Once upon a time there was a little girl who watched a show called Star Trek. She had no idea what was going on and didn’t like the monsters/aliens. But when she became an adult and realized that an actor called Leonard Nimoy was playing the handsome character called Mr. Spock, she started to watch again. (I admit, it is all about the ears!) But as this more “worldly person” (she had gone to college, which was all of two hours away from her home base. Such a world traveler!), who had learned a few things, she realized there was this actress called Nichelle Nichols (and I admit it, she’s still my girl crush!) But she also learned Ms.Nichols was more than beautiful. She was representing herself, women and people of color. She was not a total equal of a character on the show, but she was visible. She was out there. She had lines that made her intelligent. She was with “the boys.” She was sexy. She was smart. She was strong. She was human. She was making history (first interracial kiss on tv and the world didn’t end). She was a role model. And Angela Dalton takes this woman and puts her into an introductory biography (picture book form) of how those things and more happened in To Boldly God, How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights.
The long and short of the story is how Dalton starts things with a young girl and her family watching Star Trek, then introduces Nichols life and career, even her encounter with a most famous fan. And gives us all the things that would happen not just for actors but NASA as well. We see how she helped diversify NASA and inspired people of color and women to go into science, become astronauts and to reach for the stars no matter what they wanted. Without Nicols there would not have been Sally Ride or Dr. Mae Jemison. And without this book, many people will not know this powerhouse of a person as we lost her in 2022. And since mid-January 2023 this book has been available for your reading pleasure.
And since it is a picture book, I would be remiss to not talk about illustrations. Lauren Semmer’s work is unique. I found this book, at first, online, but happened to be in my local library and there was this book peeking out from the children’s section. Saying BOLDLY GO! and that lovely face smiling out. I did a “ooh!” and said, “To whichever smart librarian faced you out, thank you!” I then added two more books to my pile and the two I came to pick up in the first place. And the book was as fun for its art as it is for its text. The red, blues and black pop. There were bright colors all over. Nichols was a style icon and her 1960s and 1970s outfits come alive. Things are busy but not overly crowded. You get the picture of things. The style is not realistic, but not abstract either. Things are light, but not silly.