Caramel reviews physics books for babies by Chris Ferrie

This past week Caramel got his paws on a handful of board books from the Baby University series, written mainly by Chris Ferrie. He is a voracious reader, and these little books, written for tinier bunnies and their adults, were all read within the course of one evening. Then he reread them and reread them again. And for today’s review, he insisted that we should talk about them. So that is what is happening today: Caramel is reviewing six books on physics from the Baby University series, and Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by him and Julia Kregenow.
Caramel reviews Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by Ferrie and Julia Kregenow.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, why did you want to review these books?

Caramel: Well, I liked them. I review only the books I like.

S: But aren’t these books for babies?

C: Yes. So? I don’t care. I liked them!

S: I agree they are cute and fun. But did you find them amusing? Did you find them informative?

C: Both!

S: They do explain some basic physics in simple terms. And even for a little bunny like you, who can read big books, they could teach some basic principles, right?

C: Yes.

S: Okay, let us start from the beginning. The earliest physics these books talks about is Newtonian physics. Can you tell me a bit about what you learn in that book?

C: This book talks about gravity, and mass, and acceleration.

S: Hmm, those are big important words. Do you know what they mean?

C: Yeah. For example the book tells me what gravity is. It says: “We can’t see gravity. It is the force that keeps us on the ground.”

S: I see.

C: There are forces and they make a ball move faster. That is what accelerate means. And when an apple falls from a tree, it “feels the force of gravity, and Sir Isaac Newton feels the force of the apple.”

S: Yes, so in this book we go through Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.

C: I knew only one of them before reading this book, the one that says “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. So I learned two more.

S: That is good! Then let us move to the book on electromagnetism. That is I believe the next one, in terms of the history of science.

C: Hmm, let me quickly read it again… Okay, this one, like all the others, starts with a ball. All of the books start with “This is a ball.”

S: It is a good starting point, especially if you want babies to be interested, right?

C: Yes. I like balls too.

S: I know! So okay, in this book you learn about electric charges and then magnets and then finally that the ideas of electricity and magnetism are related. Right?

C: Yes! I heard that they use big magnets in wind turbines to generate electricity! They are using this idea!

S: That is cool! Here is an article we found about “the critical role of magnets in wind turbines” and read together.

Caramel is looking at Electromagnetism for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies, all written by Chris Ferrie.
Caramel is looking at Electromagnetism for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies, all written by Chris Ferrie.

S: Next let us talk about the book on quantum physics. Tell me about this one.

C: This also starts with a ball. Then it tells us about atoms and electrons. Electrons have energy. This energy is “quantized”.

S: That means that the energy electrons can have has to be among a few possible values. Not all values are allowed.

C: Yes. I learned that from this book.

S: That is some quite fancy knowledge Caramel. I’m glad you are learning all this already!

Caramel is looking at Astrophysics for Babies by Ferrie and Kregenow and General Relativity for Babies by Ferrie.

S: Tell me next about the astrophysics one. This is written by Chris Ferrie and Julie Kregenow.

C: This too starts with “This is a ball.” And then it says planets and stars are like balls. Then it talks about elements on the periodic table. They were all created in stars!

S: Yes, that part made me think about that Symphony of Science song we like to listen to. There is a part in that song where Carl Sagan says, “We’re made of star stuff”. He then says “We’re a way for the cosmos to know itself.” I love that!

C: Yeah, let us embed the video here!

S: Sure, why not?

“”We Are All Connected” was made from sampling Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, The History Channel’s Universe series, Richard Feynman’s 1983 interviews, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s cosmic sermon, and Bill Nye’s Eyes of Nye Series, plus added visuals from The Elegant Universe (NOVA), Stephen Hawking’s Universe, Cosmos, the Powers of 10, and more. It is a tribute to great minds of science, intended to spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through the medium of music.”

S: “And there is much to be learned.” I love this song. But let us get back to the books. Next if you want, we can talk about the book about general relativity.

