Astro Girl by Ken Wilson-Max

Values: Self-Belief, Confidence, Pride, Joy, Happiness.

Astro Girl was recommended to me by Mat Tobin in a lecture I attended a few months ago and I have fallen in love with it! I bought a copy for my three nieces, but also have my own copy (because I couldn’t bear to leave mine with them!). It is the story of Astrid, a little girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. She is at home with her dad and he tells her all of the things she will have to do to be an astronaut. Astrid’s friend, Jake, even asks her to bring an asteroid back for him. At the end of the book, Astrid and her dad go to pick up her mum from work (Astrid wearing her favourite space t-shirt, of course!) and they head to the air base. Where has mum been? In space! What a glorious story of a little girl looking up to her mum!

There are so many reasons that I love this book. Firstly, nobody questions Astrid when she says she wants to be an astronaut or tells her that she can’t. Secondly, Dad and Astrid have such a lovely relationship and he is shown to be doing all the normal things that Dads do at home – baking, playing and tucking her up in bed. Mum being at work and Dad being at home isn’t made into a big deal at all. Thirdly, Astrid is a little girl from a Black family. If you haven’t seen the CLPE report, ‘Reflecting Realities’ – it shows how children from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are still underrepresented in books so it is really refreshing to see Astrid as the central character in this book. And lastly, there are facts at the back of the book to inspire children to learn more about space, including information about some of the women who have been up into space… just like Astrid’s mum!

I think you could use this book with any age from Nursery upwards. It could be used in Assemblies, circle times, PSHE, Science etc. to discuss space, ambitions, families, or Values. There are a few Values I have picked out here, but many more you could also use.

I love the depiction of self-belief in this book. Astrid has no fears of going into space, and when her dad asks her if she could cope with space food or the lack of gravity, she doesn’t hesitate to believe she could! She has also seen her mum go up into space and knows it is a difficult job where she has to be away from home, but Astrid isn’t put off by this. Her confidence is great to see in a book for children dreaming of jobs like astronauts! This is a great story to ask children what their dreams are for the future and what skills they have that would make them good at this.

Another Value you could easily discuss is pride. Astrid’s dad is proud of her for her dreams of space and he playfully questions her, but never doubts her ambition. Astrid is also really proud of her mum and you see this through the beautiful illustrations towards the end of the book of Astrid running to meet her mum, and also through the last line, “I want to be an astronaut, just like you. You’re my hero.” What an empowering line from a book, and not one often so explicitly shown. You could talk to children about people they are proud of and why – this book provides the perfect platform.

The Value of joy and happiness is shown so many times in this book through Ken Wilson-Max’s simple yet powerful use of words and illustrations. Astrid is so happy with her dad and they find joy in the things they do together. The smiles and giggles that flow from the pages show the special relationship they have. It would be a nice way of asking children what they like to do with their families or friends that bring them joy too. When Mum comes back from space, the joy in the whole family’s faces is illuminating!

I have recommended this book to so many of my friends with little children and I know it will be a staple in my Values bookshelf. I really believe Ken Wilson-Max has created something so special here (and you can even see him reading the book - I always enjoy watching an author read their own work!). Since 2017, he has also been running an independent publishing house called Alanna Max which focuses on inclusive books for young children. I love the Lulu books and the Zeki books published here and I want to check out some of the others too!

Grab a copy of this book – you won’t regret it! To see other books with the same values, use these links: