Ellen Takes Flight: The Life of Astronaut Ellen Ochoa

Little, Brown. Sept. 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780759554948.
Gr 2-5–The latest entry in Rappaport’s “Big Words’’ series centers around Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina in space. Ochoa grew up in a home filled with music and a love for learning, a granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and a girl growing up in the 1960s. A career in the sciences wasn’t one that was easily accessible to her. But inspired by her mother, she excelled in school and fell in love with physics. After rigorous training and studies, the accomplished flutist and electrical engineer went on to become the first Latina in space. In accessible free verse, Rappoport details the hurdles that Ochoa had to overcome to reach her achievements. The author offers a thorough accounting of the subject’s life. It doesn’t stop at Ochoa’s first visit to space; it also details the three flights that followed, her appointment as the first Latinx of the Johnson Space Center, and her mission to educate kids about STEM careers. Peppered throughout are relevant quotations from the astronaut. The text and illustrations combine to show Ochoa’s personality and passion for education, music, and her career. The majestic art is done in gouache, ink, color pencil, and pastel. The paintings are reminiscent of Normal Rockwell’s work and have incredible detail. Back matter includes author and illustrator notes, time line, bibliography, and source notes.
VERDICT An excellent picture book biography of a groundbreaking Latina that soars. Add to all nonfiction shelves.

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