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A Computer Called Katherine

Author: Suzanne Slade
Lower Age: 4
Upper Age: 8
Year Added: 2019

A Computer Called Katherine, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Veronica Jamison, is a book for kids ages 5 and up. It talks about one of the first black women to work at NASA, Katherine Johnson, and her important contributions toward putting footprints on the moon. It paints a picture of the challenges she went through as a computer (That’s a person who computes! They did all the important math before modern electronic computers were practical to do it for them.) and an African American woman, working at NASA to accomplish significant feats in order to improve America’s space exploration program. The story starts off with Katherine’s fascination with math, from counting to plotting graphs. Then, it shows her taking a job at the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, where she worked as a computer with other women making calculations that helped with designing airplanes. She meets with the people working on spaceflight and calculates the path for America’s first manned rocket launch. She goes on to do calculations for an astronaut orbiting Earth and to get the first person on the Moon. The book features her learning about these problems and figuring out how to solve them using her skills in math. Additionally, it shows how she ran up against societal problems, such as racial and gender inequality, which she counteracted by persevering and asking questions about the work she was doing. In this way, the book encourages children in minority groups to break stereotypes and think like engineers.  


Engineering thinking and design practices the gift encourages children to do or learn about:

Define a problem, Learn about the problem


Engineering text or context explicitly provided by the gift:

 A problem to be solved by developing a new or improved object, tool, or process


Additional practices and skills needed by engineers that were addressed by the gift:

Evidence-based reasoning, Problem Solving, Perseverance



Overall ratings:

  • Children Reviews

    • Rating:  2.0 out of 5.0

  • Engineering & STEM Experts Reviews

    • Rating: 4.66 out of 5.0

    • Feedback:

      • "It is extremely informative and pushes people to go behind what they want and not get suppressed by the society by telling the tale of Katherine Johnson's success story."

      • “The story is incredibly inspiring as Katherine was incredibly gifted with math and fought against the constraints that kept her from realizing her true potential.”