Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer (Review)
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Interest Level: Preschool to Grade 3
Author: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Louise Pigott and Alex Oxton
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co., 2019
Retail: $16.99, Hardcover
Summary: The life story of Nancy Grace Roman, an astronomer who made significant contributions to NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope and the study of space. She is known as the "Mother of Hubble."
Always Looking Up is a beautiful biographic picture book about an amazing woman. It is also a story about the importance pursuing your interests even when you hit obstacles or others try to discourage you. Well-written and thoughtfully illustrated, this book is a delight to read aloud. It includes a timeline of Roman's life in relation to other major events in the history of astronomy.
My background is in technical and scientific writing, so I will admit I gave a double take when "Nancy Grace" was introduced on the first page. Some of my colleagues had to remind me that biographies written for children often use first names exclusively for the sake of young readers. As her life story unfolds and the illustrations show her growing into a woman, she remains Nancy Grace, a very relatable woman who juggled the pressures of family and career even as she became an icon of science.
It was unusual for a woman of her time to pursue a scientific field, and Roman experienced some resistance. The book does not dwell on these experiences, but including them serves to emphasize that she had a harder time than most in achieving her dreams. We can be assured that these challenges were not just conjecture because in researching this book, author Laura Gehl interviewed Roman herself.
The illustrations in this book are a combination of drawn figures and scenes, some of which have a collage style overlay of realistic scientific drawings and images. Ideas and life events seem to merge together, just as they can when we learn new things or look back at the past. I appreciate that the faces of people in this story are drawn in a child-friendly way without feeling cartoonish or distorted.
Always Looking Up is part of a larger series of books by its publisher called She Made History. As we make up for lost ground and past bias, there are a number of projects to bring the accomplishments of women to a wider audience. This book stands on its own as an engaging read-aloud and picture book about science and space for all children. I highly recommend it.
Photo credit: NASA
Sadly, Nancy Grace Roman died before this book was published. Let's make sure that future generations know about how she changed the world and inspire children to pursue their dreams.