An excellent way to introduce young readers to an African-American female mathematician who deserves to be remembered and...

A COMPUTER CALLED KATHERINE

HOW KATHERINE JOHNSON HELPED PUT AMERICA ON THE MOON

Katherine Johnson had a passion for numbers and made herself indispensable to the early space program.

On the heels of the acclaimed book Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016), and the film of the same name, this picture book tells of one of NASA’s human computers, Katherine Johnson. Katherine skipped both first and fifth grades because of her math skills, which put her ahead of her older brother in school. She finished eighth grade at age 10 and started college at 15. Throughout this compellingly told biography, the narrator compares social wrongs to miscalculated math problems, as in the sexist belief that “women could only be teachers or nurses. Katherine knew that was wrong—as wrong as 10 – 5 = 3.” She also objected to segregation and to her exclusion from meetings at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory that had only ever been attended by men. Because she broke barriers that sought to limit her abilities, Katherine stands as an important example of persisting to make change. Illustrator Jamison beautifully conveys in illuminating watercolors both how much Katherine enjoyed numbers and how determined she was to succeed in a male-dominated field. Informative backmatter includes a historical timeline and notes from the author and illustrator.

An excellent way to introduce young readers to an African-American female mathematician who deserves to be remembered and celebrated. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-43517-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to.

HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER

Pearl and her robot, Pascal, take their coding skills for a spin at the amusement park in this Girls Who Code picture book, a follow-up to How To Code a Sandcastle (2018).

The park has many rides to choose from, and Pearl has 10 tokens to last her the day. But her favorite ride, the Python roller coaster, looks busy. Pearl decides to do something else fun, using code concepts such as variables to keep track of the length of the line and her remaining tokens and a conditional statement to decide when to return to the Python. Throughout, computer science terms are defined crisply in the text and vividly illustrated in the pictures, which use images such as popcorn bags for variables and the Ferris wheel for loops (keeping track of ice cream flavors seems somewhat contrived). The backmatter explains these ideas more fully. Pascal’s too-literal interpretations of Pearl’s statements make for several amusing moments along the way. When Pearl runs short of tokens (a missed opportunity to talk about checking for more than one condition?), she’s undaunted by the disaster, taking readers on a fun hunt for a secret hidden password, in a nod to the importance of proper sequencing. Pearl has brown skin and black curls; others at the park have a variety of skin tones.

Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-425-29203-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter . (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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