Tag Archives: STEM

The Electric War by Mike Winchell

The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World by Mike Winchell. January 22, 2019. Henry Holt & Company, 272 p. ISBN: 9781250120168.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The spellbinding true account of the scientific competition to light the world with electricity.

In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light―and run―the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged in a brutal battle with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, the inventors of alternating current (AC). There would be no ties in this race―only a winner and a loser. The prize: a nationwide monopoly in electric current. Brimming with action, suspense, and rich historical and biographical information about these brilliant inventors, here is the rousing account of one of the world’s defining scientific competitions.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Violence

 

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Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Welcome to the late 1880s and the war of the currents, a furious battle over the viability and future of electricity. The combatants were, in one corner, the legendary inventor Thomas Edison, the inveterate champion of direct current (DC); in the other corner, the eccentric Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla and his partner, the formidable George Westinghouse, champions of alternating current (AC). It was an epic battle, for the stakes were enormous, being, in short, who would light and power America. It was a battle royal with the venerable Edison emerging as the villain of the piece. But will the good guys win? In his first book, Winchell does a fine job of investing his story with considerable drama; yes, his subject is occasionally a bit wonkish, but it will delight techies. As for his style: it’s serviceable but suffers when he reaches for colorful figures of speech; thus, a building “lit up like a mushroom on fire.” Nevertheless, readers will be electrified by his three main characters and further enlightened by numerous period photographs.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
The war of the currents and its larger-than-life personalities are illuminated by a flickering light. In the 1870s and 1880s, two competing systems of electrical current were backed by three very different men. Thomas Alva Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” advocated for direct current, while inventor Nikola Tesla, a Serbian immigrant, and George Westinghouse were leading proponents of alternating current. The potential for acclaim and riches was high, but it all came down to which system—direct or alternating current—would prevail. Edison had the name recognition but a flawed system, while Tesla and Westinghouse were confident in alternating current’s superiority, even when it was branded too dangerous in the press. It took a world’s fair, court battles, and worldwide financial panic to yield a winner in the war of the currents. Although the men and the historical events provide plenty of drama, Winchell (Been There, Done That: School Daze, 2016, etc.) blunts the impact by spending too much time at the beginning of the book on the development of the electric chair and its first victim. Black-and-white photographs and technical drawings supplement the text, which is based on extensive primary and high-quality secondary sources. There is unfortunately no mention of influential African-American inventor and Edison employee Lewis Latimer, who patented the carbon filament. The appeal of the events shines through despite a shaky start. (timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Mike Winchell is a veteran English teacher with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. He is the creator & editor of the BEEN THERE, DONE THAT anthology series, and the author of the middle grade narrative nonfiction GILDED AGE series, beginning with THE ELECTRIC WAR: EDISON, TESLA, WESTINGHOUSE, AND THE RACE TO LIGHT THE WORLD (January 22, 2019), and followed by THE ROUGH RODE: THE GILDED AGE RISE OF THE ROUGH RIDERS (2020).

He lives in upstate New York with his wife and two children. His website is www.mikewinchellbooks.com.

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The Electric War on Amazon

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The Electric War Publisher Page

Dreaming in Code by Emily Arnold McCully

Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer by Emily Arnold McCully. March 12, 2019. Candlewick Press, 176 p. ISBN: 9780763693565.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This illuminating biography reveals how the daughter of Lord Byron, Britain’s most infamous Romantic poet, became the world’s first computer programmer.

Even by 1800s standards, Ada Byron Lovelace had an unusual upbringing. Her strict mother worked hard at cultivating her own role as the long-suffering ex-wife of bad-boy poet Lord Byron while raising Ada in isolation. Tutored by the brightest minds, Ada developed a hunger for mental puzzles, mathematical conundrums, and scientific discovery that kept pace with the breathtaking advances of the industrial and social revolutions taking place in Europe. At seventeen, Ada met eccentric inventor Charles Babbage, a kindred spirit. Their ensuing collaborations resulted in ideas and concepts that presaged computer programming by almost two hundred years, and Ada Lovelace is now recognized as a pioneer and prophet of the information age. Award-winning author Emily Arnold McCully opens the window on a peculiar and singular intellect, shaped — and hampered — by history, social norms, and family dysfunction. The result is a portrait that is at once remarkable and fascinating, tragic and triumphant.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to drug use

