Women in STEM

New books about women in STEM feature inventors, architects, naturalists, and computer and space scientists.

There’s been an explosion of books about women in STEM featuring computer and space scientists, inventors, architects, and naturalists. Both science and literacy classrooms will want these titles, including the several on Katherine Johnson, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Ada Lovelace. Together they provide an opportunity to study an author’s approach to a subject and for classroom differentiation.

AHMED, Roda. Mae Among the Stars. illus. by Stasia Burrington. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062651730.
K-Gr 2–Born in Alabama, Mae Jemison dreamed of going to space. When she grew up, she attained a degree in chemical engineering before finishing medical school in the 1980s. After a stint in the Peace Corps, Jemison wasn’t content with just being an engineer or doctor—she satisfied her love of the stars by becoming an astronaut—the first African American female astronaut and the first African American woman in space. Ahmed and Burrington have created a love letter to Jemison with this appealing picture book biography. The recurring line, “If you can dream it, if you believe in it, and work hard for it, anything is possible” is a chorus sure to resonate with children. The emphasis on Jemison’s lifelong passion for space science will inspire readers to have confidence in the trajectory of their own interests. Burrington’s bright, kid-friendly illustrations were created with ink and Adobe Photoshop. An epilogue provides the dates and details of Jemison’s life and career. VERDICT A starry addition to picture book biography collections.–Deidre ­Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL


redstar BARDOE, Cheryl. Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain. illus. by Barbara McClintock. 40p. bibliog. further reading. Little, Brown. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316278201.
Gr 1-3–An illuminating look into the life and work of Sophie Germain, a self-taught mathematician, who was the first woman to win a prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences. Bardoe’s prose injects the title refrain often as the story unfolds. Germain, who came of age during the French Revolution, studied math despite her parents’ wishes. Women were not allowed to attend university, but she secretly got notes from math classes and sent in homework using a male name. She worked for six years on a theorem to predict patterns of vibration, and experienced rejection at least twice before her work was accepted. The artwork—created with pen and ink, watercolor, and collage—is truly a sight to behold. McClintock depicts Germain’s inner thoughts, often numbers and equations, surrounding her and at times isolating her from others. This makes the penultimate spread of Germain’s prize-winning equation extending from her person and wrapping around the male scholars, even more triumphant in comparison. Extended back matter includes more about Germain’s life, recommendations for further research and activities, a selected bibliography, an author’s note, and an illustrator’s note. VERDICT Excellent illustrations elevate the inspiring prose, making it a highly recommended choice to the growing shelf of picture book biographies featuring women in STEM.–Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library


BECKER, Helaine. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. illus. by Dow Phumiruk. 40p. bibliog. Holt. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250137524.
Gr 1-3–Featuring engaging text and captivating illustrations, this picture book introduces the amazing life of mathematician Katherine Johnson to young readers. Becker captures the drive and determination of Johnson through well-written text and a few puns; for instance, the phrase “You can count on me” is repeated by Johnson and once by her father. The narrative details both Johnson’s joyful childhood and her fury at segregated public schools; however, in discussing the challenges Johnson faced at NASA, Becker mainly focuses on sexism. The text doesn’t mention segregation at NASA, but it is portrayed in the illustrations. Becker compellingly conveys Johnson’s reputation for accuracy and her ­critical ­leadership role supporting many NASA programs, including Friendship 7, Apollo 11, Apollo 12, and Apollo 13. John Glenn would not fly until Johnson had signed off on the numbers for his trip. Phumiruk’s renderings help to elucidate scientific principles and bring the story to life. In addition, the images of blackboards teeming with mathematical equations that appear on the endpapers add to the book’s appeal. The work concludes with additional in-depth information about Johnson’s life along with a list of sources. VERDICT Sure to inspire a new generation of mathematicians. A solid addition to biography collections.–Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA


