Hidden Figures has become a wonderful lesson for the American public ever since its release as both a book and film. The book follows the story of four African American women working for different departments of the NACA, soon to be NASA, and their incredible yet rarely known contributions to the war effort and the space race. This is a story that needed and deserved to be told. These women made incredible sacrifices and put up with a ridiculous amount of prejudice to be taken seriously, and their story should absolutely be heard by as many people as possible.
All of this being said, and a part of me cannot believe I am saying this as a librarian, go watch the movie. I found the film version of this story to be entirely more compelling and digestible when compared to the book. That isn’t to say the book is bad or lacks value, it just unfortunately gets bogged down by the math and scientific jargon. The main messages the book attempts to convey come across wonderfully in the movie and being able to connect faces and names made it much easier for me to understand.
One issue I had with the book is that I personally struggled to remember which characters were involved with which stories. The author often switches from person to person and sometimes jumps time periods within the same chapter. In order to get across the impact of a certain decision or circumstance this sometimes makes sense, but in terms of following along in an easy to read manner, I struggled. I feel almost guilty saying how boring I found this book when I loved the movie so much and found it incredibly inspiring, for we would not have a film without the published stories of these women. Nevertheless this book moved at far too slow a pace and with the text clocking in at around 250 pages, it should have passed by like a breeze. The subject of this book and the women’s stories themselves are incredible to read, but sadly are held back by the other technical aspects that make it difficult to connect emotionally with the women. For perhaps the first time ever, I feel the film surpassed the book by telling the same stories while also being entertaining.
The picture book version of this title is incredible, and I would highly suggest it for any classroom or young child. It expresses the main themes of the adult version in a clear and concise manner, perfect for children to digest. The artwork is lovely, I adored the bright colors the women wear in contrast to the backgrounds as it catches the eye for young readers and adults alike. It touches on many of the same topics (segregation, women’s rights, etc.) in a more general and light way, which is a perfect way to segue into a larger talk about these topics as a parent or in the classroom. Excellent adaptation for children.
Title: Hidden Figures
Author: Margo Lee Shetterly
Three descriptors: Inspiring, detailed, issue-oriented