Ellen Takes Flight

The Life of Astronaut Ellen Ochoa


By Doreen Rappaport

Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

Formats and Prices




$24.99 CAD




Hardcover $19.99 $24.99 CAD

Celebrate the groundbreaking life of astronaut and Johnson Space Center director Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina in space, in this latest book in the award-winning Big Words biography series.

Young Ellen loved to learn. Encouraged by her mother, she graduated at the top of her high school and college classes, and studied electrical engineering in graduate school. An accomplished engineer by age 30, with three patents to her name, she kept learning and trying new things. When NASA began accepting women and people of color to the astronaut program, Ellen found herself drawn to this exciting and demanding career. On her first mission, she was the only woman aboard the shuttle Discovery and the first Latina to reach outer space. After four space flights, she became the first Latina director of the Johnson Space Center and has received numerous distinctions and awards.
This addition to the award-winning Big Words biography series celebrates a STEM pioneer known for her brilliance, persistence, and an intellectual curiosity as infinite as the stars. With dynamic illustrations by Oliver Dominguez, Doreen Rappaport’s richly detailed narrative—punctuated with standout quotes from Ellen herself—will inspire a new generation to unravel the mysteries of the universe.


  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
    A 2023 Chicago Public Library Best Informational Book for Young Readers
    ​A Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Book of 2023

    A 2024 National Science Teaching Association Best STEM Book
    A CBC Children's and Teacher Favorites List Selection
  • * "The writing is excellent: Essential aspects of astronaut qualifications, training, and experience are described in clear detail.... Brilliant, sure-handed gouache illustrations add even more vivid life to the well-paced text.... A book sure to fly off shelves and into children’s hands."
    Kirkus Reviews, starred review
  • * "Inspirational.... Dominguez’s engineering-like mixed-media art fittingly captures the underlying details around Ochoa’s determination and time spent in space."
    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • * "The majestic art is done in gouache, ink, color pencil, and pastel. The paintings are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s work and have incredible detail.... An excellent picture book biography of a groundbreaking Latina that soars."
    School Library Journal, starred review
  • "The text is informative and lively.... Pastel-hued scenes of Ochoa’s training and flights into space—in particular, a spread of her learning to parachute—radiate the joy which the astronaut approached her life’s pursuit."
    The Horn Book
  • "Rappaport’s informative text moves along at a good pace, and the illustrations—drawings painted with vibrant colors—are lively.... A picture-book biography for tomorrow’s astronauts."
  • Praise for Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
    ALSC Notable Children’s Books 
    2021 RISE List Top Ten
    Bank Street College of Education Best Books
  • "Striking."
  • "A well-researched picture book biography."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Velasquez's arresting jacket portrait of Ginsburg, superimposed on a facsimile of the U.S. Constitution, conveys a woman of purpose; Rappaport's biography, largely focused on Ginsburg's work for gender equality, reinforces this first impression."
    Horn Book

On Sale
Sep 19, 2023
Page Count
48 pages

Doreen Rappaport

About the Author

Doreen Rappaport has written numerous award-winning books for children, including Freedom Ship and The School Is Not White (both illustrated by Curtis James); Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book illustrated by Bryan Collier; and John’s Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon, also illustrated by Bryan Collier.

Gary Kelley is well-known for both his fine art and his illustration work. He has received awards from the New York Society of Illustrators (including twenty-seven gold and silver medals), American Booksellers Association, Print magazine, Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, the Bologna Book Fair, and others. His clients include the New Yorker magazine, Rolling Stone, and many major publishers and advertising agencies. Mr. Kelley lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Learn more about this author