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 13))
Grades 7-10. Interest in Ada Byron Lovelace and other female pioneers of science has soared of late. This young adult biography is a particularly exemplary example of the burgeoning genre and should find a home in all libraries. Caldecott medalist McCully is careful to show Lovelace as a complex, and sometimes troubled, child, teen, and woman whose love of math was as passionate as love of poetry was to her famous father, the Romantic poet Lord Byron. While Lovelace’s mother, a controlling figure who reviled Lord Byron, was rather distant, she did cultivate her daughter’s intellect. She also introduced Lovelace to Charles Babbage, a well-known figure in England who was developing a protocomputer called the Analytical Engine. It was Lovelace who foresaw its implications and who ultimately wrote “code” for its use. While her life was tragically short, she is now generally acknowledged as “the first computer programmer.” McCully’s work is eminently readable, with short chapters and lavish illustrations. It also includes meaty appendixes and source notes for teen scholars. A worthy addition to biography bookshelves.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2019)
A biography of Ada Lovelace, widely celebrated as the first computer programmer. McCully juxtaposes the analytical genius of her subject with her humanizing flaws and personality, painting a portrait of a turbulent soul and a visionary intellect whose promise was cut short by early death. After the acrimonious end of Lord and Lady Byron’s relationship, the intelligent Lady Byron sought to distance Ada from both her father himself and his unstable tendencies by giving her a challenging education focused on rational pursuits, math, and science. Lady Byron’s portrayal is complex—she’s cold and self-centered but determined to provide academic opportunities for her daughter. The book follows Ada’s education with her marriage and death from uterine cancer, but both the book and Ada focus on her collaborator, Charles Babbage. A temporary textual shift to focus on Babbage provides necessary context, establishing how advanced and revolutionary Babbage’s Difference Engine and Analytical Engine designs were. And yet, Ada was able to see far beyond his visions, conceptualizing the potential of modern computers and predicting such programming techniques like loops. McCully demonstrates that although Ada had the potential to achieve more, she was hampered by sexism, ill health, and a temperament akin to her father’s. Appendices summarize Lovelace’s notes on the Analytical Engine and present the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s rationale for refusing to support its construction. A sophisticated yet accessible piece that humanizes a tragic, brilliant dreamer. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, index [not seen]) (Biography. 10-14)

About the Author

Emily Arnold McCully was born left-handed in Galesburg, Illinois. She was a dare-devil tree-climber and ball-player who loved to write stories and illustrate them. Her family moved to New York City and then to a suburb, where she attended school. After college at Brown University, she earned a Master’s degree at Columbia University in art history. She worked as a freelance illustrator for magazines, advertisements and book publishers until a radio station commissioned a series of posters showing children playing. The first appeared in subway cars, where it was seen by a children’s book editor. It launched a long career, first as an illustrator, then as author/illustrator of picture books. McCully won a Caldecott Medal in 1993. She has two grown sons, one grandson and lives in New York City and Columbia County, N.Y., where she grows flowers and vegetables.

Her website is emilyarnoldmccully.com

Around the Web

Dreaming in Code on Amazon

Dreaming in Code on Barnes & Noble

Dreaming in Code on Goodreads

Dreaming in Code on LibraryThing

Dreaming in Code Publisher Page

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream by Mary Morton Cowan

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable by Morton Cowan. September 11, 2018. Calkins Creek Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781629795560.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 980.

In this nonfiction middle-grade title, award-winning author Mary Morton Cowan explores the extraordinary achievement of Cyrus Field and one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century: laying a transatlantic telegraph cable to create instant communication between two continents.

