Tag Archives: Women in Science

Ada Twist, Scientist

Written by: Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by: David Roberts

For ages: 4-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, STEM, Women in STEM, Family, Love, Acceptance, Social-Emotional Development. 

Summary: In a flowing and lyrical story, we learn about Ada, who did not speak until she was 3 but left a path of destructive curiosity in her wake wherever she went.  When she did speak, she asked question and questions after question.  Ada’s parents just smiled, and said she would figure out all of the answers.  Supportive & kind, her parents know she has the trappings of a great scientist!  Ada begins to experiment and construct hypothesis after hypothesis, although does take a short stint in the Thinking Chair when she tries to put the cat in the washing machine (to make it smell better!).  In the Thinking Chair, she refines her scientific methods and makes a plan….scribbling all over the walls. Upon seeing this, her parents again decide they will figure out how to keep up with such an enchanting and intelligent child like Ada.

Character Ada is named after Ada Lovelace, we find this out in the short Author’s Note on the last page!  This book is so important, Ada is a little girl of color and an unstoppable scientific force.  So often books with POC characters are linked to oppression and slavery, and Ada’s story is just the opposite.  Ada is not expected to contain her enthusiasm for science and learning, in fact her family is the one that adapts to her.  One of the illustrations show her writing on a huge roll of paper after the wall incident.  Ada’s parents work with her, providing a fantastic role model for both Ada and her brother as well as readers!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Ada got so curious?
  • Do you think Ada feels supported by her family?  Why or why not?
  • How would you feel in her situation, when in the Thinking Chair?
  • Would you like a scientist friend like Ada?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Ada in the story is named after a famous scientist, Ada Lovelace.  Learn more about her, and how she became a scientist.  What is she known for? How did she develop her scientific methods at a time when not a lot of girls were allowed to pursue STEM?
  • Ada works on her hypotheses in the story.  Why is that an important step in the scientific process?  See if a real scientist can come visit the classroom, and discuss their methods!
  • Learn more about scientists of color, specifically women in STEM careers!  Are there a lot of them?  Find out what you can, and choose a single person to learn about and make a poster of their achievements.  Take a classroom tour and learn all about the amazing science that’s taking place all around us!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Andrea Beaty photoAndrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. Andrea was one of six kids and we spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure.  Always, it was fun and often, they laughed so hard they blew Orange Crush or Grape Nehi Soda out their noses. She still avoids Grape Nehi … just in case.

Andrea was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries.  Then she moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics.  Don’t tell anyone, but her secret ambition is to star in a Broadway musical and Andrea is often tempted to break into song and dance at very odd moments. Mostly in the frozen food section of her grocery store!  They have very good lighting.

Andrea attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Andrea helped people with their computer problems (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”) and some technical writing. Andrea didn’t know at the time, but tech writing was great training for writing for kids because it taught her to be a fierce self-editor.

Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Andrea visits lots of schools each year to share her love of reading and her writing journey with kids and educators.

davidroberts_websiteWhen David Roberts was at school, he claims he wasn’t very good at anything so the teacher would give me projects to produce big pictures for the school hall. He remembers doing one of Death rowing in a boat on the river Thames with a dead dog floating past!

David has always been drawing ever since he was a very small child and then when he left school at 16, he went to Art College. There, David did a foundation course trying out all different types of art practice. The thing David thought he wanted to do the most was costume and fashion design so he did a degree in fashion design.

David ended up being a children’s book illustrator and it was always his dream to do this! Although David tried to pursue a career as a fashion illustrator first. When he met Christine of Artist Partners she pointed out to him that he was drawing characters and perhaps he should focus more on publishing and in particular children’s books.

 

Girls Think of Everything; Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Written by: Catherine Thimmesh

Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet

For ages: 9-13 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in STEM, Inventions, Historical Figures, Feminism, Global Community.

Summary: This book is designed for elementary students, to learn more in-depth about women inventors.  Covering inventions like Scotchguard, Kevlar, Liquid Paper, and the Illusion Transmitter, the book is illustrated with colorful collaged artwork to accompany the stories.  Each story is around two and a half pages long, with a full-page picture and a few other small pictures interspersed.  There are also small facts written in bold, hot pink cursive about the inventions themselves such as what the packaging facilities of the Snugli looked liked, or how many lives have been saved by Kevlar bulletproof vests.

This book’s design really meshes educational with creative!  The stories are more detailed for older readers, but still short enough to be readable in a few minutes during a short car ride, waiting for an appointment, or before bed.  The stories are exciting rather than just dry and academic.  In the back of the book is the address for the US Patent Office, as well as sources and more information about the inventors featured.  This is a great YA book to inspire both future inventors and artists alike!

