Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier

by Jim Ottaviani (Author) Maris Wicks (Illustrator)

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

In the graphic novel Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, Jim Ottaviani and illustrator Maris Wicks capture the great humor and incredible drive of Mary Cleave, Valentina Tereshkova, and the first women in space.

The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA's first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA's first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman's place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Exhilarating--as well as hilarious, enraging, or both at once depending on the reader. 

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7--Focusing on the space race through the eyes of the women who made it possible, Ottaviani and Wicks, the creative team behind Primates, return with another accurate, informative, people-focused historical account. Narrator Mary Cleave, a former American astronaut, introduces readers to influential women such as Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space; engineer Dottie Lee, who worked on the Apollo space shield; and aviator Jerrie Cobb, who, as part of the Mercury 13, endured the same physiological and psychological evaluation as astronauts aboard the Mercury Seven. The nonlinear storytelling can be challenging at times, as the plot leaps across years and countries with minimal flagging for the reader. The clever use of a faux Cyrillic font, however, makes it easy to tell when characters are Russian. The artwork is cartoonish and appealing. Though the book includes details that make the subject accessible (one scene discusses the number of tampons needed by female astronauts), technical complexity is never oversimplified. Readers will be intrigued and inspired to dive into further research to understand some of the jargon and learn more about the women profiled here. VERDICT Fans of Ottaviani's T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, as well as those interested in science or space travel, will eagerly gravitate to this title. A stellar addition to all collections.--Tammy Ivins, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review

Following on the heels of the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019 comes a timely graphic novel from the pair behind Primates. This latest offering examines the hurdles, triumphs, politics, and prejudices surrounding the first women astronauts. Lively cartoon panels depict multiple stories, from the Mercury 13 and Women in Space Program, which dead-ends amid the U.S. race; to Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova's milestone flight as the first female in space; and, finally, to the recruitment and training of American women astronauts, including Sally Ride, in the 1970s. Tying all of these stories together is the narrative voice, that of former U.S. astronaut Mary Cleave, whom the authors interviewed extensively. Her NASA training and two space shuttle missions are the focus of the book's second half, and her character's colloquial storytelling, humorous observations, and asides are highlights. Wicks and Ottaviani skillfully capture Cleave's infectious enthusiasm up to the last page. Ages 9-13. 

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission


Starred Review
Gobs of humor, lively artwork, and tidy explanations of the science make this a standout among the vast field of books about the U.S. space program.

Review quotes

With plenty of eye-rolling takes on male-designed spacecraft faux pas and enthusiastic crew reveling in flight adventures, Ottaviani and Wicks drive home the message that it's all about teamwork, and no team can function without diverse members.—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Jim Ottaviani

Jim Ottaviani began writing graphic novels about scientists in 1997. They include The Imitation Game, Primates, Feynman, and Hawking. His books are New York Times bestsellers, have been translated into over a dozen languages, and have received praise from publications ranging from Nature and Physics World to Entertainment Weekly and Variety.

Maris Wicks lives in sunny Somerville, Massachusetts. She is the author behind Human Body Theater, as well as the illustrator of New York Times-bestselling Primates, with Jim Ottaviani. When she's not making comics, Wicks works as a program educator at the New England Aquarium.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
First Second
Publication date
February 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JNF007090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Science & Technology
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
JNF051010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Technology | Aeronautics, Astronautics & Space Science
JNF023000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Girls & Women
JNF062010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Biography
Library of Congress categories
United States
Comics (Graphic works)
Historical comics
Women astronauts
Space flight
Little Maverick Reading List
Selection 2021

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