Cyrus Field had a big dream to connect North America and the United Kingdom with a telegraph line, which would enable instant communication. In the mid-1800s, no one knew if it was possible. That didn’t dissuade Cyrus, who set out to learn about undersea cables and built a network of influential people to raise money and create interest in his project. Cyrus experienced numerous setbacks: many years of delays and failed attempts, millions of dollars lost, suspected sabotage, technological problems, and more. But Cyrus did not give up and forged ahead, ultimately realizing his dream in the summer of 1866. Mary Morton Cowan brilliantly captures Cyrus’s life and his steadfast determination to achieve his dream.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 6-10. Long before email and texting, Cyrus Field understood the value of instant communication. When the paper-merchant tycoon learned in 1854 about an opportunity to invest in the first transatlantic telegraph cable, which would reduce message delivery between Europe and North America from weeks to minutes, he couldn’t resist. This detailed biography, filled with archival reproductions, chronicles Field’s rise from a penniless paper-mill worker to one of the richest men in New York City. An interesting chapter on his hiatus from his paper company describes an adventure through South America with then budding artist Frederic Church. The bulk of the text focuses on Field’s 12-year endeavor to create a telegraph company, acquire investors, and procure 2,000 miles of cable, and the tension-filled methods of laying it. Cowan relates the scientific and historical events that shaped the process. While the topic seems most applicable to STEM readers, there is much for young entrepreneurs to learn. The project failed multiple times, but Field’s incessant determination finally succeeded with a telegraph from Queen Victoria to President Andrew Johnson.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
The relentless persistence of one man resulted in one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and the transformation of international communication. Cyrus Field’s success in business enabled him to amass enough of a fortune to partially retire at the age of 34. His interest in telegraphy was sparked by Canadian engineer Frederic Gisborne, who aimed to establish a telegraph connection between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and New York City. Field formed a new company to take over Gisborne’s venture and convinced investors to lay a cable line from Newfoundland to Ireland. In 1857, after securing financing in England and backing from the American and British governments, Field’s Atlantic Telegraph Company established the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The cable officially opened on Aug. 16, 1858, when Queen Victoria sent President James Buchanan a message in Morse code. Widespread jubilation over this feat was short-lived when the connection broke down and was not reconnected until 1866. Making extensive use of primary sources, Cowan admiringly chronicles how, in those intervening years, Fields endured delays and failed attempts, millions of dollars lost, suspected sabotage, technological problems, and public accusations of fraud and treason. Her well-paced, vivid account makes for a read that is at times gripping. The principal figures in her tale are white. An inspiring portrait of a man with a dream and his steadfast determination to achieve it. (charts, maps, diagrams, photos, timeline, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Award-winning author, Mary Morton Cowan, writes for young readers. She is a native of Maine and a graduate of Bates College, where she concentrated her studies in English and Music. In addition to books, more than eighty of her articles, stories and activities have been published in children’s magazines, and several have been reprinted in textbooks and anthologies.

Her website is www.marymortoncowan.com

Around the Web

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream on Amazon

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream on Barnes and Noble

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream on Goodreads

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream Publisher Page

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. October 16, 2018. Viking Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780425287781.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7.

Did you drink a glass of water today? Did you turn on a light? Did you think about how miraculous either one of those things is when you did it? Of course not–but you should, and New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson has. This adaptation of his adult book and popular PBS series explores the fascinating and interconnected stories of innovations–like clean drinking water and electricity–that changed the way people live.

Innovation starts with a problem whose solution sets in motion all kinds of unexpected discoveries. That’s why you can draw a line from pendulums to punching the clock at a factory, from ice blocks to summer movie blockbusters, from clean water to computer chips.

In the lively storytelling style that has made him a popular, bestselling author, Steven Johnson looks at how accidental genius, brilliant mistakes, and unintended consequences shape the way we live in the modern world. Johnson’s “long zoom” approach connects history, geography, politics, and scientific advances with the deep curiousity of inventors or quirky interests of tinkerers to show how innovation truly comes about.

His fascinating account is organized into six topics: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light. Johnson’s fresh exploration of these simple, single-syllable word concepts creates an endlessly absorbing story that moves from lightning strikes in the prehistoric desert to the herculean effort to literally raise up the city of Chicago to laser labs straight out of a sci-fi movie.