redstar BURLEIGH, Robert. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor. illus. by Raúl Colón. 40p. bibliog. ebook available. glossary. websites. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481416009. LC 2014010158.
Gr 2-4–In this excellent biography of scientist Marie Tharp, Burleigh, writing in the first person, allows this adept geologist and oceanographic cartographer to tell her own story. Map lover Tharp became one of the 20th century’s most important scientists, despite working in a field that greatly favored men. With fellow geologist Bruce Heezen, she mapped the world’s oceans. Colón’s signature softly hued, textured watercolors greatly enhance the text. One image depicts a research ship in the water upon which scientists took measurements called soundings to chart the ocean’s depth. The writing is accessible and immediate, and though Burleigh acknowledges that Tharp was a woman working in a man’s field, he casts her story in a happy light. A biographical page is appended, as well as thorough back matter. VERDICT A finely told, beautifully illustrated biography that saves a world class scientist from obscurity.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI


DEMI. Marie Curie. illus. by Demi. 40p. chron. further reading. glossary. Holt. Feb. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781627793896.
Gr 1-3–An elegant, fact-filled picture book biography of Marie Curie. The iconic scientist’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination emerge as standout qualities in the narrative. Many pages contain only a hint of important historical events, such as the telling of the Russian occupation of Warsaw, which may inspire young researchers to probe for more details and for teachers to pose critical thinking questions. Demi’s distinctive art style shines, beginning with the attractive turquoise-and-gold cover illustration. Using watercolor and mixed media, Demi includes very fine details to illustrate the lab equipment; but more noticeable are the Eastern European–inspired patterns in the clothing and carpets. Teachers could easily use this as an introduction to the genre of biography or the study of famous scientists. VERDICT A welcome and well-written picture book version of Marie Curie’s life.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID


KEATING, Jess. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist. illus. by Marta Álvarez Miguéns. 40p. bibliog. chron. Sourcebooks. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492642046.
Gr 1-4–Eugenie Clark (1922–2015) dedicated her life to studying zoology. A professor and a writer who was fascinated with sharks, she emphasized that these animals were not mindless killers. As a result of her tireless work, much of the world realized that sharks needed to be better appreciated and protected. The book is filled with bright blues and greens. The illustrations, done in Adobe Photoshop, portray Clark first as an inquisitive child and later as a tenacious scientist and a deep-sea diver. The aquatic creatures, drawn with big doe eyes, are depicted as friendly, happy creatures. Back matter includes additional information in a section titled “Shark Bites.” VERDICT A fine way to introduce young children to science.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mount Carmel


KULLING, Monica. Dr. Jo: How Sara Josephine Baker Saved the Lives of America’s Children. illus. by Julianna Swaney. 32p. bibliog. websites. Tundra. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101917893.
Gr 1-3–As a female doctor in the early 20th century, Sara Josephine Baker faced significant obstacles. Most medical schools at the time didn’t accept women and it was tough to find patients as one. However, as a health inspector for New York City, “Dr. Jo” provided public health education and stemmed the spread of infection and disease, improving the mortality rates for women and children. Kulling has extensive experience writing children’s biographies, and her talent shines here. The text does not shy away from hard truths about the realities many children, especially ones living in poverty, faced in regards to health care. (“This baby, like many others, would die of heatstroke.”) Swaney’s artwork is a charming supplement to the story. The images successfully display tough subjects, such as sickness and tenement housing, in a way that is accessible for young readers without being too grim. Thoughtful details, such as a child hoop rolling and women wearing leg of mutton dress sleeves capture the spirit of time and place. VERDICT Use to demonstrate the lasting power of positive social change. A fine addition to picture book biography collections.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH


