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Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space

Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space

by Tam O'Shaughnessy


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Selected for the 2016 National Science Teachers Association's Outstanding Science Trade Books List

Years before millions of Americans tuned in to watch her historic space flight aboard the Challenger in 1983, Sally Ride stayed up late to watch Neil Armstrong become the first person to walk on the moon. The next morning, she woke up to win her first round singles match at a national junior tennis tournament.

Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman Astronaut, is an intimate journey from her formative years to her final moments. Before she was an astronaut, Sally was a competitive tennis player who excelled at the game to such an extent that Billie Jean King told her she could play on the pro circuit. Before she earned a Ph.D. in physics, she was called an underachiever by her high school classmates. After her first historic space flight-she took a second in 1984-Sally continued to break ground as an inspirational advocate for space exploration, public policy, and science education, who fought gender stereotypes and opened doors for girls and women in all fields during the second half of the twentieth century.

This vivid photobiography, written by Sally's life, writing, and business partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, offers an intimate and revealing glimpse into the life and mind of the famously private, book-loving, tennis-playing physicist who made history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596439948
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Tam O'Shaughnessy is an Emeritus Professor of School Psychology at San Diego State University. A former biology teacher, she has guided the creation of over 75 science and STEM career books for young readers, as well as written 13 books for children, six of which she coauthored with Sally Ride. These include Mission: Planet Earth as well as The Third Planet, which won the American Institute of Physics Children's Science Writing Award. Tam is also the cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of San Diego-based Sally Ride Science, a company that creates programs and publications to inspire young people-especially girls-to stick with science as they go through school.

Read an Excerpt

Sally Ride

A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space

By Tam O'Shaughnessy

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2015 Tam O'Shaughnessy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62672-591-1



SALLY was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 26, 1951.

She grew up in a traditional family. Her father went to work each morning. Her mother stayed home and took care of Sally and her younger sister. The whole family went to church on Sundays.

Sally's father, Dale, was friendly and outgoing. He usually had a smile on his face. He had lots of friends. Dale was a social studies teacher at Santa Monica Junior High School and later a political science professor at Santa Monica City College. He was a sports nut. Dale played racquetball after work and tennis on weekends. He watched sports on TV — everything from tennis and track to basketball and football. Dale loved to play with his girls in the backyard. He made sure they learned how to swim and ride a bicycle.

Sally's mother, Joyce, was friendly but not as outgoing as her husband. She had a few close friends. Her natural expression was relaxed but thoughtful. Joyce loved to read and think about politics, women's issues, and social causes, and she had a wicked wit. She was active in the Presbyterian Church. She also visited women in prison and helped them stay in touch with their families. Joyce made sure her girls learned how to read and write.

Sally's mother did most of the cooking, but her father pitched in on weekends and when there was company. Everyone shared in cleaning the house and taking care of the yard. Sally and her sister were expected to do their homework and get good grades in school. Other than that, there were few rules. Dale and Joyce were easygoing parents who created a loving, stable home.

Before Sally could say her own name, she called herself Sassy.

When her sister was born, Sally was two years old. She couldn't say Karen. She called her little sister Pear or Perry. Later this changed to Bear. Bear stuck.

Sally and Bear were very different, but got along well. Bear was a naturally kind child. Sally seldom went out of her way for other people. Bear had a wide circle of friends. Sally had one or two close friends. On weekends, Bear often invited one of her friends to spend the night at the Ride home. Sally rarely did this — she liked to spend time by herself, reading or solving puzzles or watching her favorite TV shows I Love Lucy and The Twilight Zone.

Bear's very first word: Ta tu (thank you!)

Sally's very first word: No (no!)

Both sets of grandparents lived close by. The Ride family spent lots of time with them, but especially with Joyce's parents, Grandma Ada and Grandpa Andy.

Sally's Grandpa Andy taught her how to play baseball. He bought Sally a baseball glove and played catch with her. He sawed off a baseball bat and showed her how to hit. He threw pitches to Sally for hours in the backyard.

Sally listened to Dodger baseball games on the radio with her father and grandfather. After Sally learned to read, she started collecting Dodger players' baseball cards. Her grandfather taught her how to keep track of a game on a scorecard. Her father showed Sally how to read the newspaper box scores.

