Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Put Astronauts on the Moon

Before Katherine Johnson inspired the hit film ‘Hidden Figures’, before she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom for smashing through sex and race barriers to play a critical role in one of her country’s proudest achievements, and before she was so respected as a human computer that astronauts requested her by name to double check the maths for their space flights, she was just a little girl who loved to count.

Johnson’s story is beautifully told, with her remarkable achievements, and the maths that underpinned them, being built to logically and coherently. Phumiruk’s lovely, elegant illustrations are perfectly pitched in order to allow their subject to shine. There’s no need to add bells and whistles to a picture of Johnson at a blackboard, commanding the rapt attention of a roomful of white men in 1960’s America. Similarly, Becker keeps her prose crisp and to the point, with the profound injustices she describes rendered all the more powerful by leaving space for young readers to be confused and then outraged.

A wonderful tool for teachers to illustrate the impacts of prejudice and oppression, and to demonstrate the awesome potential of maths and science. It also allows children to see how investing time and hard work in whatever you are passionate about can pay untold dividends in later life. Highly recommended.