MARSH, Sarah Glenn. The Bug Girl: Maria Merian’s Scientific Vision. illus. by Filippo Vanzo. 32p. map. notes.Albert Whitman. Feb. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807592571.
Gr 1-3–In Frankfurt, Germany, in the 1650s, a young girl called Maria Merian explored her interest in insects, wandering the gardens observing bugs. Her passion was not shared by the town’s people, who believed that insects were nothing more than evil shape-shifters created by “spontaneous generation.” Nonetheless, Maria started collecting silkworms and their eggs, which she studied at home. Maria knew how to draw and paint watercolors as well, skills she learned from her stepfather. On her canvases, she documented her observations, sketching silkworms, larvae, mulberry leaves, and hatched silkworm eggs. The subject’s childhood passion inspired her to document her findings in artwork books that brought her recognition among scientists, collectors, and royalty; she was also acknowledged as the first woman entomologist. Marsh shows how Merian encouraged girls to pursue their interests despite societal standards. Vanzo’s illustrations include transformative depictions of nature based on digital images of Maria Merian Sibylla’s hand-colored engravings that takes readers back to the 17th and early 18th century. The comfortably large black text is organized through the pages, facilitating a storytime activity in a classroom or library setting for school-aged children. An author’s note offers engaging details of Maria Merian’s life. VERDICT A fresh and captivating offering for elementary science units on entomology.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA


redstar MCCULLY, Emily Arnold. Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer. 176p. appendix. glossary. notes. reprods. Candlewick. Mar. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763693565.
Gr 5-8–Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), daughter of poet Lord Bryon, was raised in privilege by her mother, married into an aristocratic, titled family, and received an outstanding education for a woman in the 19th-century. Always inquisitive and showing qualities of genius, Ada had the best tutors in mathematics and science. She met many important men of science, including inventor Charles Babbage. They worked together and produced concepts that presage computer programming. These concepts, as well as Babbage’s design of an analytical engine, were forerunners of today’s computers. Ada’s restless spirit, addiction to gambling, use of narcotics, and poor health plagued her in the last years of her life. She was never able to overcome the prejudice against women in science. For example, she wasn’t allowed to enter the building of the Royal Society nor borrow books from its library. This book is divided into five parts that chronicle Ada’s life. In addition to the strong supporting back matter, the use of citations is an outstanding feature of this volume. VERDICT An exceptional biography and an important addition for all STEM collections.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mt. Carmel


MOSCA, Julia Finley. The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath. illus. by Daniel Rieley. 40p. (Amazing Scientists: Bk. 2). bibliog. chron. further reading. photos. websites. The Innovation Press. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781943147311.
K-Gr 3–Dr. Patricia Bath is an ophthalmologist who broke down color and gender barriers. The founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, she worked to understand disparities in eye healthcare among races and invented a diagnostic laser. Growing up, she attended segregated schools and went on to become one of few female medical students at Howard University. She became a scientist, inventor, and researcher. Through clever verse, Mosca chronicles this remarkable woman’s life. Rieley’s cartoon artwork is bright and friendly. Adults may query the decision to depict a stork delivering Bath as a baby as it somewhat diminishes the factual basis of the story. Nevertheless, this shortcoming is outweighed by the charm. The rhyme scheme throughout works well and is sophisticated enough to maintain appeal for older students. The story is followed by excerpts from an interview with Bath as well as a time line of her life thus far and additional back matter that explains her research in more detail. VERDICT A pleasing addition to elementary school biography collections.–Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL


MOSCA, Julia Finley. The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague. illus. by Daniel Rieley. 40p. (Amazing Scientists). bibliog. chron. photos. Innovation Pr. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781943147427.
K-Gr 2–A picture book biography on the life and work of engineer and computer analyst Raye Montague. As with other titles in the series, Mosca tells the story of her subject’s inspiration, perseverance, and hard work in rhyming couplets. Shunted into a business degree when she had hoped to study engineering, Montague’s first job out of college was as a typist for the Navy. She observed closely, took night classes, and, one day when the entire white male engineering staff called out sick, seized the opportunity to demonstrate her mastery by completing their tasks as well as her own. In 1971, she used a computer program she had written to design a submarine, completing a task that had previously taken months in under one day. However, her contributions were not widely acknowledged for decades. Mosca calls out the systemic and interpersonal racism and sexism that threatened Montague’s career and credits Montague with the determination and genius needed to get the job done anyway. While the rhymes are somewhat forced in places, the overall tone and message, as well as Rieley’s appealing cartoonish illustrations, creates a positive, accessible portrait of an unsung hero of science. Back matter includes a letter from Montague to readers, a time line of Montague’s life, and a more detailed biographical sketch directed to older readers. VERDICT A solid addition to the picture book biography shelves and STEAM curricula for young readers.–Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA


