Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future

Disney-Hyperion. Oct. 2019. 64p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368011051.
Gr 1-3–In January of 1942, a classified ad appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper seeking women mathematicians to aid the war effort by calculating weapon trajectories. Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty proved to have exceptional problem-solving skills. They were invited to a secret lab at the University of Pennsylvania to figure out a way to tell the world’s largest computer, the ENIAC, how to conduct specific calculations. Initially, the women were not allowed to see it; still, they worked tirelessly to determine a way to translate the logic of mathematics into a code the machine could understand. The day before the computer was to be unveiled to important dignitaries, the women discovered that ENIAC spits out incorrect answers. Working through the night, Betty fell asleep and found a solution in a dream. Within the story, we learn that all of the women went on to design important innovations in computer programming. The back matter adds information about each woman’s contributions. Beck’s illustrations are executed with simple, clean lines that artfully represent the myriad expressions on the women’s faces as they tackle complex problems, experience satisfaction, and show determination. Some pages are in color; others are in shades of black and white. Each woman is featured with her own distinctive color. The narrative consists of short, carefully laid out words, sentences, and stanza-like paragraphs reminiscent of free verse poetry.
VERDICT An important and motivating contribution for young readers about women pioneers in STEM.

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