Reflection Questions:

  • Which of these inventions have you used before?
  • Did you know the origin story of how the invention came to be?
  • Do you think being an inventor sounds like a fun job?
  • What do you think might be challenging about trying to design something that’s never been seen before?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about something you use on a regular basis.  Do you know who invented it?  Learn more about them.  Are there any books written about them?  If not, write one of your own!
  • What is something that would make your or someone else’s life easier, but it hasn’t been invented yet?  Draw up some plans and make a prototype.  Will your product work, or is it back to the drawing board?
  • Get in touch with an engineer or inventor in your area.  Skype them or have them visit your classroom!  Learn about what it takes to design products and all of the steps to have them be released into the market/into use.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

A1zITsthAQL._UX250_Catherine Thimmesh is the Sibert Medal-winning author of Team Moon. Her newest book, Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled, explores the scientific sleuthing that paleoartists continually perform to make sure they’re accurately representing dinosaurs in their paintings and illustrations. Madam President, a New York Times notable book, was recently updated to reflect recent advances for women in politics, including Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the presidency. Catherine’s previous books, Girls Think of Everything and The Sky’s the Limit, have been translated into Korean and Chinese. Girls Think of Everything won the 2001 IRA Children’s Book Award, was a Children’s Book of the Month Best Nonfiction Book 2000, a Minnesota Book Award finalist, and a Smithsonian Notable Book 2000 (amongst other honors). The Sky’s the Limit won the Minnesota Book Award in 2002, was a Smithsonian Notable Book 2002, and an Outstanding Science and Social Studies Trade Book for Children 2002. The author lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota with her husband and two children.

melissa-sweet-flounderMelissa Sweet has illustrated over 100 books as well as many toys, puzzles, games for eeBoo. Her work has been in magazines, on greeting cards and as drawings on her living room walls.  She has written four books: Carmine: A Little More Red, a New York Times Best Illustrated book; Tupelo Rides the Rails; Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, a Sibert Award winner (for informational books) and a NCTE Orbis Pictus winner (for nonfiction).  Her most recent book, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, was a New York Times Best Seller and garnered an NCTE Orbis Pictus award.  Melissa has illustrated three books by author Jen Bryant: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos WilliamsThe Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, both garnered Caldecott Honors. A Splash of Red: The Art of Horace Pippin, was a Sibert Award and Orbis Pictus Award winner.

Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace

Written by: Tanya Lee Stone

Illustrated by: Marjorie Priceman

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in STEM, Historical Figures, Women in Science, Feminism, Bravery, Courage, Individuality.

Summary: Ada was a young girl who lived in the English countryside.  She had a wild imagination and a mother who thought a wild imagination was dangerous.  Ada’s father was the famous poet, Lord Byron.  Ada’s mother was fed up with Lord Byron’s wild behavior, and moved home to her parents house when Ada was 5 weeks old.  Ada never saw her father again, because he fled England owning large sums of money.  Ada’s mother wanted Ada to have a brain like a mathematician, not a wild imagination.  She had tutors that taught her every subject, and she loved music in addition to math, drawing, and singing.  When Ada was 12, she became obsessed with inventing a flying horse with bird wings, and asked her mother for bird-drawing books.  Ada’s mother made her study math for longer hours everyday instead;  she also wanted Ada to get married to a suitable man.  Ada was presented to the king and queen when she was 18, but was not interested in solely becoming a housewife.  Ada became fascinated with the scientists Charles Babbage, and his inventions.  She began to visit with him, and became enchanted with his number calculation machines he was building.  Ada realized that math and imagination could work together, unlike what he mother tried so desperately to teach her.  Ada and Charles became good friends, and often wrote letters and visited each other, walking about math and philosophy together.  Charles was busy trying to build a calculation device that could solve any problem, called the Analytical Engine.  He was trying to base it off a loom that used punchcards to design what the woven design would be.  He didn’t know how the loom worked, but Ada did.  Ada was also able to help translate scientific papers written in French, and Charles encouraged Ada to write her own papers.  She was thrilled at the idea, women in her time did not become scientists and write papers!  Although she was often ill, she worked very hard and wrote many letters to Charles.  When she finished the paper, it turned out to be very long and a huge success!  Ada had a brain that could imagine mathematical processing that had not been discovered yet.  Charles was never able to build his machine, but if he did the entire world of computer programming history could be different from what it is today.  A huge contribution would have been Ada’s work, with her wild imagination!