POMEROY, Sarah B. & Jeyaraney Kathirithamby. Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer. 96p. bibliog. glossary. index. photos. reprods. Getty. Mar. 2018. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781947440012.
Gr 3-7–Maria Sibylla Merian worked at a time when women scientists were rare, photography had not yet been invented, the life cycle from a caterpillar to a butterfly was unknown, and Carl Linnaeus’s biological classification system was still years away. Merian observed the natural world, recorded her observations in detailed drawings, and even made the journey to Surinam to study local flora and fauna. Here, her story is told in chronological order, beginning with her artistic family in Frankfurt, Germany, and concluding with the legacy she left to future artists and scientists. Images—including portraits, scientific drawings by Merian and her colleagues, and photos of objects and places—are explained in detail. When exact specifics are unknown, likely possibilities are included and explained (“there are no written records of exactly what kind of ship she sailed on, but it is possible to learn about 17th-century Dutch shipping and make an educated guess”). Occasionally some spreads are confusingly laid out. Back matter is highlighted by a detailed bibliography and a section describing the methods used to research 17th-century women’s history. VERDICT A visually stunning, well-researched biography of a woman artist and scientist. Pair with Joyce Sidman’s The Girl Who Drew Butterflies.–Jill Ratzan, Temple B’nai Abraham, Bordentown, NJ


redstar RUBIN, Susan Goldman. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands. 112p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Chronicle. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452108377.
Gr 4-8–For many, Maya Lin’s name is synonymous with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This biography moves beyond that singular project to provide readers with a fuller picture of Lin. Born in the United States to Chinese parents and a “Class A nerd,” she never felt that she fit in until college. Rubin incorporates information about Lin’s life and family, while putting the primary focus of each chapter on a specific project. Lin’s thinking is outlined in each case, whether it is how to help people understand the civil rights movement (the Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AL) or how to raise hopes and spirits with her design for a chapel for the Children’s Defense Fund in Clinton, TN. Pages of large text alternate with black-and-white family photos and striking color images of her designs, both as they were taking shape, and upon completed construction. The spare writing style and the book’s uncluttered layout provide a reading experience as thoughtful and emotionally connected as one of Lin’s installations. The narrative represents the artist’s body of work from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to her current involvement with What Is Missing?, a project bringing attention to endangered species. VERDICT Thoughtfully written and visually engaging, this biography is a must for elementary and middle school libraries.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX


SHETTERLY, Margot Lee with Winifred Conkling. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. illus. by Laura Freeman. 40p. chron. diags. glossary. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062742469.
K-Gr 2–Shetterly introduces young readers to the inspirational and groundbreaking stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, and their once-hidden contributions to science, aeronautics, and space exploration. Shetterly expertly puts these women’s achievements in their historical context: segregation, blatant sexism and racism in the workplace, the civil rights movement, and the space race. Despite the challenges these women faced, they persisted, worked hard, and put a man on the moon. In this picture book take, the text, at times, reads a bit clinical and it’s occasionally difficult to distinguish one woman’s characteristics from another’s while reading. This is remedied with the handy time line of short profiles in the back matter. Freeman’s full-color illustrations are stunning and chock-full of details, incorporating diagrams, mathematical formulas, and space motifs throughout (including the women’s clothing and jewelry), enhancing the whole book. VERDICT An essential purchase for elementary school and public libraries.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate ­Institute, Brooklyn