C: This begins with the same sentence: “This is a ball.”

S: Then what happens? What do you learn?

C: I learn about mass and how it warps space, and then about black holes.

S: All pretty cool stuff really…

C: And now let us talk about my favorite one.

S: Yes, let us talk about Rocket Science for Babies.

Caramel is posing with Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.
Caramel is posing with Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.

C: This is my favorite! It again starts with “This is a ball.” Like all the other ones. Then it talks about lift and airplane wings and thrust. And rockets.

S: Why is it your favorite?

C: Because I love rocket ships and planes and balls. And the book is all about them.

S: Yes, that is a good reason to like the book. Did you learn something new from this book?

C: Well, not really. I already knew a bit about lift and thrust and such. But it is still a cool book.

Caramel is reading Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.
Caramel is reading Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.

S: So do you think it is time to give these books away to a baby bunny?

C: No! I like them and want to read them a lot more times before we do that!

S: Okay, you can read and reread them as many times as you like. I do think they are good ways to set up the fundamental ideas of some of these things. Do you think these books would work well for babies?

C: Yes, I would have loved to have read them with you when I was a baby.

S: So would I! I myself would recommend these books to parents, especially if they are willing to talk to their little ones about the science a bit, even if it has to be with the help of the internet. But we only found out about them this year. Oh well, better late than never, right? Let us wrap this up. What three words would you use to describe these books?

C: Helpful, colorful, fun.

S: I think those work! So what should our readers do?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading and rereading Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by Ferrie and Julia Kregenow.
Caramel enjoyed reading and rereading Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by Ferrie and Julia Kregenow.

Sprinkles reviews children’s books about zombies

Given that it is Halloween in the United States today, the book bunnies thought about doing something different. Today Sprinkles reviews a handful of children’s books about zombies! VERY SCARY!! And to be honest not all of these are appropriate for children, even though they are published in a children’s book format. But hey, it is Halloween, and we’ve got to try to be scary, right? So here goes.

Sprinkles reviews children's books about zombies.
Sprinkles reviews children’s books about zombies.

As adult bunnies go, I am pretty much a scaredy cat. I do not much enjoy horror movies or novels or short stories. I avoid the genre altogether if I can. Zombies are the one exception. I find them fascinating. From its historical Caribbean and possibly African origins, to the intriguing role it plays in the philosophy of the mind, the zombie is not merely a popular culture icon with a pathological obsession for human brains, but in my opinion an enduring concept that raises significant questions about what it means to be human.

The little bunnies in our household do not yet share my fascination with zombies. However, this has not stopped me from collecting through the years a handful of zombie books that at least seem to be intended for young readers. In this post, I will share my candid opinion about these five books: That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells, The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones, Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone, Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi.

Sprinkles is reading That's Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells: "If she doesn't seem like she did before, Maybe that's not your mommy anymore."
Sprinkles is reading That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells: “If she doesn’t seem like she did before, Maybe that’s not your mommy anymore.”

Let me begin with That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells. This is a book written in rhyme and starts sweet:

Mommy has the kindest eyes.
Mommy likes to bake you pies.

And then something happens to mommy and she is transformed into the scary zombie from the standard zombie movies. We do not see how she is infected, but we discover with the boy, how she becomes a mindless zombie. The book is a picture book really, but the pictures get gorier and more disturbing on each page. Reading this with young bunnies could possibly be traumatizing; especially if the child is already worried occasionally about losing a parent, it would be probably parental malpractice to read it to them. However if you have a young bunny who finds horror fascinating, they might actually enjoy this little gem. Otherwise this is likely more appropriate for the teenage crowd who might have fond memories of having read rhyming picture books but also have a budding interest in zombies and other gory stuff.

Sprinkles is taking the "Which Type of Zombie Are You?" quiz in The Girl's Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones.
Sprinkles is taking the “Which Type of Zombie Are You?” quiz in The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones.

