• Happy birthday Nancy Van Laan (Possum Come a-Knockin'), Susan Campbell Bartoletti (They Called Themselves the KKK).
  • It’s the birth date of Miroslav Sasek (1916-1980) This Is Paris.
  • Happy birthday Mickey Mouse, who appeared in the 1926 Disney release of "Steamboat Willy."
  • As punishment for not bowing to a nobleman’s hat, William Tell shoots apple off his son's head in 1307. Read William Tell by Leonard Everett Fisher and The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff.
  • Toymaker Morris Michtom names teddy bears after President Theodore Roosevelt on this day in 1902.

Next for National Aviation Month, I’ve chosen a book honoring women who loved flying. When Lieutenant Colonel Eileen M. Collins became the first woman to command a spacecraft that orbited the earth, a group of women pilots had been invited by her to sit at the coveted VIP spots at Cape Canaveral. This group included women air force service pilots, pioneering air race champions, and members of the “Mercury 13” team. “T minus six seconds!” someone in the crowd yelled. “Try T minus thirty-eight years,” Jerri Sloan Truhill responded. She and her fellow Mercury 13 team members believed they could have made the trip into space in 1961.

Tanya Lee Stone opens Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream with this thrilling scene. With extensive research into the period and interviews with the Mercury 13 women— who thought they might actually get to travel into space during a time when only men were considered fit to do so—Stone explores little-known events of the NASA space program. In Almost Astronauts she brings to life the 1960s, a time when women had to think and act outside the box if they wanted to do something other than be a housewife.

Randy Lovelace, chairman of NASA’s Life Science Committee, favored placing women in space, and he devised a program called Women in Space Earliest or Project WISE. In this program some of the most qualified women pilots in America were subjected to brutal testing, including submersion in the isolation tank for hours, which was thought to simulate conditions in outer space.

Readers follow these women as they sign up for the project, pursue their dreams, and undergo rigorous ordeals. When officials at NASA decided not to back the program anymore, some of the women decided to plead their case to Congress. The difficulties of being an astronaut, the disappointment and anger felt by these brave pioneers, and their tenacity and grit all emerge in a book written with passion and eloquence.

Pilot Amelia Earhart wrote: “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” By the end of the book, no reader feels these women failed even though their own dream of space flight did not come true. In 2007 the House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring their achievements. In 2009 Tanya Lee Stone made their stories available to young readers in a compelling work of nonfiction that keeps readers turning the pages.

Here’s a passage from Almost Astronauts:



Originally posted November 18, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, History, Sibert, Space, Women
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream


  1. leda says:

    Readers interested in women’s issues and/or aviation might also love a brand new picture book, SOAR, ELINOR!
    Written by Tami Lewis Brown and published by FSG, it highlights the accomplishments of Elinor Smith, a pioneering pilot in the early twentieth century.

  2. brandie m says:

    This looks great! I know someone who would love this as a gift.

  3. Linda C. says:

    Thanks for this review (and this great site). I’m ordering this book now, as women continue to struggle to “drive the bus.” (Love that quote!).

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Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

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