Stone, T. (2009). Almost astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
This is a great non-fiction book about the first women who attempted to become astronauts. The first astronauts were all white men, at the time aviation and the sciences were fields dominated by men there were few women who were pilots and it was from these women Rudolf Lovelace chose the pilots for his program. He believed not only that women were capable of going to space but that they were better suited to the task. At first this belief stemmed from the particle matter that because women were physically smaller it would be cheaper to send them to space. However, when he subjected his women to the tests they used to determine who was fit for space travel he discovered they out preformed the men in several important areas. The women he tested better withstood the discomfort and pain of the tests and outperformed the men by far on the isolation tests. The first woman to complete these tests was Jerrie Cobb who was followed by twelve more women once she proved it could be done. While Cobb had some of the best test results of the group all of the women performed well and routinely not only performed better than expected but did better than their male counterparts. Ultimately though the women tested were before their time, and not destined to make the trip to space. NASA did not want to spend the money to adapt the flight suits to fit women and were also afraid that opening space travel to women would also mean that “other minorities” would want to train to be astronauts too.
This book is listed as being for readers age 10 by Barnes and Nobel but I can see older tweens being inspired by the determination of these women. This is a great book for any tween interested in the early days of space travel as well as those specifically looking into women’s history. This is also a great resource for book lists or book displays about inspiring women and could be used for books specifically on feminists as a few of the women from this program went on to work with feminist groups and they all fought for women in the space program.