In other words, it’s the story of how we got to now!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Adapted for young readers from an adult book and PBS series, this volume explains six innovations that have changed the world: glass, cold, sound, clean (water), time, and light. It explores how these building blocks have inspired technological breakthroughs that have transformed our lives. The discovery of glassmaking, for example, led to the creation of clear glass, eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, cameras, fiberglass, laser beams, and fiber optic cables. Readers may be surprised that some technologies common today were actually developed more than 100 years ago, even if they weren’t refined until more recently (electric cars were first developed in the 1890s). Although it mostly features contributions by men from North America and Europe, Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie are mentioned. Not only does this praise scientists’ successful undertakings but it also recounts their erroneous beliefs and failures. Vintage photographs, recommended resources, and further back matter are included. The intriguing information here (Louis XIII didn’t bathe at all until he was seven!) will inform and fascinate report writers and casual browsers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
Beginning with ideas that emerged thousands of years ago, Johnson tracks a series of innovations that led world culture to where it is now. In an adaption for younger readers of his adult work of the same name (2014), he tracks six pathways arranged along the following themes (which also serve as chapter titles): glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. The chapter on glass begins with the discovery of natural glass in the Libyan desert about 10,000 years ago and tracks it through use as jewelry, the creation of windowpanes, the development of glass that was clear, the creation of eyeglasses (necessary as books became more common), the development of other types of lenses and the scientific advances they inspired, and finally to fiber-optic cables in the digital age and creation of a massive telescope in Hawaii. Each engaging chapter remains fully grounded in the fundamental concept that advances inspire further developments, serving to present history in a nutshell that is still shown as a grand sweep of progress. A single minor gripe is that in the chapter on time, a detail on early photography is off by a few years. Excellent backmatter rounds out a balanced and thoroughly engaging presentation. Altogether, a fine exploration of technologies emerging over the eons and their remarkable interconnectedness. (Nonfiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of ten books, including Wonderland, How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You.

The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three sons.

His website is www.stevenberlinjohnson.com

Teacher Resources

How We Got to Now Classroom via PBS

Around the Web

How We Got to Now on Amazon

How We Got to Now on Barnes and Noble

How We Got to Now on Goodreads

How We Got to Now Publisher Page

Calling All Minds by Temple Grandin

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin. May 15, 2018. Philomel Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9781524738204.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 1060.

From world-renowned autism spokesperson, scientist, and inventor Temple Grandin — a book of personal stories, inventions, and facts that will blow young inventors’ minds and make them soar.

Have you ever wondered what makes a kite fly or a boat float? Have you ever thought about why snowflakes are symmetrical, or why golf balls have dimples? Have you ever tried to make a kaleidoscope or build a pair of stilts?

In Calling All Minds, Temple Grandin explores the ideas behind all of those questions and more. She delves into the science behind inventions, the steps various people took to create and improve upon ideas as they evolved, and the ways in which young inventors can continue to think about and understand what it means to tinker, to fiddle, and to innovate. And laced throughout it all, Temple gives us glimpses into her own childhood tinkering, building, and inventing.

More than a blueprint for how to build things, in Calling All Minds Temple Grandin creates a blueprint for different ways to look at the world. And more than a call to action, she gives a call to imagination, and shows readers that there is truly no single way to approach any given problem–but that an open and inquisitive mind is always key.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 4-7. Grandin, renowned as a scientist, author, and adult with autism, has created a miscellany in which she claims to share “the soul of invention.” To do this, she integrates anecdotes from her life as a curious tinkerer with stories of important inventions and activities, such as pairing the history of paper and scissors with instructions for making paper snowflakes. Organized by broad categories (“Things Made of Wood,” “Things That Fly,” etc.), the book touches on ideas such as the Fibonacci sequence and optical illusions, encourages creativity by making a water bomb or a plant stand, and provides short background on additional inventions from crayons to hydraulic jacks. Famous inventors are profiled, from Gutenberg to the Wright brothers, who she thinks “might today be diagnosed as somewhere on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum.” To all of that, she tosses in references to the Flying Nun and golf ball dimples. The design is dull, dated, and distant, with reproductions of patents and portraits of dead white men, but the myriad topics and personal text are certainly mind-expanding.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Celebrated inventor Grandin shares her experiences and insights into her processes of tinkering and building, offering excellent advice to aspiring young inventors for realizing their own innovative ideas. Grandin explores the history of inventions from the ancient to the contemporary, the science behind them, and the steps various people took to create and improve upon ideas as they evolved, and she also suggests ways in which young inventors can think about and understand what it means to innovate. What makes Grandin’s narrative particularly engaging are the many anecdotes she shares about her own childhood fascination with questioning, investigating, building, and inventing. She shares how her autism enabled her to see things in unique ways, paving the way for her innovative work in animal behavior. Grandin describes herself as a visual, “bottom-up thinker,” the type of scientist who gathers data and then arrives at a hypothesis. She passionately encourages young people to use their imaginations, stressing inquisitiveness and open-mindedness as the keys to problem-solving as well as the importance of tactile experiences and hands-on experimentation. Included in the text are 25 kid-friendly projects to help develop those skills. Mixing history, science, and memoir makes for an occasionally digressive narrative that is sometimes unwieldy but never boring. An impassioned call to look at the world in unique ways with plenty of practical advice on how to cultivate a curious, inquiring, imaginative mind. (diagrams, photos, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She tells her story of “groping her way from the far side of darkness” in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because, until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.

