Baby book review: Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington

Baby librarian Marian and her mommy Margaret review the inspirational picture book Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington.

Books cover of Mae Among the Stars


Marian reviews Mae Among the Stars

Marian reading Mae Among the StarsThis book is pretty. I really like the bright blue end pages. Normally, I don’t notice these but with this book I do. They’re such a bright blue, which matches the book’s theme, because it’s all about the first Black woman to go to space, Mae Jemisin.

Mae’s name is very similar to Marian, so maybe I’ll be an astronaut one day too. That seems nice. I would like to bounce around in zero gravity. One of the pictures shows Mae floating in outer-space tied to a rocket, and that looks really fun. She’s wearing a clear circle around her head. I like to put things on my head too!

I won’t let Mommy read this book with me because it’s one I like to read for myself. Some books are for me, and some for her, and some for us both. And that’s how it should be.

Margaret reviews Mae Among the Stars

Mae Jemison is an amazing woman. The first African American woman astronaut (in 1987) and the first African American woman in space (in 1992). It’s outrageous it took that long, and it’s outrageous how difficult it is for African American women to accomplish their dreams. I can’t imagine the struggle and the racism Jemison encountered to get where she is today.

Which is the theme of the book–if you can dream it, you can do it. “If I can dream it, if I can believe in it, and if I work hard for it, anything is possible” Mae’s mother tells her to chant to herself.

Okay, but…. That’s not necessarily true. This isn’t to diminish the theme of reaching for your dreams or of Mae Jemison’s amazing accomplishments, but sometimes people literally cannot accomplish their dreams no matter how much they believe in it, or work hard for it. In fact, I think that makes what Jemison did all the more heroic.

Does anyone else ever have problems with the sometimes incredibly optimistic portrayals of life in children’s books? Obviously an analysis of disabilities, classism, and racism isn’t within the scope of this book, and I wouldn’t expect it to be. But it still bothers me. At the same time, this book does have conflict. Jemison’s teacher tells her she can’t be an astronaut, and her classmates laugh at her. She overcomes this mockery with the help of her mother, a valuable lesson for children.

I’m definitely overthinking a wonderful children’s book. The illustrations are lovely, and Jemison’s story inspiring. I’d highly recommend it for 4-6 year-olds.

And yes, I had to read this one on my own. Marian really wouldn’t let me read it alongside her! She does that with some books, but I don’t mind. It’s a joy seeing her read to herself! This girl is passionate about her books.

If you’re looking for more biographies about diverse women, we have several, and are adding more all the time!

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