Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 7 to 11
- Grade: 2 to 5
- Reading age: 8 to 9
An American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award Honor Picture Book
Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's first female engineer. Find out how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work.
Cherokee author Traci Sorell and Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan trace Ross's journey from being the only girl in a high school math class to becoming a teacher to pursuing an engineering degree, joining the top-secret Skunk Works division of Lockheed, and being a mentor for Native Americans and young women interested in engineering. In addition, the narrative highlights Cherokee values including education, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and helping ensure equal opportunity and education for all.
"A stellar addition to the genre that will launch careers and inspire for generations, it deserves space alongside stories of other world leaders and innovators."—starred, Kirkus Reviews
About the authors
Traci Sorell is the author of Sibert, Orbis Pictus, AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award, and Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga. Her title Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer was also named an Orbis Pictus Honor Book and a AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.
Natasha Donovan is the illustrator of the award-winning Mothers of Xsan series (written by Brett Huson). She illustrated the graphic novel Surviving the City (written by Tasha Spillett), which won a Manitoba Book Award and received an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA) honor. She also illustrated Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer which won an Orbis Pictus Honor Book and an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA). Natasha is Métis, and spent her early life in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although she moved to the United States to marry a mathematician, she prefers to keep her own calculations to the world of color and line. She lives in Washington. www.natashadonovan.com
- Winner, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices
- Commended, Mathical: Books for Kids from Tots to Teens
- Winner, Rise: A Feminist Book Project List
- Winner, Junior Library Guild Selection
- Winner, Eureka! Children’s Book Award
- Short-listed, Cybils
- Winner, A Mighty Girl's Books of the Year
"Mary Golda Ross (1908–2008), a member of the Cherokee Nation, excelled in math from an early age. Although teenage girls 'weren't expected to enjoy or excel in math or science,' Ross began attending college at the age of 16 and became a high school teacher after graduation. Embracing Cherokee values, she encouraged her students, especially young Pueblo and Navajo girls, to take advantage of available educational opportunities. In 1942 she took a job at Lockheed Aircraft Company as a mathematical research assistant. In 1950 she became their first female engineer. The company recognized her potential and assigned her to work on top-secret projects related to government space and weapons programs. Donovan, who is Métis, uses elegant cartoon-style illustrations, which are well-matched to the narrative. The artwork helps expand the information included in the text. Using pencil, ink, and Procreate, the layered spreads feature reproductions of blueprints and fragments of notes about Ross's projects. Sorrell, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, shares her personal perspective about Ross in an author's note. A time line, bibliography, section of 'Four Cherokee Values,' and source notes are included. VERDICT This title spotlights the story of an innovative Cherokee aerospace engineer, whose life sets an inspiring example for all children. Pair it with the picture book version of Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures."—School Library Journal
"Sorell (We Are Still Here!, rev. 5/21) opens the book with a note on four 'Cherokee values' that she uses to frame Ross's (1908–2008) long life: 'Gaining skills in all areas of life (both within and outside the classroom), working cooperatively with others, remaining humble when others recognize your talents, and helping ensure equal education and opportunity for all.' Through realistically cartooned digital illustrations and straightforward text, readers learn how Ross's experiences reflected these traits.Because she valued learning and had a passion for math, Ross was able to persevere when 'the boys refused to sit next to the only girl in math class.' This passion led her to a job as a mathematician for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, where she worked with others to design fighter planes as well as spacecraft. Her most important contribution was encouraging other women and American Indians to become engineers. An appended timeline, an author's note, source notes, and a bibliography provide more details about Ross's life and times. Also appended with Sorell's Four Cherokee Values written using Cherokee syllabary and its transliteration; phonetic pronunciation in English; and English-language translation—features that help to preserve the language for future generations."—The Horn Book Magazine
"Mary Golda Ross, born to Cherokee Nation–citizen parents, always excelled at math. Graduating from high school at 16 and college at 20, she became a math and science teacher. When WWII began, she was hired by Lockheed Aircraft, where she worked with engineers correcting a design flaw in P-381 fighter planes. Later, she was chosen as the only female in Lockheed's Skunk Works group (a top-secret program whose efforts are still mostly classified), designing spacecraft for NASA. Sorell's (Indian No More, 2019) succinct text emphasizes Ross' reliance on Cherokee values (gaining skills, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and ensuring equal opportunity for all), which played a defining role in her successes and influenced the mentoring work she chose in her retirement. Donovan's illustrations employ rich earth-tone colors and bold outlines, and often incorporate sequential storytelling techniques, enabling multiple scenes to appear in one spread. Appended with a time line, author's note, and resources, this biography makes a valuable addition to units on Indigenous individuals or women in STEM."—Booklist
"Highlights the life and secret work of Cherokee aerospace engineer Mary Golda Ross.
As a teen in the 1920s, Mary Golda Ross loves 'puzzling out math equations' despite expectations of the times. At 16, she finds being the only girl in a college math class means working extra hard to prove herself to the boys who 'refused to sit next to' her. Guided by her Cherokee belief that 'gaining life skills in all areas' is important, Ross not only strives for better grades, she aims for loftier goals. Each step of the way—whether teaching high school, working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or helping solve aircraft design flaws during World War II— Ross is fueled by other Cherokee principles as well. Ultimately, her passion for math and her commitment to those deeply rooted values result in her selection to a 'supersecret work team' that promises to take her career, and the world, farther than ever before. Meticulously researched and subtly framed according to the Cherokee beliefs that piloted Ross, page-turning prose elevates this Indigenous hidden figure to her rightful place in history. In addition, bold, classic-comics–like illustrations and colors reminiscent of 1950s advertisements give an appropriately retro vibe. A stellar addition to the genre that will launch careers and inspire for generations, it deserves space alongside stories of other world leaders and innovators.
Liftoff. A biography that lands beyond the stars!"—starred, Kirkus Reviews