SIMON & SCHUSTER TO PUBLISH KATHERINE JOHNSON’S FIRST AUTHORIZED AUTOBIOGRAPHY FOR YOUNG READERS IN FALL 2019
Reaching for the Moon is the middle-grade memoir of the trailblazing NASA mathematician, whose story was made famous byHidden Figures
New York, NY, December 20, 2018—In Fall 2019, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, will publish Reaching for the Moon, the first-ever authorized autobiography of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose story was made famous in the bestselling book and Oscar-nominated film, Hidden Figures. A middle-grade autobiography, Reaching for the Moon will highlight Johnson’s childhood as a precocious young African American girl with an exceptional aptitude for math and continue through her years at NASA, helping with the launch of Apollo 11 and overcoming all obstacles to become one of the most influential and groundbreaking women of the past century. The book will feature black and white photos throughout. Reka Simonsen, Executive Editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, acquired world English rights for the book, which has an announced first print of 75,000, from Jennifer Lyons at the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.
Throughout Katherine Johnson’s extraordinary career, there hasn’t been a boundary she hasn’t broken through or a ceiling she hasn’t shattered. A math prodigy at an early age, Katherine started school in the second grade at just five years old, putting her a year ahead of one of her older brothers. In college, she thought she would major in French, but one of her professors was so impressed with her math skills that he told her that she could be a great mathematician and promised that he would prepare her to become one, so she received a major in both mathematics
In the early 1950s, Katherine joined the organization that would one day become NASA, and which had only just begun to hire black mathematicians. Her job there as a “computer” was to analyze data and calculate the complex equations needed for successful spaceflights. As a black woman in an era of brutal racism and sexism, Katherine faced daily challenges and often wasn’t taken seriously by the scientists and engineers she worked with. But her colleagues couldn’t ignore her obvious gifts, as well as her persistence, and soon she was computing the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s first flight. Katherine’s life has been a succession of achievements, each one greater than the last.
Katherine Johnson, who recently celebrated her one hundredth birthday, said “My daddy always told me, ‘You are no better than anyone else, and nobody else is better than you,’ and I have lived my life with that thought firmly in mind. I never worried about what people thought of me or what they believed my limitations were because of my color or my gender. I knew who I was and what I was capable of.” On Reaching for the Moon, she said, “I want young people to feel the same way when reading my story. I want them to see that it doesn’t matter where you came from, what you look like or what your gender is. You’re no better or worse than anyone out there and there’s nothing you can’t do as long as you put your mind to it. You can be a doctor or a lawyer or even help put a person on the Moon. It’s up to you! So, don’t think about it, just go out and do it!”
“Katherine Johnson’s life is a testament to the limitless potential of a smart mind and a strong spirit,” said Justin Chanda, Vice President and Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers. “Hers is a story of determination, empowerment, and triumph. We are thrilled to be publishing her autobiography for young readers to share her legacy and inspire a new generation to pursue their dreams tirelessly, even in the face of adversity.”
Katherine Johnson is a mathematician and computer scientist, who was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a farmer and janitor. From a young age, Johnson counted everything and could easily solve mathematical equations. Johnson was one of the first African Americans to enroll in the graduate mathematics program at West Virginia University. In 1953, she joined The Langley Research Center as a research mathematician for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), where she put her mathematics skills to work. She calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Even after NASA began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7—the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth. She continued to work at NASA until 1986, combining her math talent with electronic computer skills. Her calculations proved critical to the success of the Apollo Lunar landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program. Johnson, who co-authored twenty-six scientific papers, has been the recipient of NASA’s Lunar Spacecraft and Operation’s Group Achievement Award and NASA’s Apollo Group Achievement Award. On November 24, 2015, she received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Barack H. Obama. In 2018 Mattel released the Katherine Johnson Barbie doll.
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, one of the leading children’s book publishers in the world, comprises the following imprints: Aladdin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books, Libros para niños, Little Simon®, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon Pulse, and Simon Spotlight®. While maintaining an extensive award-winning backlist, the division continues to publish acclaimed and bestselling books for children of all ages. Simon & Schuster publishes numerous Caldecott, Newbery, and National Book Award winners. For more information about Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, visit our website at www.simonandschuster.com.