redstar SIDMAN, Joyce. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science. 160p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. photos. reprods. websites. HMH. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544717138.
Gr 5-8–Under the tutelage of her stepfather, artist Jacob Marrel, young teen Maria Sibylla Merian developed her artistic talent and found ways to combine it with her interest and careful observation of caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. In Germany, the Netherlands, and Suriname, from about 1660 to 1710, Merian (some paintings use her married name of Graff) moved from more traditional “lady artist” subjects such as flowers, to depicting the life cycles and habitats of caterpillars, moths, butterflies, spiders, insects, and the natural struggle for survival. At a time when many believed in the spontaneous generation of flying insects, Merian’s meticulous observations allowed her to document that eggs became caterpillars which then transformed into butterflies or moths. Sidman starts each chapter with a verse, otherwise telling the story through narrative with ample photographs, etchings, maps, paintings, and reproductions of Merian’s botanical art throughout. In pages of boxed text, readers learn a bit about topics that influenced Merian’s life, such as printing processes, religion in the 1600s, and slavery in Suriname. The butterfly life cycle, from egg to maturity, was an endless source of inspiration, and is at the center of many of her paintings. The thorough back matter will aid in classroom use. VERDICT An excellent choice for young artists, budding scientists, fledgling entomologists, and fans of biography.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity ­Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX


SLADE, Suzanne. A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon. illus. by Veronica Miller Jamison. 40p. bibliog. chron. photos. Little, Brown. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316435178.
K-Gr 3–Even as a child, Katherine Johnson loved numbers. She skipped through school, took a job as part of a team of number crunchers called “calculators,” and helped figure out the trajectory of early space flights of the 1960s, even after machine computing became a part of the process. This retelling of Johnson’s achievements focuses on her path as a black female mathematician. The book devotes a spread to the civil rights struggle, illustrating how people were divided about school integration; it also shows that many disagreed about whether women should work at jobs traditionally held by men. Jamison stresses how Johnson’s talent for math broke both barriers. Covering much of the same ground as Helaine Becker’s Counting on Katherine, the text is relatively straightforward and accessible even to listeners not yet ready for the inclusion of incorrect math problems, such as “25 ÷ 5 = 4,” used as examples of how wrong some people’s assumptions were. First-time illustrator Jamison relies on ink, watercolor, marker, and colored pencil to create spreads that emphasize math concepts. Often there’s a faint background of the geometric images and equations shown on the end papers. Back matter includes author and artist notes about their personal connection to the subject, quotes from Johnson herself, and sources and credits. VERDICT Another appealing picture book biography of a successful woman; a strong choice for most collections.–Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD


STONE, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace. illus. by Marjorie Priceman. 40p. bibliog. notes. Holt. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781627792998.
Gr 3-5–Joining the growing collection of biographies highlighting women in STEM careers, this charming, informative picture book provides young readers with a brief, lively introduction to Ada Byron Lovelace, whose interests and complex ideas were ahead of her 19th century reality. Lovelace was the child of gifted but scandalous English poet, Lord Byron, and his high society, mathematician wife. When Lord Byron abandoned the family, Lovelace’s determined, educated mother made sure the child was well-tutored in science, math and social norms rather than imagination and fancy. But, Lovelace’s creativity and passion were irrepressible. She befriended polymath, Charles Babbage, whose inventions intrigued her. Babbage envisioned an Analytical Engine, modeled on the Jacquard Loom for textiles, using punch cards for processing numbers instead of threads. Lovelace devised additional Analytic Engine algorithms that could also create pictures and music, “just as computers do today!” An addendum provides more historical details on Lovelace’s marriage, her fragile health, her connection with leading scientists of the time, her long friendship with Babbage, and her name changes. On every page, the gouache and India ink artwork offers a vivid, energetic depiction of people, events, and swirling ideas. The art meshes smoothly with the conversational storytelling, capturing the exuberance, elegance, and giftedness of this exceptional woman. VERDICT This appealing picture book will spark immense pride and prompt readers to do their own investigations into the world of mathematics and computers.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC


