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Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

Creston. Mar. 2020. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781939547637.
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Gr 3-6–Wallmark’s picture book biography profiles Russian mathematician Sophie Kowalevski (1850–1891). Born at a time when many universities would not accept women as students, she became the first woman to earn a doctorate for original research in mathematics. She later became a professor and earned the prestigious Bordin prize. Her perseverance and thirst for knowledge is stressed throughout the narrative. Kowalevski displayed a precocious childhood fascination with math, which followed her into adulthood. She was determined to learn advanced mathematics even when denied credit for her work, and she took on the challenge of the “spinning top problem,” which took many years to solve. The watercolor and collage-style illustrations, rendered in shades of green and gold, feature handwritten equations and pages of mathematical text. The expressive faces and gestures convey the many emotional aspects of Kowalevski’s journey. While the book is beautifully designed overall, the small and densely set typeface will likely make it less accessible to children. Despite this flaw, the book deserves a place on shelves as it highlights the story of a pioneering woman in the STEM fields.
VERDICT A celebration of perseverance in the face of adversity and a strong addition to all youth biography collections.

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