Even though she was considered “weird” in her young school years, she eventually found a mentor, who recognized her interests and abilities. Dr. Grandin later developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world. She has now designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States, consulting for firms such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Swift, and others.

Dr. Grandin presently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

Her website is www.templegrandin.com/

Around the Web

Calling All Minds on Amazon

Calling All Minds on Goodreads

Calling All Minds Publisher Page

Artificial Intelligence by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson

Artificial Intelligence: Building Smarter Machines by Sammartino McPherson. September 1, 2017. Twenty-First Century Books, 104 p. ISBN: 9781512418262.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

In 2011 a computer named Watson outscored two human competitors on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! and snagged the million-dollar prize. Watson isn’t the only machine keeping up with humans. The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is booming, with drones, robots, and computers handling tasks that once only humans could perform.

Read about the history of artificial intelligence from smart cars to drones and learn how the fields of AI and neurology work together to create “thinking machines.” You’ll also consider the pros and cons of AI and discover what lies ahead.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. The concept of artificial intelligence, or AI, shouldn’t be new to most young readers, since it’s a frequent feature of sci-fi movies, TV shows, and even the game show Jeopardy!, which famously featured a computer contestant, Watson, that beat its human competitors. There’s more to AI than a dystopian future of robot overlords, however, and McPherson cogently lays out the concept from its inception, with Lovelace and Babbage’s analytical engine, to contemporary research on the topic, including neural mapping, the ways AI is already integrated into current technology, and depictions in popular culture. In addition to laying out the basic research at hand, McPherson also raises critical questions, such whether we should allow computers to make ethical choices, given that those circumstances are so complicated that a simple algorithm likely wouldn’t suffice. On magazinelike pages packed with inset boxes and sidebars, as well as photos of scientists and their machines, McPherson’s straightforward, accessible text offers fascinating, thought-provoking, and up-to-date information on a high-interest, very relevant topic to contemporary teens. Extensive back matter includes further reading and source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
McPherson presents the evolution of artificial intelligence—machines with the “humanlike ability to reason and solve problems.” That definition opens McPherson’s tour d’horizon of artificial intelligence, immediately placing readers on shaky ground. Philosophers have been debating “to reason” since long before Descartes. There is little doubt that McPherson richly explores the women and men who develop machines to do the drudge work of mechanical production and everyday life, but do either the amusingly crafty Watson, which took down the Jeopardy! game show champs, or Deep Blue, which humiliated Garry Kasparov, qualify as “a truly thinking machine, able to learn on its own and modify its own programming without human input”? The ability for a machine to reckon if/then is part of its programming. Sentience, which includes feeling, is stickier. How is it possible, as McPherson writes, that a machine programmed by humans “might not share human social and ethical values—such as notions of fairness, justice, and right and wrong”? Throughout, there’s too much supposition and not enough science; emblematic of this is a failure to convey exactly how Google Brain arrived at the concept of a cat without being commanded to: “All on its own, it had developed the concept of ‘cat.’ ” McPherson conveys the thrill of the possibility inherent in AI, but she’s frequently a giant step ahead of the game. (Nonfiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Stephanie Sammartino McPherson wrote her first children’s story in college. She enjoyed the process so much that she’s never stopped writing. A former teacher and freelance newspaper writer, she has written twenty-eight books and numerous magazine stories. She especially enjoys writing about science and the human interest stories behind major discoveries.