In the back, there is also more historical information about Ada’s life.  An important scientific contributor that is relatively unknown by most, this is a great book!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Ada felt when her mother tried to stifle her imagination?
  • How do you think she felt when Charles encouraged her to pursue her passions?
  • What do you think Ada would think about computers today?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about basic computer coding.  There are tons of websites that teach coding skills to kids, and introductory courses with robots.  Ada would be proud!
  • Lots of other famous names are mentioned in the story.  Pick one out and learn more about them!  Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, who are you interested in learning about?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

916WD-xjo1L._UX250_Tanya Lee Stone is best known for telling little-known or unknown stories of women and people of color. She writes MG/YA narrative nonfiction such as Girl Rising, Almost Astronauts and Courage Has No Color, and nonfiction picture books such as Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? and The House that Jane Built. Her work has been recognized by the NAACP Image Award, Robert F. Sibert Medal, Golden Kite Award, Bank Street Flora Straus Steiglitz Award, Jane Addams Honor, YALSA Nonfiction Finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, NPR Best Books, and NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors. She is also the author of the YA verse novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, which was a Top Ten Banned Book. Stone studied English at Oberlin College, later earned a Masters Degree, and was an editor of children’s nonfiction for many years before becoming a writer. She teaches writing at Champlain College. Forthcoming books include A Story of War, A Story of Peace, Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? and Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented.

marjorie-priceman-1536996Marjorie Priceman, illustrator of many acclaimed picture books, has won Caldecott Honors for her illustrations in Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss and Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the Frist Hot-Air Balloon Ride, which she also wrote. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Spring After Spring; How Rachel Carson INSPIRED the Environmental Movement

Written & Illustrated by: Stephanie Roth Sisson

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women in STEM, Activism, Environmental Activism, Trailblazers, Bravery, Courage.

Summary: Rachel is a little girl that LOVES nature.  She loves walking through the woods and listening to all of the sounds that animals create around her.  Birds, frogs, bats, and bugs!  Rachel explores the world around her from every angle, staring at the sky and through a magnifying glass at the earth below her feet.  She draws pictures and dreams of the ocean.  Rachel’s favorite time of year is spring, when the animal sounds are most plentiful!  When Rachel went to college, she was convinced she would be a writer, until she looked through a microscope.  Rachel was blown away by the tiny life contained in a single drop of ocean water, and from then on she was hooked.  Despite never having been to the ocean, Rachel wanted to learn as much as she could, and began to study biology.  She became a scientist gathered information about the ocean, it was her job to swim around underwater and learn!  Rachel also began to write books about the creatures that lived in the sea, and became very well-known.  Around this time, Rachel also began to notice that nature’s voice was going quiet.  Now Rachel had a new task, she wanted to figure out what was happening to the animals that used to be so loud and numerous.

Rachel began to learn about all of the ways scientists were using chemicals to kill bothersome insects, in attempts to help farmers have better crop yields.  These chemicals seemed to be safe, but no one really knew for sure.  Rachel started doing research, and found out that these chemicals were NOT safe, and harmed forest life.  Rachel wrote a book entitled Silent Spring to let everyone know the dangers of using these chemicals.  The book caused a huge stir and Rachel was even invited to speak with President Kennedy about her book!  She was scared, but she did it anyway, just like all those years ago when she began going underwater for her job.  Rachel was incredibly brave, and used this bravery to help let people know the dangers of putting chemicals into the environment.  Because of Rachel’s testimony, some of the most harmful chemicals were banned, and animals began to return to the forest!

This book is a fabulous introduction to environmentalism, and a famous scientist!  It repeatedly introduces bravery, and how bravery doesn’t mean a person isn’t scared when they do something.  In the back there’s an Author’s Note, notes about specific pages with more detailed information, as well as sources for more information.  Would definitely recommend to any group or classroom learning about nature or science!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever listened to the sounds of nature in the forest before?
  • What is something brave that you have done before, just like when Rachel went underwater even though she was scared?
  • What would you like to do when you get older?
  • Do you think it’s important to protect animals and natural habitats like Rachel?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make your own coffee-can “microscopes” and see what you can find in a nearby pond or puddle.  Draw your view!
  • If you live near a town forest or woods, try taking a quiet nature walk once or twice every season and make notes about what you hear and see.  Compare the notes of different seasons together and see if you can figure out which animals migrate and which ones hibernate!
  • Learn more about what you can do in your community to help nature throughout the year.  It might be making bird feeders to hang up, picking up litter on the bike path, or making sure that signs where animals cross the road frequently are visible from the road.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

A1lskN991IL._UX250_Stephanie Roth Sisson has been a traveler her whole life and these journeys have been physical (actually going places) and imaginative (through wonder and books) .  Both are just as real. Her website is mostly photographs, which bring her adventures to life!