A girl mathematician? Impossible!
“Telling Sophie not to think about math was like telling a bird not to soar,” but that’s exactly what people did. Growing up a middle-class, white female in late-18th-century France, Sophie Germain was discouraged from studying, especially from studying math, a discipline reserved for educated men. Markers, gouache, and elements of collage energetically power illustrations that are often filled with numbers, expanding on the appealing text and emphasizing the concept of vibration that Sophie later illuminated. She sneaked out of bed to learn the basics, corresponded anonymously with experts, and struggled for fair treatment. Becoming a mathematician was challenging, but as the story’s repeating, titular refrain states, “nothing stopped Sophie”—not the French Revolution, not the sexism of the time, and not the mathematical complexities she worked through to discover the formula that made her the eventual winner of a prestigious academic contest. Resilience is the focus here, as well as the groundbreaking nature of her work; Sophie with her quiet focus and staunch dedication was able to make a difference by predicting patterns of vibration, information later used in architecture, as well as paving the way for other women in the field and, by implication, girls learning about math today.
As an entree into the world of mathematics, this portrait of a quiet heroine is elegant, striking, and sure to inspire. (biographical and historical notes, bibliography, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)