Social injustice for Black Americans became a major issue in 2020 with a powerful movement that was inescapable. It fueled our world with a desire to celebrate Black businesses, culture and media and a drive to create a world that is more fair, balanced and just. With that, it’s fitting that the first book published by National Geographic Kids in 2021 is One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon and a Lifelong Mission by Katherine Johnson and her daughters Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore.The NASA mathematician’s important work inspired the book and 20th Century Studios film Hidden Figures.
This autobiographical picture book is told from the perspective of both Katherine Johnson and her daughters, using new illustrations by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow and real photographs to bring her story to life. Speech bubbles are used for her daughters and through their stories, readers not only learn about Johnson’s incredible achievements as a NASA Computer, but also what she and her daughters had to go through to achieve their dreams in a segregated America.
For parents, educators and kids, the back of the book gives historical notes and context on the topic of racial segregation in the United States in addition to a lengthier recap of Katherine Johnson’s life. The two are also combined on a timeline, which not only includes important dates and milestones in the lives of Katherine Johnson and her daughters, but also important moments in history, including the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Published almost a year after Katherine Johnson’s death in 2020, One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon and a Lifelong Mission is not only a celebration of her life, but a showcase about the generational impact of a role model. With two of her daughters participating in the storytelling, readers get to see how Katherine Johnson, the mother, created a safe space for her daughters to learn and grow. This book is a perfect choice for teachers especially to add to their classrooms for Black History Month in February.
One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon and a Lifelong Mission reaffirms that not only was Katherine Johnson one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century, but that she’s a true role model for people everywhere. In the face of adversity and in a world with institutions intended to hold her back, she rose above it all and helped send the first men to the moon. Her story is inspiring and it lives on through her daughters in this family affair picture book from National Geographic Kids, available January 5th, 2021.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.