Next on my list is The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones. This is a slim hardcover book published in the Girls’ Guides to Everything Unexplained series, which contains books on vampires, werewolves, and wizards. This one is full of pop culture references (though some, like the one about Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, might be somewhat too old for contemporary readers), and offers a lot of information about zombies both in history and in the media. As most books directed at girls assume girls like quizzes, this one, too, has a quiz: Which Type of Zombie Are You? To make sure you are a human, you apparently need to like geometry and California (I am good with both of those!) and strawberry lip gloss (not sure about this one…) All in all, though, this one would really be suitable for the age group it seems to be intended for: the young reader who wants to know what the fuss is about these things called zombies.

Sprinkles is reading Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone; apparently zombies hate giant purple monsters and penguins.
Sprinkles is reading Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone; apparently zombies hate giant purple monsters and penguins.

Next up is Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone. Readers of this blog might recall that Caramel has already reviewed a book by Greg Stone: Penguins Hate Stuff. Zombies Hate Stuff is a book in exactly the same spirit. Each page has a detailed illustration and a simple word or phrase which describes something else that zombies hate. We learn for example that zombies hate sheep, re-gifting, cliffs, and archery, but they do not mind wigs, celery, teddy bears and Canadians. Zombies Hate Stuff is, just like the penguin book, good for quite a few chuckles. Each illustration is simple yet carefully thought out, and you might find a new page more interesting to you than the others every time you open up the book. The book is likely not directly aimed toward young readers, but seeing how Caramel enjoyed Penguins Hate Stuff, I can see how young ones who like horror stuff even in small doses might also enjoy this one, which adds a good deal of humor into the mix.

Sprinkles poses with Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi.
Sprinkles poses with Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi.

Finally let me say a few words about Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story, by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof, by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi. These two are modeled after a well-known children’s rhyme in the case of Ten Little Zombies (I first heard about it while reading a novel by Agatha Christie; readers might want to follow the evolution of this rhyme in the relevant Wikipedia article) and a well-known children’s book in the case of Pat the Zombie.

The Ten Little Zombies follows the steps of the Ten Little Soldier Boys. Just as that poem is itself quite gory, the book is quite bloody and would likely not be great for really young bunnies. As you read further, the story gets more and more violent, but the end surprises the reader with a sweet twist. So even though zombies and blood and gore are all over this little book, I still smile when I think about it. Among the five books I’m reviewing here, this book is my favorite. I can see The Ten Little Zombies be appreciated by middle grade readers and older bunnies who are not terribly offended by gore and blood but also find love in the midst of gore at least somewhat endearing.

Now Pat the Zombie is another story. My best guess is that readers who grew up with Pat the Bunny, the 1940 touch-and-feel classic, are the main target audience of this book. Apparently there have been other parodies of the book: Wikipedia mentions “Pat the Politician, mocking contemporary political figures, and Pat the Yuppie, which includes activities like touching the sheepskin seatcovers of their new BMW and rubbing the exposed brick of their new condominium’s wall.” This is a good parody, and a cruel one, as the subtitle “A Cruel Spoof” implies. All standard parts of the original Pat the Bunny are here, there is a zombie bunny, Pat, and the two children start by touching it (or rather “gutting” it, as the book suggests). And step by step, we learn that the parents are also zombies, and things get closer and closer to the reader, as the reader eventually needs to read a survival manual and scream. So yes, this is definitely not for little ones, unless the little ones involved have a morbid sense of humor. But horror fans who can appreciate some cheekiness and who are open to messing around with their own pleasant childhood memories of reading the original Pat the Bunny with a loved adult might find this book amusing. It is really well done, but definitely only for its own audience.