THIMMESH, Catherine. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. rev. ed. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 112p. bibliog. chron. glossary. index. HMH. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328772534; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780618195633.
Gr 4-8–This updated edition of the 2000 collective biography showcases greater diversity in its representation of women inventors. Each chapter focuses on challenging problems that spark creative solutions that have changed, or promise to change, the world. Most of the subjects from the original are retained, now balanced with women of color and women from outside the United States. New profiles include Alissa Chavez, a Latinx teen who invented the Hot Seat to prevent infant deaths in hot cars; Azza Abdelhamid Faiad, an Egyptian teen who devised a method of turning recycled plastic into fuel; and Kiara Nirghin, a South African teen who came up with a way to fight drought using the absorbency of orange peels. Thimmesh profiles young inventors who are trying to solve contemporary problems,with creations that rely on modern technology. Many of them raise capital for their projects via crowdfunding, which will likely inspire readers. Expanded resources for aspiring scientists and a time line that emphasizes more recent inventions are welcome changes. Tweaks to the original artwork and additions in the same collage style are fun and creative. In a growing marketplace of works about women transforming the world, this title holds its own. VERDICT Update shelves with this revised version, and add to any library needing more titles about women in STEM.–Alex Graves, Manchester City Library, NH


redstar VALDEZ, Patricia. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles. illus. by Felicita Sala. 40p. bibliog. photos. Knopf. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399557255.
K-Gr 3–Joan Procter, the subject of this biographical picture book, was an internationally recognized herpetologist in the early 20th century and the curator of reptiles at the British Natural History Museum. This excellent biography presents an inspirational story of a smart, dedicated female scientist. It will be an important addition to the list of newer books for children featuring the work of women in STEM fields. The story adroitly communicates Procter’s determination, curiosity, and complete fascination with reptiles. Throughout the text there are many opportunities for vocabulary building, especially in regards to reptiles. Sala’s vibrant artwork perfectly complements the narrative. A variety of techniques in backgrounds, word placements, and the use of black silhouettes provide depth to the pages and present readers with a variety of viewpoints. The ever-present reptiles will be the star attraction for most children, but the colorful tropical plants add atmosphere and really evoke the Reptile House. Following the story, the author includes additional biographical information on Procter, scientific details on Komodo Dragons, and a bibliography with primary and secondary sources. VERDICT An inspirational biography with exciting depictions of a variety of reptiles, including a pet Komodo dragon, that will keep any child interested—whether reading on their own or with a group. A first purchase for most libraries.–Theresa Muraski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Library


redstar WALLMARK, Laurie. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. illus. by April Chu. 40p. bibliog. chron. Creston. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781939547200.
Gr 1-4–This well-written and handsomely illustrated picture book biography details how Ada Lovelace Byron was able to write the first computer program more than 100 years before the first computer was built. Ever since she was a young girl, Lovelace was fascinated by numbers. As she was growing up, she filled her journals with ideas for inventions and equations. Her mother provided tutors to further develop Lovelace’s passion for mathematics. When one of these tutors invited Lovelace and her mother to a gathering of scientists, she met the famous mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage. He was so impressed by Lovelace’s knowledge that he invited her to his laboratory, where she learned about his idea for an Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer that would solve difficult problems by working them through step-by-step. She realized that this “computer” would only work if it were provided with detailed instructions, and after much work, she succeeded in writing what is now referred to as the first computer program and in creating the profession of computer programming. The descriptive text and dazzling spreads work seamlessly to provide a sense of Lovelace’s growing passion for mathematics and invention. The illustrations reflect the 19th-century setting and contain numerous supporting details. For example, gears that will eventually become part of the design of the Analytic Engine are featured throughout: in the corners of the title page, on the pages of Ada’s journals, and on Babbage’s chalkboard. VERDICT An excellent addition to STEM collections.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York