Sally learned the batting averages of every Dodger player. She memorized the earned run averages of every Dodger pitcher. One of her favorite players was Maury Wills, the great Dodger shortstop from 1959 to 1966. Sally would look up the stats in the newspaper and say, "Grandpa, Maury Wills has 63 hits, and he has batted 242 times this year."

Her grandfather would sit with his arm around Sally and say, "Okay, now divide at bats by hits."

"Grandpa! Maury Wills' batting average is 260!" Sally dreamed of playing shortstop for the Dodgers.

Sally called her father Daddy her whole life. When Sally was a little girl, she went everywhere with him. On weekends they would go to his office at Santa Monica City College. Sally would read in a chair while her father worked at his desk. Sometimes after school, Sally and her father went down onto the field to watch UCLA football practice. Sally's father earned this privilege because he helped student-athletes transfer from Santa Monica City College to UCLA. While Sally's father talked with some of the players and coaches, Sally soaked up the game. They attended UCLA track meets and UCLA basketball home games. Now and then, Dale invited one of the basketball players over for dinner. Sally would open the front door and there might be six-foot-eight-inch Sydney Wicks smiling down at her. Joyce might prepare a big salad and tuna casserole. Everyone sat around the dining room table eating and talking.

For several summers, the Ride family would drive to the San Bernardino Mountains on vacation. They'd rent a cabin by Lake Gregory, where Sally and Bear learned how to fish, water ski, and row a boat.

In 1960, when Sally was nine, the Ride family decided to spend a year in Europe. Dale took a one-year sabbatical from Santa Monica City College. The Rides sold their house and furniture in Van Nuys and banked the money for when they returned home.

Spending a year in Europe meant that Sally would miss fourth grade and Bear would miss second grade. Dale and Joyce thought they would learn plenty from their travels. The principal of the girls' elementary school agreed. Visiting different countries, learning about different cultures, and eating different foods would be great learning experiences.

Dale and Joyce planned the trip. They put a world map on a wall in the breakfast room. Sally and Bear traced their trip with a black marker. They stuck pins in the cities they would visit: Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, London, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, and Oslo.

In the summer of 1960, the Ride family flew to New York City and boarded a ship called the SS Rotterdam for the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was like a floating neighborhood. Sally and Bear made friends with the other kids. They ran up and down the narrow metal stairs leading to the open-air decks. They raced around and around the hardwood decks. They snuck into every nook and cranny looking for adventure. On the top deck, they played Ping-Pong and a new game, shuffleboard.

Dinner was a problem. Sally and Bear had to wash up and wear dresses. They sat at elegant tables with fine china and linens. They ate unfamiliar dishes like supreme of halibut mousseline, creamed endives, and compote with pears. "Where are the hamburgers?" Bear and Sally whispered to each other.

After ten days at sea, the ship docked in the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Joyce and the girls stayed with friends while Dale took a train to Bremen, Germany, to pick up their new station wagon, a Borgward. They named their new car Borgy.

The Ride family drove all over Europe in Borgy. They visited museums and historic places, they saw friends in France and Italy, and they stayed with relatives in England and Norway. In Norway, Uncle Lars taught them how to snow ski. In Copenhagen, they bought Danish teak furniture.

When the family visited St. Mark's Square in Venice, Sally put a huge handful of seeds in the hood of Bear's jacket. Dozens of pigeons landed on Bear's head and back. Sally started calling her little sister "Pigeonhead."

As the Ride family drove from place to place in Europe, Sally was the navigator. Her mother showed her how to read a map. Her father taught her how to use the math formula: distance = speed x time. He explained to Sally that if she knew two of the three numbers, she could figure out the missing number. Sally loved knowing this. She would find the distance on the map, from, say, Malaga to Barcelona, Spain, carefully write down the formula, and do the math to find how long it would take the family to reach their destination.

Still, Sally was desperate to get Dodger baseball scores. Her grandfather would mail them to her from time to time.

Sally's mother wanted the girls to keep journals about their adventures in Europe, but they were too busy having fun to write very much. This did not go unnoticed by Joyce. She suggested that Sally and Bear start stamp collections. Everywhere they went the family bought stamps. Sally collected Olympic stamps. Bear collected stamps of animals.

After almost a year away from home, the Ride family drove back to Amsterdam and boarded the SS Rotterdam for their long trip home. They shipped Borgy and their new teak furniture back to California with them.