Stephanie and her husband, Richard, live in Virginia but also call California home. They are the parents of two grown children.

Around the Web

Artificial Intelligence on Amazon

Artificial Intelligence on Goodreads

Artificial Intelligence on JLG

Artificial Intelligence Publisher Page

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780425287538.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 990.

Part how-to, part girl-empowerment, and all fun, from the leader of the movement championed by Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, and John Legend.

Since 2012, the organization Girls Who Code has taught computing skills to and inspired over 40,000 girls across America. Now its founder, Reshma Saujani, wants to inspire you to be a girl who codes! Bursting with dynamic artwork, down-to-earth explanations of coding principles, and real-life stories of girls and women working at places like Pixar and NASA, this graphically animated book shows what a huge role computer science plays in our lives and how much fun it can be. No matter your interest–sports, the arts, baking, student government, social justice–coding can help you do what you love and make your dreams come true. Whether you’re a girl who’s never coded before, a girl who codes, or a parent raising one, this entertaining book, printed in bold two-color and featuring art on every page, will have you itching to create your own apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 6-10. Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code (a national nonprofit organization that educates young women with computing skills), is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology. With the help of multicultural girls, represented in appealing tween- and teen-friendly cartoon images, the author introduces the concept of coding, some of its terminology, and its problem-solving process. Using a conversational tone and easy-to-understand examples (such as comparing coding to stringing different patterns of beads), she also explains numerous real-world applications of coding, including digital art, websites, mobile apps, animation, video games, and robots. The text does not teach specific coding skills or languages (although they are represented graphically), but readers who are studying these on their own will benefit from chapters on design, debugging, and other related topics. Particularly eye-opening are interviews with current female coders in high-tech fields and with the featured multicultural girls, all of whom describe projects on which they’ve worked. Above all, this book makes coding less intimidating and more inspiring to today’s young women.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
A guide to get girls into coding, written by Saujani, the founder of the Girls Who Code organization, with Hutt’s assistance. Rather than serving as a manual for a specific coding language, this book has two focuses: encouraging girls that coding is something they can do and guiding them to entry points that will make programming relevant to their specific interests. Internalized societal messages about girls’ STEM abilities and the pressure on girls to be perfect are addressed head-on through spotlights on women in programing history and interviews with impressive women working in programming (such as Danielle Feinberg of Pixar, who tells how a bug in her code created an amazing new effect). After obligatory computer history, the chapters are organized first with programming logic and theory that will serve regardless of the programming language used (including creative prompts to nurture new ideas and give young programmers confidence), and then into the fun to be had programming applications—apps, games, digital art, robots, etc. These segments feature interviews with real Girls Who Code teams speaking of how they created successful projects, and a multicultural cartoon cast appears in comic strips working on specific projects. Having demonstrated what projects each programming language is for, the resources at the end direct girls to code tutorials so they can start their own projects. Final art not seen. An encouraging supplementary resource for young coders. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-16)

About the Author

Reshma Saujani is the former NYC Deputy Public Advocate and the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that prepares underserved girls for careers in science and technology. She ran for U.S. Congress in New York’s 14th District as a Democrat in 2010.

Her website is www.reshmasaujani.com.

Teacher Resources

The Girls Who Code Organization homepage

Around the Web

Girls Who Code on Amazon

Girls Who Code on Goodreads

Girls Who Code on JLG

Girls Who Code Publisher Page

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin. May 23, 2017. Amistad, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062665928.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile: 1020.

Meet Leland Melvin—football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser.

In this inspiring memoir, adapted from the simultaneous version for adults, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog WhispererTop Chef, and Child Genius.

When the former Detroit Lion’s football career was cut short by an injury, Leland didn’t waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one—something that was completely out of this world.

He joined NASA, braved an injury that nearly left him permanently deaf, and still managed to muster the courage and resolve to travel to space on the shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. Leland’s problem-solving methods and can-do attitude turned his impossible-seeming dream into reality.