WALLMARK, Laurie. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code. illus. by Katy Wu. 48p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Sterling. May 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454920007.
Gr 2-4–Grace Hopper (née Murray), a girl with a keen mind and a determined attitude, grows up to become the “queen of computer code.” Wallmark shares incidents and stories from the scientist’s remarkable life that illustrate “Grace being Grace,” and with these anecdotes, the author paints an engaging portrait of a unique woman in this bright and informative biography. At age seven, Hopper dismantled several clocks in her house to find out what made them tick. Finishing high school two years early, she overcame difficulties with Latin before she was admitted to Vassar College. Convinced she could make a difference to the war effort, Hopper enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and embarked on a lifelong military career writing computer programs. After finding a moth trapped inside a navy computer, she coined the phrase computer bug. Colorful and crisp digital illustrations accompany the text. The vibrant palette and straightforward composition are eye-catching, and Hopper’s curiosity, love of learning, and ambition shine through in her expressive features. Be sure to examine the endpapers, which offer supplemental information. VERDICT Inquisitive readers who, like Hopper, “want to understand how things work” will appreciate this upbeat biography of a woman who was ahead of her time. A sound purchase for most collections.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston


WALLMARK, Laurie. Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor. illus. by Katy Wu. 48p. bibliog. chron. filmog. further reading. Sterling. Feb. 2019. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454926917.
K-Gr 4–This picture book biography introduces young readers to the Hollywood legend famous for her beauty and the many hit movies in which she starred throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and her passion for science and technology. Lamarr’s zeal is conveyed superbly. Growing up in Austria in the 1920s, she wanted to understand how things worked. She took apart her toys to study their mechanisms and, during long walks with her father, explored subjects ranging from streetcars to the night sky. She also reenacted her favorite scenes from movies on a stage she built beneath her father’s desk. Wallmark brings Lamarr to life by including quotes from her subject. During World War II, Lamarr worked with another inventor on technology called frequency hopping, which is still in use today and allows users to send and receive secure cell phone messages and protect computers from hackers. The back matter includes a spread detailing frequency-hopping in more depth. Vibrant digital artwork expands upon the text by showcasing a handful of Lamarr’s other inventions and using period details to convey the golden era of Hollywood. VERDICT A must for both school and public libraries, especially where collections are looking to increase their STEM holdings and round out biography collections with women working in science.–­Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County


WINTER, Jeanette. The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid. illus. by Jeanette Winter. 56p. bibliog. S. & S./Beach Lane. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481446693.
Gr 1-5–Even as a child, Zaha Hadid was fascinated by the landscapes and ruins of her native Iraq, seeing patterns in them she later repeated in her urban designs. Her unusual ideas prompted her to study architecture in London and eventually open Studio 9, an office in which she and her colleagues designed unconventional buildings that epitomized her mantra, “The world is not a rectangle.” Despite criticism and setbacks, Hadid’s belief in the impossible led to commissions to design a museum, an opera house, a stadium, and even a ski jump, which incorporated their surrounding landscapes into the core of their structures. When she died in 2016, Hadid had the distinction of being the only woman to receive both the Pritzker Prize and the Royal Gold Medal for her inventive sense of design. From its catchy title to the clear depiction of its extraordinary subject, this book will appeal to elementary students, particularly those craving daring role models. The simple text flows as easily as Hadid’s ideas, and Winter’s painterly acrylic illustrations are its perfect complement, bringing to life a rather stern artist intent on realizing her artistic visions against all odds. Art teachers can use the endpapers’ portrayals of Hadid’s unusual structures to help students create their own landscape-inspired designs, and mention of her Iraqi heritage could prompt discussions on global artists. VERDICT Ripe with ties to curricula, this is a great choice for art and ­biography collections.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence

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