Alright, now here we are, having talked about five zombie books published for children or at least published in the format of standard children’s books. Some of you may wonder about just who writes or publishes these kinds of books. And others might wonder why people even read them. But I will end this review with a full endorsement of cheeky adult humor messing with children’s books. As long as we always know our own children’s boundaries and resist the temptation to share some of these books with them unless we are sure they can handle them, these types of books can offer us a fresh memory of our own childhood mixed with some good load of laughter. (I even pushed away some happy tears with The Ten Little Zombies, I must admit. But then again I am a softie.) Some little bunnies will find some of these books really entertaining, and The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones is indeed perfectly suitable for the 8-12 year old crowd, so there is that, too.

Oh, and yes, Happy Halloween everyone! May you only be spooked by made-up monsters!

Happy Halloween, with cats! Image from http://wordofsean.blogspot.com/2015/10/blog-update-5-halloween-november-event.html.
Happy Halloween, with cats! Image from http://wordofsean.blogspot.com/2015/10/blog-update-5-halloween-november-event.html.

Sprinkles reviews children’s books about Barack Obama

As the United States is approaching another presidential election, Sprinkles thought that it could be a good idea to review children’s books about a recent president: President Barack Obama. Here Sprinkles shares her candid opinions on five books about him, with the goal of informing parents of young bunnies. Perhaps other young bunnies (and their parents too) will find one or more of these books worth the read to learn from and get inspired by.

Sprinkles writes about Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O'Brien, President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, and Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin.
Sprinkles writes about Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien, President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, and Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin.

School-age bunnies often need to find people to write about for school reports. Most of the books I review in this post found their way to the book bunnies household as the younger bunnies were writing reports about their personal heroes, about well-known world leaders, and about past presidents. And occasionally young readers get their paws on books about inspiring people and just read them on their own. The five books I review in this post are all suitable for both kinds of reading goals. If your little one is curious about president Barack Obama, just keep reading to see which of these five books might be the right one for them!

In what follows I organize and present my thoughts in the order of reader level. By that I mean that the youngest bunnies will likely find it easier to read the books I mention first, and the older ones, those that are more independent readers and those that can handle more challenging sentences, might get more details and all around just more out of the books that come up later.

In this photo, Sprinkles organized the books in this review in the order of reader level: President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin, Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O'Brien, and Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky.
In this photo, Sprinkles organized the books in this review in the order of reader level: President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin, Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien, and Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky.

The first book I will describe for this review is President Barack Obama, written by A. D. Largie and illustrated by Sabrina Pichardo. A slim and mid-size paperback, this book is aimed at younger readers. It can be read out loud, as there is some basic rhyme built into the text on each page. I wished that some of this rhyming was made more visible by formatting of the text or by punctuation. For example the text “Barack Obama proved that you can can (sic) do anything that you believe as long as you hope for the best and focus you can achieve.” would be easier to read if it were written more visibly in two lines and / or with more punctuation:

Barack Obama proved that you can do anything that you believe,
As long as you hope for the best and focus, you can achieve.

Still, a parent used to reading books out loud for their little ones will probably figure out the rhythm soon enough.

There was also a small factual error in the book. Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, and to the United States Senate in 2004. But again it is not a big enough deal; a parent can easily correct it while reading.

Despite these two minor issues, I would say that this can be a good book to teach young ones about President Obama. A part of a “Boys Grow Up To Be Heroes” book series, the book emphasizes that Obama was teased for his name when he was young but he persevered; he worked hard on his classes and on building community; and he wanted to bring people of many differences together. And after all that, he was the first black president! This can certainly be an inspiring read.

Next, I will describe Caroline Crosson Gilpin’s Barack Obama, published by National Geographic Kids. Rated Level 2 by the publisher, the book is meant for transitional readers who are getting comfortable reading on their own. The font size is large and the pictures are colorful. After a brief introduction starting on January 20, 2009, the day of the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, most of the rest of the book is organized chronologically, and ends the story with a quote from Obama himself:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

President Barack Obama

The book ends with a seven-question quiz, and a one-page glossary describing terms like “civil rights lawyer”, “community organizer”, and “multiracial”. All in all, this is a good book, telling the story with just enough details, and besides the facts, you also get a little dose of the inspiration that Obama’s presidency offered for many.

