There is a strong movement to encourage young girls to pursue careers in science and technology. While we are pushing our next generation of great thinkers, some picture book authors are putting together absolutely brilliant biographies of women who were ahead of their time and who made great advances in their individual fields. One of the books in this category is The Shark Lady – The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns. (June 2017, Sourebooks).
From a very young age, Eugenie Clark was fascinated with sharks. She longed to swim with them and see the world through their eyes. She also wanted to show people that they were beautiful. Eugenie read book after book on sharks and filled many notebooks. Continue reading →
Ada Marie Twist, named after Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, is a precocious little girl who doesn’t speak until she is 3 when she comes right out with full sentences. I actually grew up with a young boy like that, and it is amazing how some children just observe the world around them and hold off on speaking until they really have something to say. For Ada Marie, she had a scientific mind from an early age and when she started talking, it was to ask “Why” everything around her worked the way that it did.
With brilliant rhymes that keep the story flowing in a sing-song manner, Ada discovers the world around her. When she is confronted by a horrific smell one day, which happens to come from her brother’s sweaty socks, she feels a compelling need to understand what the source of the smell was and how our sense of smell even worked. “A mystery! A riddle! A puzzle! A quest! This was the moment that Ada loved best.” Whether working through the problem by experimenting on things around her or writing out questions that led to other questions and possibilities, Ada scientifically explores the things that intrigue her.
This books is loved in our house by our soon to be 6 year old as well as our 9 year old. Heck, this 40-something momma loves it! This book champions girl power and exploration. It supports women in scientific roles. It supports the idea of never giving up and finding new ways to problem solve. Many also love the fact that Ada is a girl of color. Ada may never find the source of the stink, but her family supports her efforts and she continues to discover new things. Whatever your reasons for loving it, this is a book to be enjoyed over and over again!
As the mom of two girls, finding things to encourage them to persevere regardless of the challenges they face is incredibly important. When children are in school they learn all about the famous inventors Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin and so on. Very few students today can name female inventors, but they do exist. Last month was International Women’s Day and much was said about the fact that while we are encouraging our kids to be inventors and scientists, they still don’t get to see a lot of women in history who stepped outside of the box.
Of course, we have found a slew of books on this subject, but I know that I’m not exactly normal when it comes to finding kids books, so for anyone looking for ways to encourage the dreamer in your daughter, take a look at these and check out the post I wrote a year ago encouraged by the same event.
Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty could quite possibly be one of my favorite books. This is the story of Rosie Revere who dreamed of becoming a great engineer. “Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration.” Rosie loves to invent things, but after an uncle laughed at one of her inventions, she became afraid to show anyone anything. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions a life-long dream of flying, Rosie sets out to create a flying machine for her. It hovers for a moment and then crashes and Rosie again feels like a failure. Her aunt Rose, on the other hand, sees her invention as a marvelous success because you can only fail if you quit. This is a great book to encourage experimentation and to remember to believe in yourself.
I’m super excited that Andrea Beaty’s newest story Ada Twist, Scientist, is available for pre-sale (she also wrote Iggy Peck, Architect). According to the description on Amazon, Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. Not afraid of failure, she embarks on fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!
Inspired by real-life makers such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Twist, Scientist champions girl power and women scientists, and brings welcome diversity to picture books about girls in science. Touching on themes of never giving up and problem solving, Ada comes to learn that her questions might not always lead to answers, but rather to more questions. She may never find the source of the stink, but with a supportive family and the space to figure it out, she’ll be able to feed her curiosity in the ways a young scientist should.
In the same vein of creating new things, we also love The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is the story of a little girl and her dog who love to do things together. One day, she gets a marvelous idea to make the most magnificent thing. She knows just how it will work and starts drawing up plans and then she gets to work in front of her house and starts to build. She figures that building it will be easy-peasy, but it’s not. She tries over and over again and just can’t get it right. She gets frustrated and then even gets mad. Her dog convinces her to go for a walk and it manages to clear her head and by the time she gets back, she has figured out exactly how to build her project. This book is awesome in its display of perseverance and creativity.
For real-life stories about actual inventors, there are few marvelous sources. First, to show the full spectrum of inventors is the amazing book The Story of Inventions. Now I will admit, that I am an Usborne Books consultant, but we purchased this book way before I got involved and my older daughter just ate it up! Toasters, toilets and televisions, computers, cars and chocolate bars, flying machines and even your jeans. All these everyday things and many more are only here because someone bothered to invent them. This book reveals the real-life stories and bright sparks behind dozens of brilliant inventions. What is extraordinary about this book is that it is immensely readable. It also does a wonderful job of including female inventors right alongside all of those important male inventors. You can check it out here.
Similarly, there is a great book called Girls Think of Everything, by Catherine Thimmish. As this book starts, “In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have invented.” Here, young minds can see some of the amazing things that women have invented over the years. Many inventions evolve out of general curiosity, but some out of need and some happy accidents. From the Apgar score of measuring crucial aspects of a newborn baby’s health to chocolate chip cookies, windshield wipers to liquid paper, women have invented some pretty amazing things.
This book also encourages young minds to create things themselves by highlighting some inventions by younger people. In the 1970s a 10 year old girl invented a “glo-sheet” so she could write in the dark. In 1994, it was the inquisitive mind of an 11 year old that created the no-spill feeding bowl that so many parents now use. This book was written in an incredibly engaging way, encouraging all would be inventors to dream big.
Girls Who Rocked the World, by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Welden, was a favorite of J’s a few years back. This book is intended for upper elementary and middle school aged kids and introduces them to a number of influential women who each rocked the world in their own way, from Joan of Arc to Coco Chanel. One thing that is extra special about this book is that the women included each first started to impact the world while they were in their teenage years or younger! Personal aspirations from today’s young women are interspersed throughout the book, which also includes profiles of teenagers who are rocking the world right now. This book can show young minds that it’s never too soon to start making a difference.
Marvelous Mattie, by Emily Arnold McCully truly is marvelous. Margaret Knight, aka Mattie, was a brilliant woman who lived from 1838-1914, during the height of the industrial revolution. Her father’s toolbox and her sketchbooks of ideas were her salvation during a very rough childhood of poverty. When she was a child, no one felt that a woman could have an inventive mind, but she always saw ways to improve things. She probably saved many lives by creating a safety device for looms and was the brains behind the flat-bottomed paper bag. When a man tried to steal her invention before she could get it patented, her methodical notebooks and determination proved to a judge that a woman could and did invent the new bags. This book is a wonderful story that children can relate to and it helps them comprehend the struggles that Mattie and every woman went through so many years ago.
In Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Walmark, girls can see the story of the woman credited with creating the first computer language, way before the actual invention of computers. While she didn’t code in the way that we thing of the terms now, she realized that a machine to solve complex equations created by a fellow inventor could not actually run without a detail set of instructions. By using his notebooks and her knowledge of mathematics, she left her mark on the history of computer science. The book is also important, as discussed in this recent post, because it again talks about the struggles that she went through simply because she was an intelligent woman.
The children today are our hope for the future. We educate them with books and with love and support. These are great books to add to any library.
I often find out about great non-fiction texts from bloggers who participate in Kid Lit Frenzy’s non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out her website for a ton of great resources!
To all of the future inventors, I leave you with this marvelous song from Zootopia about the importance of making mistakes in order to make it just right.