Always Looking Up: A Review

Title: Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer

Author: Laura Gehl

Illustrators: Louise Pigott and Alex Oxton

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Summary: This picture book biography tells the story of Nancy Grace Roman, an astronomer whose work led to the creation of the International Ultaviolet Explorer Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope and important space discoveries. From Amazon: “A testament to women in scientific careers and a record of an important NASA milestone.”

Always Looking Up had me hooked from the opening lines:

“Young Nancy Grace loved to look up at the endless night sky. She gazed at tiny blue-white stars glittering in inky blackness.”

By creating contrasts (small Nancy/vast sky, blue-white stars/inky blackness) Laura Gehl sets the stage for a book that makes the wonder of the universe more tangible to a child.  Laura skillfully uses words and comparisons familiar to a child. For example, she describes Hubble as “as big as a bus, as heavy as two elephants,” and “like a falling meteorite,” and “as fiery as a supernova.” Young readers will relate to Nancy Grace Roman’s curiosity, wonder, and determination to overcome poor eyesight and discouragement from those who thought women should not follow scientific pursuits. Nancy Grace achieves her goal of becoming an astronomer, but as Laura points out, “…this was only the beginning.” Nancy Grace’s vast accomplishments, like the universe, are far-reaching and significant to everyone.

The universe is celebrated in the illustrations on almost every page, along with scientific and mathematical symbols. These depictions enhance the text and allow the reader to watch Nancy, as well as her curiosity and accomplishments, grow. Also included are actual photographs from Hubble.

The timeline and author’s note provide additional important information. Included are inspiring and encouraging words of advice from Nancy Grace to young readers. What a gift!

Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer hits the book shelves in October, 2019. It is available now for preorder.

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