Barack Obama: Out of Many, One, written by Shana Corey and illustrated by James Bernardin, is also aimed toward the same level of readers, I believe. The book’s publisher Random House ranks it “Step 3: Reading on Your Own” and this is still written for the young reader, who is not yet quite ready for the chapter book. President Obama’s story is told in simple and clear language, from the beginning up to the time of writing of the book, during Obama’s second term. We start with:

We all have stories–each and every one of us. This is one of those stories. It is the story of a skinny little boy with a funny name and how he became part of America’s history.

and end along similar lines:

But the story is not complete. In fact it’s just started. Where does your story fit in the American story? You could help your neighbor or your school. You could even grow up to be president! Anything is possible–what happens next is up to you!

The illustrations are appealingly hand-drawn, and are peppered with actual photographic images. My favorite was the last one, right under the words I quoted above, where President Obama is looking at some school kids through a ginormous magnifying glass. And luckily due to copyright laws that say “a work of the U.S. federal government” will be on public domain, I can insert it right here:

United States President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia on 14 February 2013. Source Wikimedia via White House, accessed at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barack_Obama_through_a_magnifying_glass.jpg on September 19, 2020.

Next I will share my thoughts on Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien. This book is clearly directed towards readers who are comfortable with chapter books, as it is one, and at over one hundred pages, it is actually quite an informative read. Its twelve chapters tell a chronological story, with a great many details, including a description of the Democratic nomination process and the competition between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton at the time before the 2008 presidential elections. The author seems to trust that her reader can handle both details and large-picture connections; I always appreciate authors who respect their readers! The book ends with two timelines, one for Obama’s life and the other noting some world events relevant to the narrative of the book.

I believe that this would make an excellent choice for the young reader who is curious to learn about President Obama. Illustrated in simple black and white sketches by John O’Brien, the book tells the story of one of the most inspiring political figures of our times, and situates his story within the wider American context.

The last book I will describe in this review is Stephen Krensky’s Barack Obama. This book also targets a similar audience but perhaps expects a little bit more from the reader. The font size is much smaller, the sentences are a little bit more complex, and the book overall has more the flavor of a historical biography than that of a children’s book. This is not particularly a disadvantage, however, and should definitely not deter any young reader wishing to learn more about the first black president of the United States. The details and the historical conextualization that were strengths for the previous book are also a strength for this one, and the photographic images add a lot to the book’s appeal.

The longest of the books reviewed in this blog post, at 125 pages, Krensky’s Barack Obama is a good text for those young bunnies writing reports or essays about the president, and it can be a good resource for learning more about his life and accomplishments. (Among other things, it contains a neat timeline and several references for further reading and study.) However, it does end on the inauguration day of 2009, and we do not learn much about his accomplishments as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Still, I would recommend it for those bunnies looking to learn more.

Sprinkles thinks that if you or your little ones want to learn about President Barack Obama, there are a lot of great resources out there!
Sprinkles thinks that if you or your little ones want to learn about President Barack Obama, there are a lot of great resources out there!

But perhaps those same young bunnies are up to learn even more about this man? Then I’d urge them and their parents to consider diving into one of Obama’s own books. Many parents will likely think Obama’s 2006 book The Audacity of Hope might be too political (or politically motivated) for their young ones, but his first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, written in 1995, tells this man’s tale up to that time in lyrical but not overly dramatic language. This is a beautiful coming-of-age story, and it is perhaps uniquely American. Obama tries in it to open up, understand (for himself–and to our benefit), and come to terms with his own multicultural multiracial heritage. It can be a challenging read for preteens, but for tweens and teenagers, it is bound to be inspiring. And I’d say, it can be especially so, knowing that this young man narrating his own story would become the forty-fourth president of the United States in a little less than fifteen years from the end of the book.

