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Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge
illus. by Rachel Dougherty. 40p. photos. Roaring Brook. Feb. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250155320.
COPY ISBN
Gr 1–4-Dougherty's latest is a celebration of Emily Warren Roebling, the unsung female engineer behind the Brooklyn Bridge's construction. After marrying Washington Roebling, Emily finds herself wrapped up in her father-in-law John's plans to build a bridge to link Manhattan and Brooklyn. Washington is sent to Europe to learn about new technology for building bridges: the caisson. Emily insists that she go with him. Before their new knowledge can be put to use, John dies and leaves Washington in charge. When Washington later falls ill due to "caisson sickness" (i.e., the bends), Emily steps into the role of chief engineer—a role she carries for more than 10 years. Initially, she serves as a go-between from her husband to the workers. As Emily studies and learns, she comes into her own as an engineer and carries the project to completion in 1883. The book deftly balances information about the Brooklyn Bridge and bridge building with Emily's compelling story. Dougherty's colorful illustrations track the narrative through a mix of vignettes surrounded by white space and scenic double-page spreads. One notable page includes thumbnail sidebars of the step-by-step process of laying caissons. Endpapers depict blueprint schematics alongside photographs of the bridge throughout history, drawing readers into the design process. Fitting typographical choices expertly exemplify Emily's skills as engineering terms become progressively integrated into the illustrations.
VERDICT Emily's mostly self-taught engineering prowess is nothing short of inspirational. An excellent choice for libraries looking to strengthen picture book biography collections about women in STEM.-Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR

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