To celebrate the release of One Step Further by Katherine Johnson and her daughters Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, and illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow on January 5th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive photos and stories from the life of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson, plus 5 chances to win a hardcover copy!
Music and Math
A never-before-seen interview with Katherine and her daughters that didn’t end up in the final book
Joylette and Kathy in 1954
Joylette: Our whole family was also very musical. We played instruments: piano, organ, violin, cello. Music is a lot like math. One beat, two beats, three beats, four.
Kathy: Our home was full of music. Music and math.
Katherine: We found joy with each other and in music.
Joylette: Mom directed the church choir and each of us sang in one choir or another. I also joined and played piano for the glee club at school. In 8th grade, I learned the violin. Our school orchestra conductor warned the other kids not to laugh when—
Kathy: At first, their orchestra sounded like cats!
Joylette: Did you snicker?
Kathy: I smiled.
Katherine: In the meantime, Jimmie started getting hammering headaches. The doctors said he needed surgery.
Joylette: Daddy kept getting weaker and weaker while I was in high school.
Kathy: His sickness was scary. “Lower your voices. Try to help.”
Joylette: Playing music comforted me. Four beats to a measure. Half notes. Quarter notes. I understood music’s symphonies and rhythms, unlike life’s. I conducted the student choir, performed Handel’s “Messiah” and learned the organ.
Kathy: Taking care of Daddy made me dream of being a physical therapist.
Joylette: That summer we spent our days with him at the hospital.
Katherine: Every generation pushes the next one forward, just as each note propels the next.
Some of the family’s sheet music
Joylette: My parents’ passion for music had helped me find mine.
Kathy: Their love of education made our brilliant minds shine.
Joylette: In 1958, Hampton University offered me a partial music scholarship. I majored in math, but played piano and organ, sang, and helped conduct the choir.
Kathy: In high school, I sang and played piano. Since Joylette and Connie had played violin, I moved to my own rhythm. I found the cello mellow and soothing.
Joylette: Eventually, I played the 9-foot grand piano and the big organ in Hampton’s Ogden Hall.
This inspirational picture book reveals what is was like for a young black mother of three to navigate the difficult world of the 1950s and 60s and to succeed in an unwelcoming industry to become one of the now legendary “hidden figures” of NASA computing and space research.
Johnson’s own empowering narrative is complemented by the recollections of her two daughters about their mother’s work and insights about how she illuminated their paths, including one daughter’s fight for civil rights and another’s journey to become a NASA mathematician herself. The narrative gracefully weaves together Johnson’s personal story, her influence on her daughters’ formative years, her and her daughters’ fight for civil rights, and her lasting impact on NASA and space exploration. Filled with personal reflections, exclusive family archival photos, and striking illustrations, readers will be immersed in this deeply personal portrayal of female empowerment, women in STEM, and the breaking down of race barriers across generations. Historical notes, photo/illustration notes, and a time line put the story into historical and modern-day context.
The inspirational tale of Johnson’s perseverance is both intimate and global, showcasing the drive of each generation to push one step further than the last. With its evocative family album-style format and novel approach to storytelling, One Step Further is sure to inspire the next generation of rising stars.
“Engaging, collage-style art augments the text, with speech bubbles, archival family photographs, and Barlow’s child-friendly illustrations. Concurrently accessible and intimate, this book will both inform readers and inspire them to reach for the stars.”
“A concise, engaging story of a Black family in the South during the Civil Rights era.”
“The blend of Johnson’s and her daughters’ voices is intimate and inspiring.”
Joylette (L), Kathy (R), Katherine (F)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. She calculated and analyzed the flight paths of many spacecraft during her more than three decades with the U.S. space program, and her work helped send astronauts to the moon. She died on February 24, 2020.
ABOUT THE CO-AUTHORS:Joylette Goble Hylick and Katherine “Kathy” Goble Moore grew up during the space race of the 1960s but never fully grasped their mother’s role in it until years later. Hylick graduated from Hampton University and received a Master’s at Drexel University. She followed in her mother’s footsteps, working at NASA as a mathematician before taking a job with Lockheed Martin as a Senior Requirements Engineer. She lives today in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. After attending Bennett College and Hampton University, and receiving a Masters of Science in Information Systems from Montclair State University (formerly Montclair State College), Moore spent 33 years working in public education as an educator and guidance counselor in New Jersey. She currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, granddaughter of Caldecott-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney, was surrounded by art as a child. Her passion for illustration grew after being introduced to the world of watercolors. She received her BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and her MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
A computer programmer by day, wife and mom 24/7, blogger, influencer, Distinguished Toastmaster, go-getter, volunteer, thinker, hoarder of information, Oprah lover, natural hair enthusiast and lover of beautiful books for kids...yep that's me!