Leland’s story introduces readers to the fascinating creative and scientific challenges he had to deal with in space and will encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams. With do-it-yourself experiments in the back of the book and sixteen pages of striking full-color photographs, this is the perfect book for young readers looking to be inspired.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Hazing, Murder

 

Book Trailer

Author Talk

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Memoir of an astronaut whose road to space took an unusual twist—through the National Football League.Rewritten for younger audiences, this version of Melvin’s simultaneously publishing memoir for adults not only retraces his development from “a skinny black kid” who wanted to be the next Arthur Ashe to an engineer who flew on two space-shuttle missions, but is even capped with a trio of science projects. Though he pushes the conventional platitude that “hard work and dedication are all you need to succeed,” his experiences point more to the value of being ready to take full advantage of second chances when they come along—which they did in his (brief) NFL career, in college after he was suspended for (inadvertent, in his view) cheating, and later at NASA in the wake of a training injury that left him partially deaf. He has also enjoyed a second career as a speaker, educator, TV host, occasional poet, and songwriter with Pharrell and other musicians. Religious faith and racism sound occasional notes in his account, the latter underscored by a picture of his otherwise all-white astronaut class in one of the two photo sections, but he devotes warmer attention to tributes to his mentors, colleagues, role models—and, oddly, his dogs, whose lives and deaths make up much of what he has to say about his adult private life. A detailed picture of astronaut training and work, threaded on a decidedly unusual storyline. (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut. He served on the space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist and was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010. He also served as the cochair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. He is the host of the Lifetime show Child Genius and a judge for ABC’s BattleBots. He holds four honorary doctorates and has received the NFL Player Association Award of Excellence. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

His website is www.lelandmelvin.com

Around the Web

Chasing Space on Amazon

Chasing Space on Goodreads

Chasing Space on JLG

Chasing Space Publisher Page

Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser. March 7, 2017. HarperCollins, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062472502.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Perfect for aspiring coders everywhere, Girl Code is the story of two teenage tech phenoms who met at Girls Who Code summer camp, teamed up to create a viral video game, and ended up becoming world famous. The book also includes bonus content to help you get started coding!

Fans of funny and inspiring books like Maya Van Wagenen’s Popular and Caroline Paul’s Gutsy Girl will love hearing about Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser’s journey from average teens to powerhouses. Through the success of their video game, Andy and Sophie got unprecedented access to some of the biggest start-ups and tech companies, and now they’re sharing what they’ve seen. Their video game and their commitment to inspiring young women have been covered by the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, CNN, Teen Vogue, Jezebel, the Today show, and many more.

Get ready for an inside look at the tech industry, the true power of coding, and some of the amazing women who are shaping the world. Andy and Sophie reveal not only what they’ve learned about opportunities in science and technology but also the true value of discovering your own voice and creativity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-10. Here’s a welcome addition to STEM shelves. Teenagers Gonzales and Houser met at a Girls Who Code computer camp in 2014, and, for a final project, they created the game Tampon Run, which aims to break down menstruation taboos. To the girls’ surprise, the game took off, and soon they were minicelebs in both pop culture and the tech world, with lots of opportunities. Their experiences are recounted in alternating chapters. Sophie, the girl terrified of public speaking, finds her voice, while Andrea, who comes from a strict Filipino household, must deal with making her own choices. (Though their story lines are distinct, the girls tend to sound the same.) The paucity of women in computer science is a thread, but there are plenty of mentors here, women and men, urging the duo on. Readers who come to this knowing nothing about coding will get an introductory primer—and, at the book’s conclusion, the opportunity to try coding on their own. This shows both the ups and downs of success and celebrity, and the wisdom of keeping options open.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The teens behind the web video game “Tampon Run” tell how they got started in programming.This is a first-person account of how Filipina Andrea “Andy” Gonzales from the East Village and the Bronx and white Sophie Houser from the Upper West Side met at the Girls Who Code summer program and joined forces to create a video game that received viral media attention. The chapters are organized chronologically and, inside each, switch between the two authors’ lively narrations. First, they introduce themselves and their backgrounds with programming: Sophie was a high achiever crippled by self-doubt and terrified of public speaking who was drawn to the GWC program to learn a new way to express herself; Andy was a lifelong gamer and programmer’s daughter who had already attended coding programs by the time she attended GWC. What brought the two together for their project was a desire to combine social commentary with their coding, resulting in their successful game. The game (and networking opportunities from GWC) has brought them attention and many more opportunities, but it also took more time and energy than they had to spare. By book’s end, they find themselves evaluating their futures with technology. The psychology of self-doubt and value of persistence are well-presented—the co-authors stress that the greater the frustration, the better the payoff. Tech-centered empowerment for those who feel voiceless. (coding appendix with glossary, sample code, resources) (Memoir. 12-17)

