A Computer Called Katherine is a wonderful illustrated biography of the inspirational Katherine Johnson, famously portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the film Hidden Figures. It’s a shame that Johnson only gained notoriety decades after her amazing accomplishments at NASA, but better late than never. This book impressively fits in quite an extensive amount of information but in a smartly digestible way for children. There is a great timeline in the back that puts many of the story points in historical context. This is a great starting point to introduce children to her story.
The brilliant mathematician Katherine Johnson persevered against all odds to help put America on the moon! She began working at NACA (precursor to NASA) in 1953, and as a Black woman in a white-male dominated profession, she certainly faced more than a few challenges. But Johnson let her extraordinary math skills speak for themselves, and ultimately her work played pivotal roles in getting the first American to space, the first American to orbit Earth, and the first humans to walk on the moon with the Apollo 11 mission.
The mixed-media illustrations by Veronica Miller Kamison are gorgeous and so full of detail. And this is her debut picture book! Using a combination of ink, watercolor, marker, and colored pencil, Jamison has created a truly special book that captures the spirit and imagination of the late, great Katherine Johnson. I highly recommend checking out the below video “Book Chat with the Illustrator” to get a glimpse of how she made these stunning images.
Take-away message: Do what you love, even in the face of adversity. Hard work, determination and perseverance will be the keys to your success. As Johnson famously said herself, “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing.”
TAGS: Black, STEM, female lead, notable POC, female empowerment, Katherine Johnson, hardcover
Meet author Suzanne Slade!
Meet Illustrator Veronica Miller Jamison!
2011 Interview with Katherine Johnson