Review: Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist by George D. Morgan

Synopsis: Rocket Girl tells the true story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s first female rocket scientist. The book chronicles her journey from a small farm to the halls of North American Aviation where she contributes to America’s race to space.

Review: Rocket Girl is a fascinating look at the little known facts about America’s race to space. It tells the story of Mary Sherman Morgan, who was America’s first female rocket scientist, and her work helped propel America’s rockets into space. Mary Sherman Morgan’s son, George D Morgan, wrote this book and his journey of discovering his mother’s past is quite interesting. He was not fully aware of his mother’s contribution to rocket science until she died and he started to write her obituary. His journey in discovering his mother and her past is very well done.

In the author’s note Morgan states that the book’s genre is creative nonfiction. It was good that he clarified this, because as I was reading I was questioning some thoughts, conversations, and actions. I just wish that the note was placed at the beginning of the book – it is at the end, and about a quarter of the way through the book I flipped to the end to see if there was any note from the author and was glad to see that he clarified the genre and explained the different thoughts and conversations he added to the story. Without those extra bits the story would’ve felt very dry.

It was interesting to read of Mary’s struggles at home growing up and as a woman in a male-dominated field. Her fight for education and knowledge is inspiring and she never gave up!

Another plus is that how Morgan writes the book you don’t have to actually understand anything about rockets, or chemistry, or science. The way Morgan discusses the science-parts is easy to follow and understand. I found myself questioning how the engineers and analysts do the work now a day – the calculations they did in Mary’s time were with slide rules or with old calculators. They would spend hours on calculations and I think that with today’s technology it would be much faster. I wonder if now they just look a lot of stuff online (information about different chemicals, etc), or if they need to calculate all that information out all the time. Anyone know?

This book was not a struggle for me to get through, and at the start I was concerned about the subject matter and it holding my interest. Well, George D Morgan has been successful there! Weaving Mary’s story along with Wernher von Braun’s story and also Sergei Korolev’s gives you a good picture of the race to space from different viewpoints. And the book even taught me more about one of my favorite places, Disneyland! It discusses Walt Disney and Wernher von Braun and Tomorrowland (now I must go again and see Tomorrowland with new rocket-focused eyes). I must say that I hadn’t ever really heard of Wernher von Braun or Sergei Korolev prior to reading this book, as science and space in general has never much interested me (other than Star Wars). But George D Morgan and Mary Sherman Morgan have inspired me to learn more, which is why I read – to learn and to hear different ideas and to be inspired to go in new directions. Now I’m off to go find a slide rule and learn how to use it!!

Bottom Line: Wonderful, inspirational read about rocket science and the woman behind a key invention for America’s rocket program. Good for anyone interested in science or who wants to read about an unsung hero who never gave up.

You might like:

  • Red Joan by Jennie Rooney – a fictional account of a British woman turned Soviet spy working on England’s atomic bomb project during and after World War II.
  • Life Is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman – a nonfiction account of a man who learns to read at age 98 (it’s never too late!)
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – tells the story of Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl who is taken to a Siberian work camp during World War II
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – set during the McCarthy era, this fictional book tells the story of author Harrison William Shepherd, and his friendships with Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Leon Trotsky. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
  • Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien – fictional account of one girl’s fight for survival after a nuclear war.

Books added to my ever-growing To Be Read pile:

  • The Good German by Joseph Kanon
  • Around the World in 80 Days, From the Earth to the Moon, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea all by Jules Verne – there are just so many classics I haven’t read !
  • The Heroic Journey of Private Galione: The Holocaust Liberator Who Changed History by Mary Nahas
  • The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel




4 thoughts on “Review: Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist by George D. Morgan

  1. If you haven’t ever seen the movie October Sky with Jake Gyllenhal, you would find it interesting regarding rocket science. It also brings in Werner von Braun. I hadn’t been aware that he worked for the Nazi regime before reading Rocket Girl; although that makes perfect sense. Good review!


    1. Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll have to add that movie to my Netflix queue. It was interesting about how von Braun came to America and how he was so valuable to America that they just overlooked past actions/associations. Thanks for reading!


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