Hello, friends! Our book today is Mae Among The Stars, written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington, a story inspired by real-life astronaut Mae Jemison’s early years.
When her parents ask her what she wants to do when she grows up, Mae says something odd: “I want to see the Earth”. When they point out that Earth is all around her, Mae clarifies that she wants to see the Earth from space. Her parents stress that such a goal will require hard work and dedication, but if she dreams it and believes it, anything is possible. Mae begins to research astronautics on her own time, and even constructs an astronaut costume. But when she goes to school and shares her dream in class, her fellow students and even her teacher laugh at her, with the woman even suggesting she look into being a nurse instead – something more suited to “someone like” Mae. Devastated, Mae returns home and tells her mother about what happened, but her parents encourage her not to let others define her destiny. Reinvigorated, Mae promises to wave to her parents from space one day – a promise she keeps.
Fabulous! Mae’s early interest in space travel is winningly adapted into a storybook-style narrative, and it works so well here. It both simplifies Mae’s aspirations and struggles for the youngest readers while still allowing them to connect to and be inspired by Mae. The climactic scene at school is heartbreaking – while some children may not, adults will immediately understand that the others’ humiliation of Mae is entirely race- and gender-motivated, and a stark reminder of how hard women of color had to struggle to break barriers – and still do. It creates a subtle yet deeply inspiring lesson for children of color: don’t let the prejudices of others limit your dreams. The art is beautiful, using color and a running celestial theme that ties in with Mae and her passion for space. The length is good, and JJ and I both loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!