. Part of Second Story Press’ The Women’s Hall of Fame Series, this collection highlights not just the life stories of the women within its pages, but also the hurdles they overcame in their quest for equality in space exploration. Ten women are featured, including Canadian astronauts Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette.

This book is best suited to intermediate grades. The biographies are well-written with accessible language and a conversational tone. Unfamiliar vocabulary is highlighted and an explanation provided within the text. Students will learn a bit about each woman’s childhood as well as what inspired them to pursue a career in science, and ultimately the study of space. Many of these women faced a great deal of discrimination. Their work towards equality continues to open doors for today’s generation of girls finding their own passion in STEM. All 10 biographies share an irrepressible excitement for space and a common theme – a revolution of women breaking into the world of space exploration.

This is a powerful collection of biographies about women that can be used as a source for student research or read as a model for student output in intermediate Language Arts. I especially like that two Canadian astronauts are featured. Students can use Bondar and Payette’s stories to study Canada’s contribution to the space race in conjunction with the rise of women’s rights in Canadian History Since WWI. In addition, the biographies reference many different experiments performed in space. In Science, some of these simple experiments (growing crystals, for example) could be performed in the classroom and then compared to the results from space.

Spectacular Women in Space is a worthy addition to the intermediate reading list. My one critique is that the book is not particularly appealing, visually. The photographs are all black-and-white and the text is dense. I think that this book would benefit from a visual overhaul to better appeal to today’s young readers. Otherwise, this is a quality publication and I am inspired to explore other titles in the series.

Vicki Harding is a member of Ottawa Carleton Teacher Local

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