I swear on a stack of tennis rackets ...

In the spring of 1961, the Ride family returned home from Europe. They bought a ranch-style house on a cul-de-sac in Encino, California — a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley east of the Santa Monica Mountains. They furnished it with their new Danish teak chairs, tables, couches, and lamps. Joyce planted rose bushes in a sunny patch of the front yard. Orange trees and lemon trees lined the lawn next to the fence in the backyard. Dale drove Borgy to work. That fall, Bear began third grade and Sally started sixth grade at a new school. Sally skipped fifth grade because she tested ahead of her age group in reading and math.

One February day during sixth grade, Sally's science teacher wheeled one of the school's black-and-white TV sets into the classroom to see astronaut John Glenn blast into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Launch minus 10 seconds ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... The computers checked the rocket engine. 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... The rocket lit! Blastoff! The rocket leaped off the launch pad in a trail of fire. Clouds of steam billowed behind. The class watched as John Glenn became the first person to go into orbit around our planet. After the launch, Sally noticed that she was clenching her fists. Her hands were clammy. Sally wiped her hands down the front of her skirt and then slid her desk back to its usual place.

Sally's parents gave her a chemistry set so she could do simple experiments, and bought a subscription to Scientific American magazine. Sally would read it from cover to cover. She would stare at the illustrations for hours.

Later in sixth grade, Sally made a model of an atom out of Styrofoam balls and wire. When she was done she couldn't stop staring at her atom. Sally was amazed by what her teacher had told the class: "Atoms are so tiny we can't see them with our eyes. But everything in the universe is made out of atoms — the moon and stars, but also you and me, mountains and trees, houses and cars." Sally was fascinated. She tried to make sense of what she was learning ... the universe is too large to imagine; atoms are too little to see. Sally felt on fire to learn more.

One weekend, Joyce steered the Borgward into the garage and called out to Sally and Bear, "Come help me with the groceries."

When the girls walked into the garage — surprise! There was a collie cowering in a corner. Shortly after the family moved into their new home, Joyce saw an ad in the newspaper — collie needs home. She called the telephone number in the ad and arranged to pick up the one-year-old dog.

"Come here little girl," Sally said gently to the frightened dog. Bear and Sally urged the collie into the house with treats.

Because Lassie was a popular TV show at the time, Bear wanted to name their new dog Lassie. Sally didn't like the idea. Joyce reminded the girls of Tsigo, a dog they played with in Europe. At an inn in the former Yugoslavia, they saw a family throwing snowballs to a black Labrador retriever named Tsigo. He would race after the snowballs, catch them in his mouth, and then gently carry them back intact. Sally and Bear were thrilled with this trick and joined in the game. The sisters agreed to name their new dog Tsigane, the feminine form of Tsigo, which means gypsy.

Sally loved to play sports. She loved to move. On warm summer days she played baseball at the end of the street with the boys on the block. She played golf with her Grandpa Andy on the course behind her grandparents' house. Sally loved to run, skip, and jump. She loved to throw a baseball, catch a football, and swing a golf club.

One day, Sally was playing catch with some girls on the playground at school. A group of boys watched. One of the boys walked over to Sally and snickered, "Girls aren't supposed to throw a ball the way you do. What a tomboy!"

"I'm not a tomboy! I'm a girl!" Sally replied. Her feelings were hurt. She didn't understand why the boy was being mean to her — just because she could throw a ball well. Sally was used to the boys in her neighborhood. They liked it that she was a good athlete; they picked her for their teams.

Although Sally wasn't very tall or strong, she had nimble hands, quick feet, and an analytical mind. These made her a good athlete.

When Sally was about ten years old, her mother showed her how to play tennis. Soon Sally was playing junior tennis tournaments almost every weekend. She was speedy around the court. When Sally's opponent hit a ball too short, Sally liked to return it deep, race to the net, and then smack a volley for a winner.

The Ride family went to church every Sunday. Once Sally started playing tennis, though, she was allowed to stop going. Instead, Sally's father drove her to tennis tournaments all over Southern California — from Santa Barbara to San Diego. He loved to watch her play and talk with the other tennis parents. Sally could tell when her father was nervous watching her play a close match. He would cross one leg over the other and just about shake his foot off.

Joyce and Bear kept going to church. Like her mother, Bear loved being involved in church activities — from listening to sermons to going to socials to doing community work.

