By Raquel Reichard
The beloved bilingual children’s book series Lil’ Libros announced the subject of its latest storybook, and we’re probably (read: definitely!) more excited than the babies the series targets: It’s Dr. Ellen Ochoa.
A veteran astronaut, Ochoa was the first Latina to ever travel to space. In 1993, she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She’d journey beyond our planet four more times, including on the STS-66, STS-96 and STS-110. In total, the Mexican-American history-maker logged nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.
On Thursday, Patty Rodriguez, who co-founded Lil’ Libros five years ago with her best friend Ariana Stein, excitedly dropped the news on Instagram.
“‘The Solar System with/ El sistema solar con Ellen’ [is] a bilingual book that will celebrate the journey of a trailblazer. A book in English and Spanish that I hope inspires all our children to know that no dream is too big. Proof that we can touch the stars,” she wrote in a caption on a slideshow of Ochoa and of the cover of the book.
“My voice was shaking and my heart beating so fast,” she said of their encounter.
Rodriguez and Stein launched the Los Angeles-based publishing company in 2014. Since then, they have released more than 15 Spanish-English board books that teach numbers, letters, shapes and words in English and Spanish. One of its most popular sellers are its biographical installments, which include “The Life of Selena (La vida de Selena)” and “The Life of Celia” (La vida de Celia),” among others.
“At Lil’ Libros, the mission is … to elevate our stories and voices. And thanks to you we have been able to create beautiful books that celebrate who we are and our contributions,” Rodriguez added in the post.
The book, which does not have a release date yet, shows a youthful Ochoa proudly standing in her orange space suit, holding onto her helmet, among a starry night.
“This image of her brings me so much pride and joy. Dr. Ellen Ochoa, in her space suit and the American flag. Just wow,” Rodriguez said.
Ochoa, who was also the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center, and its first-ever Latinx leader, is a brilliant barrier-breaker, and soon the babies in our lives will learn about her life and legacy through the illustrated, bilingual book — that is, if we don’t keep it for ourselves.
Rodriguez also noted how thrilled she was to have interviewed Ochoa, a fellow Latina from Los Angeles, for the book.