Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer Reading 2018 Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist


Anyone who has ever dreamed of accomplishing something important will empathize with Sylvia's life story. Her memoir covers her life from her time before she started school to her work at JPL. The growth of her skills in mathematics began at the same time as her first lessons in English, which her mother arranged for her before she started school. Details about her life (in school and out), show a girl who learned from every experience. She learned to excel in class, to balance the expectations of her parents with their traditional upbringing and what she wanted for herself, and to work toward her goals. Her participation in the Girl Scouts taught her important skills like budgeting, planning, and organization.

Changes over time in gender roles, treatment of minority groups, and other social standards show up in the vignettes from Sylvia's years in school and college. The modified basketball rules for female players is one example; the reluctance of the band director to let her play the timbales is another. Each time she met an obstacle, whether it was her father's demand that she save up $5 before getting a library card (in case she damaged a book), or building up the muscles to carry those drums, Sylvia found a way to succeed.

Personally, even though I am not from the same ethnic background as Sylvia, I identified with so many of the situations she described in this memoir. The drive to attend college, the interest in math and science (even though they were not considered girly subjects), even making new friends in the Brownies was very familiar. And when she talked about reading every biography in her school library and looking up to the famous women she discovered in those books, I nearly jumped out of my seat because I had done the same thing. During fourth grade I read every single book in that Childhoods of Famous Americans series!

This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in biographies/memoirs of successful women and LatinX individuals. Girl Scouts and STEM are also valuable topics that run throughout the story. Sylvia's math and organization skills helped her reach her goals of college, a career in industrial engineering, and the opportunity to work on the Solar Polar Solar Probe and the Voyager mission. Highly recommended for middle grades and up.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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