[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Series Of Katherine Johnson Biographies – Part 2 of 3

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

typorama 13

Our reading theme from July-September is Binge-Read: Book Series Marathon. We are expanding the range of this theme to include books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre
  5. Stories written by same author

I am thrilled to feature a series of picturebook biographies done on Katherine Johnson’s life. This is Part 2 of 3. See here for Part 1.


Counting On Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Put Astronauts On The Moon (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Helaine Becker Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Published by Henry Holt & Co. (2018)
ISBN: 9781250137524 (ISBN10: 1250137527) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Each time I read a biography of Katherine Johnson, I am struck by her tenacity and grace – an unlikely combination, especially since most people tend to associate grit and determination with being cutthroat and aggressive. Katherine Johnson was anything but.


As found in other PBBs, the role played by Katherine’s father cannot be underscored. It is gratifying for me as an academic to read these accounts, because the gifted education literature points towards the all-significant role played by fathers in nurturing the talents and gifts of eminent women in STEM professions/fields.


Once again, I am struck by the fact that Katherine was the only brown face amidst a room filled with White men. Yet it took decades for the entire world to even recognize her name and her contribution to the space race.

When Apollo 13’s spaceship was crippled and parts of it exploded in outer space, it took Katherine’s keen mind and accurate mathematical calculations to help save the astronauts, yet the image below struck me as particularly poignant:


She was not even allowed in the room as events were unfolding, because as a woman, and a woman of color at that, she was not allowed to.

Yet she took everything in stride and with unflappable dignity. I wish more young people would get to know Katherine Johnson and more female scientists/mathematicians of color. Hopefully they can build a much better and more inclusive place when our generation couldn’t.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 75 out of target 100

July 14, 2021 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal