Recommended by Liz at West Kendall Regional Library
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Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
Laurie Wallmark. Illustrated by April Chu. 2015. 40p. Grades 1‑3.
Ada Lovelace was the daughter of renowned poet Lord Byron, but, like her mother, Lady Byron, she was fascinated by mathematics. At 17, Lovelace met Charles Babbage, a mathematician and inventor who was developing plans for an analytical engine, the precursor of the modern computer. She saw the great possibilities in Babbage’s invention, realizing the almost limitless potential of such a device. Lovelace later wrote an algorithm for the analytical device, which is regarded as the world’s first computer program.
Gorgeous illustrations portray Victorian England with glowing and detailed depictions of period dress and architecture. Equally impressive is the precision of the illustrations of the machines and mathematical calculations that Lovelace and Babbage created. Fun visual details include a charming house cat that seems to like mathematics just as much as Lovelace!Check Availability
The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams
Tanya Lee Stone. Illustrated by Kathryn Brown. 2015. 32p. Grades 1‑3.
Not many people know that philanthropist and activist Jane Addams was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1931), but this inspirational biography recounts her life of good works. Addams was famed for founding Hull House in Chicago in 1889, a building created to help that city’s poorest residents. Hull House grew over the years to include a kindergarten, coffeehouse, gymnasium, art studios and more, and served as the prototype and inspiration for today’s community centers.
Watercolor illustrations soften the depiction of the dire poverty suffered by the children on the streets of Chicago for younger readers, who will instead notice how the colors bloom to show their newfound health and happiness. A simple and moving picture book biography of a woman who vowed to help others while she was still just a child, and who kept her promise as an adult by transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.Check Availability
Patrick McDonnell. 2011. 40p. Grades 1‑3.
This charming picture book biography recounts the childhood of world renowned primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall. Young Jane explores nature in her home in England, accompanied by her favorite stuffed monkey, Jubilee. She is a keen observer of nature, and the illustrations include actual notes and drawings made by Goodall as a child. Inspired by her love of the books about Tarzan of the Apes, she dreams of a life in Africa helping animals, a dream that comes true, as shown in a photograph of Goodall at the book’s end.
Lovely earth‑toned watercolors, and vintage etchings and stamps, recreate an imaginative and adventurous childhood that will inspire any young reader. The book includes information about Goodall’s environmental work, as well as a message from “Dr. Jane” to the children who have read the book.Check Availability
Shana Corey. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2009. 48p. Grades 1‑3.
This joyous biography recounts the life and times of free‑spirited Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman, who was famed as an endurance swimmer, inventor of the water ballet and the creator of the modern swimsuit. Born in 1886, Kellerman took up swimming to rebuild her strength after a childhood illness. Her love of swimming and the arts led her to a life as a celebrated athlete, performer and best‑selling author.
Bright and energetic illustrations depict Kellerman swimming, diving and challenging old‑fashioned thinking. Fotheringham’s vibrant art captures the spirit and courage of a woman who shared her love of the water and swimming with the world, and opened up the sport of swimming to generations of women.Check Availability
Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist
Barbara Herkert. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley‑Newton. 2015. 40p. Grades 1‑3.
Harriet Powers learned to quilt and sew as a child born into slavery in Georgia. Freed at the end of the Civil War, Powers and her husband became cotton farmers and raised a family. She exhibited one of her extraordinary appliqué quilts at a local fair when an art teacher recognized the quilt as a work of art. The only two surviving quilts made by Powers are in the collections of the Smithsonian Institute and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Charming illustrations by Brantley‑Newton highlight this story of a great American folk artist, with many of the illustrations showing Powers creating her quilts. The actual quilts are shown in the book’s endpapers, demonstrating their creativity and power. In‑depth information about her life and times are displayed on illustrated patchwork squares throughout the book.Check Availability
Yuyi Morales. Photography by Tim O’Meara. 2014. 40p. Grades 1‑3
The unique and dazzling artwork of Yuyi Morales introduces children to the life and art of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Photographs of mixed media scenes and acrylic paintings capture the style and power of Kahlo’s work. Vignettes created with dolls of Kahlo, her husband, artist Diego Rivera, and her pet dog and monkey, open the biography at Kahlo’s home. She finds a yellow box and a key that draws her into a dream, inspired by scenes from her paintings.
The text is simple, with well‑chosen words in Spanish and English setting an evocative tone for the remarkable photography. The book includes an afterword on Kahlo from Morales in Spanish and English that offers additional details of her life. This is a moving tribute to a beloved artist, and to the power of art and creation.Check Availability