In the summer of 1962, Sally took her first tennis lessons. They were small group lessons with a few other girls and boys. Sally also took a few private tennis lessons from Alice Marble, the famous tennis champion of the 1930s. No one knows exactly what happened, but for some reason Alice and Sally rubbed each other the wrong way. Many years later in a newspaper article, Alice said of Sally, "She had a lot of athletic ability. But she seemed so frustrated by it. She would hit me with the tennis ball. I had to duck like crazy. It wasn't that she mis-hit the ball. She had perfect aim. She was doing it."

As Sally grew up, she discovered that she loved science. She loved to know things.

Moonlight is really sunlight bouncing off the moon's surface.

Atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.

Sally's parents bought her a small telescope. In the evening, she would set it on a table in the backyard and look at the moon. Sally saw the craters in the lunar highlands and the dark splotches of frozen lava called lunar maria. She wondered, What would it be like to stand on the moon?

When it was completely dark, Sally would look up at the night sky without her telescope. There was Venus below the crescent moon. There was Jupiter higher up in the sky. And there was Orion, her favorite constellation. With a big grin on her face, she would trace the twinkling stars in Orion's belt with her finger and then go back inside the house to do her homework.

Sally's teachers liked it that she was a smart girl. But maybe more, they liked it that she was eager to learn. When a natural interest or an inspiring teacher motivated Sally, she would study like crazy. The more she knew, the more she wanted to learn.

Sally played doubles in tennis with Whitney Grant. Sally and Whitney were not cutthroat competitors like some of the other girls and boys on the junior tennis circuit. They enjoyed the competition, but they were easygoing about the outcome. Whitney and Sally came up with their own hand signals. Together they made manuals and bound them with pink ribbon. On the last page of the manuals they wrote:

I swear on a stack of tennis rackets to keep our hand signals a secret. If I break this promise, I will eat this book!

____Whitney Grant

____Sally Ride

In the summer of 1965, Whitney's father suggested to Dale that Sally apply to the elite Westlake School for Girls. Whitney went to school there, and Mr. Grant was recruiting for the high school tennis team. Westlake was a private school with a good reputation, and only fifteen students in each class. Sally applied to Westlake and received a half scholarship to play on the tennis team. Dale taught civics at Westlake to pay for the rest of Sally's tuition in trade, on top of his community college teaching job. He later did the same thing for Bear.

Sally's best friend in high school was Sue Okie. They both had scholarships and carpooled together, one hour from the San Fernando Valley where they lived, to their school in Beverly Hills. Both Sue and Sally felt a little out of place among some of their classmates — the daughters of famous actors and wealthy business tycoons. The friends both liked science and were in most of the same classes together.

Sally didn't have much patience for English class. When her eleventh-grade English teacher, Miss Bredlow, said something that Sally thought was silly, she would look at Sue and smirk. At least once her teacher caught Sally with that expression on her face and yelled at her. Sally wasn't flustered. Then during twelfth grade, Sally and Sue had Mrs. Schulmeister for English. She also gave a weekly seminar in the evening for a select group of students, including Sue and Sally. In seminar, the students read Sartre's Nausea and Camus' The Plague. Sally didn't say much in class or seminar, but she and Sue thought their teacher was brilliant. They also thought that — unlike Miss Bredlow — she was a little scary. One time, Mrs. Schulmeister caught Sally smirking or rolling her eyes or not putting in much effort in class, and she publicly humiliated her. "Sally, I see that our discussion of Ovid is of no interest to you. Please tell us why the poet's early life and transformation from privileged child to epic poet bores you," Mrs. Schulmeister said with icy disapproval. Sally was horrified — everyone was staring at her! No one spoke or moved; the classroom was dead silent. Sally tried to control herself, but she couldn't. She burst out of her desk chair and ran out of class. Sue followed her. She found Sally standing in the hall with her head down, trying hard not to cry. Sue had never seen Sally so upset.


Excerpted from Sally Ride by Tam O'Shaughnessy. Copyright © 2015 Tam O'Shaughnessy. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
1: No!,
2: I swear on a stack of tennis rackets ...,
3: Physics explains everything!,
4: What do astronauts do?,
5: That's the way to keep kids hooked on science!,
Cast of Characters,
Timeline of Sally Ride's Life,
Photo Credits,
About the Author,

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