Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, June 17, 2022

Blast Off! by Suzanne Slade


Blast Off! How Mary Sherman Morgan Fueled America into Space
Written by Suzanne Slade; Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Calkins Creek. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

Suzanne Slade has written many excellent books about space and women in STEM. Here, in her latest picture book biography, she shares the life of Mary Sherman Morgan, the woman who developed the fuel that launch the first U.S. satellite into space!

Born November 4, 1921 in Ray, North Dakota, Mary was expected to stay home and help with chores on the family farm. “All day long she fed chickens, milked cows, and cleaned the creamer.” 

At age 8, the sheriff and social services came and took Mary to school. It was the law!

She went to college, but after two years had to drop out for lack of money. During World War 2, Mary lands a job in a factory that works with chemicals that created powerful energy explosions. It was here her love for chemistry really took hold. While working at North American Aviation in California, she developed the rocket fuel hydyne. After several tests, on January 31, 1958, Juno I rocket would take off and launch the first American satellite into space.

Comport’s illustrations, a hybrid of collage, digital collage, primes drawings on vellum, and digital paint, are bright and capture the sites and emotions being mentioned in the text. 

An author’s note with more about Mary, timeline, selected bibliography round out this engaging biography that is perfect for readers curious about space, and ideal for those wanting to know more about women who did not let the educational and work discrimination stop them from pursuing what they loved. 

Click here to watch the book trailer.

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