A crew of achievers, mostly of recent vintage, STEAMs up to provide inspiration and role modeling.
Leung includes outliers Isaac Newton and 18th-century professor Maria Gaetana Agnesi in her gallery, but she favors figures of the past two centuries—all of whom made at least some contribution in science, technology, engineering, the arts, or mathematics that can be classified a “first.” Seventeen of the profiles are just thumbnails, gathered into two inserted chapters; the others each receive a full-page tribute that focuses less on biographical detail than on the highlighted achievement. Some of the firsts are so hung about with qualifiers that they at least seem only marginally significant (Jennifer Yuh Nelson: “The first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio, 2011”). Most, however, merit huzzahs (Mary Golda Ross: “The first female engineer for Lockheed, 1942,” and a member of the Cherokee Nation to boot), and many are likely to be new to young readers. Each entry features a motivational quote or two, some of which occupy entire pages of their own, and, from Kuhwald, a stylized but easily recognizable portrait placed in an evocative setting. The roster earns high marks for diversity, as it includes 36 women and 20 people of color or who identify as Latinx.
This broad take on “firsts” is unusually rich in lesser-known figures and feats. (timeline, illustrator’s note, resource list) (Collective biography. 10-12)