About the Authors

Andrea “Andy” Gonzales is a graduate of Hunter College High School and is now attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar. The summer before her freshman year of high school, Andy started learning to code. Since then, she’s been passionate about computer science and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). When Andy attended Girls Who Code, she learned the power of working with other girls, and that led to the creation of the video game Tampon Run, which she co-built with Sophie Houser. Tampon Run’s success exceeded all expectations, and Andy was thrown into a world outside of her high school. Beyond her passion for computer science, Andy is a music, comic book, and video game enthusiast. She looks forward to remaining an active advocate for women in computer science.

Sophie Houser is a student at Brown University who learned to code at the Girls Who Code summer program. As her final project she co-created a game called Tampon Run with Andrea Gonzales to break down the menstrual taboo in society. The game went viral, throwing her into the limelight of the press, the public, and the tech world. In addition to coding, Sophie also enjoys laughing with her friends, wearing socks with interesting patterns, and Photoshopping funny scenes. She is pursuing all of these passions as well as many more at college and beyond.

Around the Web

Girl Code on Amazon

Girl Code on Goodreads

Girl Code on JLG

Girl Code Publisher Page

Secrets & Sequences by Gene Luen Yang

Secrets & Sequences by Gene Luen Yang. March 7, 2017. First Second, 112 p. ISBN: 978162676185.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.0.

Stately Academy is no ordinary school: it was once home to an elite institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper, Eni, and Josh won’t rest until they’ve learned the whole story, but they aren’t the only ones interested in the school’s past. Principal Dean is hot on their trail, demanding that the coders turn over their most powerful robot. Dean may be a creep, but he’s nothing compared to the guy who’s really in charge: a green-skinned coding genius named Professor One-Zero.

Sequel to: Paths & Portals

Part of Series: Secret Coders (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Coding Lessons

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
The series’ overarching plot ramps up in the third entry of the Secret Coders series.With Professor Bee still stuck at the mercy of the villainous Principal Dean and his rugby goons in the cliffhanger that ended Paths and Portals (2016), friends Hopper (mixed race, Chinese/white), Eni (black), and Josh (light-skinned but racially ambiguous) must first program their way out of danger. After that situation is resolved, Hopper receives a warning that the principal is quite evil and that Hopper’s mom might be in danger—but their mother-daughter communication still falters. Bee gives more coding lessons and also teaches the kids about his first students, among whom were Hopper’s missing father and Pascal, a brilliant pupil who ended up building an army of robots for world domination. Although Bee, Hopper’s father, and their team stopped him, Bee now worries that Pascal is back. Soon enough, Dean has Hopper’s mom at gunpoint to force the coders to find a flying turtle that takes them right into the lair of a villain far worse than Dean. The coding principles focused on—parameters and Ifelse (if else) statements—are well-explained and -illustrated, which is necessary for readers to follow along with the characters’ actions. The cliffhanger puzzle is an especially snazzy way to end this outing. Nearly every element (especially the bad guys) escalates wildly and successfully in this nifty comp-sci romp. (Graphic science fiction. 8-14)

About the Author

Gene Luen Yang is currently serving as the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His 2006 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award. His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for the National Book Award and won the LA Times Book Prize. Gene currently writes Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender series and DC Comics’ Superman. Secret Coders, his middle-grade graphic novel series with cartoonist Mike Holmes, teaches kids the basics of computer programming.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife and children and teaches at a Roman Catholic high school.

His website is http://geneyang.com.

Teacher Resources

Secret Coders Downloadable Activities

Around the Web

Secrets & Sequences on Amazon

Secrets & Sequences on Goodreads

Secrets & Sequences on JLG

Secrets & Sequences Publisher Page