After spending all this time reading about books about president Barack Obama written for younger audiences, Sprinkles proposes that you also consider Obama's own book Dreams From My Father as a possible next step.
After spending all this time reading about books about president Barack Obama written for younger audiences, Sprinkles proposes that you also consider Obama’s own book Dreams From My Father as a possible next step.

Sprinkles reviews Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians by Shelly M. Jones

Sprinkles reviews Shelly M. Jones’ book Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians (illustrated by Veronica Martins).

Sprinkles got her paws on Dr. Shelly M. Jones’ book Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians (illustrated by Veronica Martins) recently and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to review it here. Below is her review. Enjoy!

Sprinkles reviews Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.
Sprinkles reviews Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.

There have been several books and films about African American women mathematicians and their contributions recently, following the release of the amazing 2016 movie Hidden Figures. A well-rounded collection of books, toys, and posters celebrating Katherine Johnson is reviewed at the A Mighty Girl blog. I have mentioned a couple of related books here myself at the end of my review of children’s books about Ada Lovelace. But the book I am going to tell you about today is a quite different type of book. And I believe any parent wanting to encourage their young ones to find joy in mathematics and learn about possibilities of a wide range of futures in STEM might appreciate this book.

The book introduces through brief biographical essays and clean illustrations a selection of 29 African American women who have found their career paths through mathematics. Among them are mathematicians, atmospheric scientists, computer engineers, and education researchers. In four sections, the book introduces the first three African American women with mathematics PhDs, nine pioneering mathematicians who led the way for many others along the path to a mathematical career, four of the women making up the six hidden figures in the eponymous 2016 book by Margot Lee Shetterly, and finally thirteen contemporary mathematicians who bring us to today.

Sprinkles is reading the pages about Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics.
Sprinkles is reading the pages about Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics.

Dr. Shelly Jones writes in her introduction:

“I am proud to have the opportunity to share the stories of these 29 extraordinary women so that [you] can benefit from learning about a variety of occupational fields related to mathematics. … You may use this book as a springboard into the world of mathematics. Have you ever heard of a magic square, a tessellation, or sudoku? … There is something for everyone in this book.”

Indeed the book is chock-full of fun activities that will engage young ones (aiming for both elementary and middle school kids here). There are coloring pages, there are puzzles and mazes, and there are learning activities about a range of mathematical topics which are typically not a part of a school curriculum but will be accessible to and entertaining for young people.

Sprinkles is pointing towards the page where Dr. Erica Walker, a professor of mathematics education at Teachers College, Columbia University, is introduced. The page is accompanied by another where readers are invited to play with colors and symmetry.

But of course this is not just a standard math-is-fun activity book. The author adds in her introduction:

“Have fun doing the activities, but don’t forget to read and learn about these wonderful women who happen to love mathematics!”

And that is what makes this book special. The stories of these women are inspirational and inviting. The reader is invited to think about mathematics as an exciting career path, or, perhaps more accurately, as a gateway to many different exciting career paths. In particular, seeing the illustrations of these women (and photos of the contemporary ones) might help all children see mathematics as a real possibility for themselves and their friends. As Dr. Reagan Higgins, one of the women portrayed in this book writes:

“It is important we show children who and what they can be.”

Children early on start to digest the prevalent societal message that mathematics (and more generally STEM) is for men. Furthermore, standard curricula and mainstream depictions of STEM do not offer young children of color many role models in STEM that they can identify with. This book is a neat addition to kid-friendly content created by people trying to change this status quo.

The activities are not “girly” in particular; boys and girls alike can enjoy them. And it is good for both boys and girls, of any background, to be exposed to examples of mathematicians and mathematical scientists who do not fit stereotypes and societal assumptions of who can do math. I would strongly recommend Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins. to any parent interested in encouraging their young ones to engage with the ideas and people of mathematics.

The book started as a Kickstarter project and is currently published by the American Mathematical Society.

Sprinkles enthusiastically recommends Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.
Sprinkles enthusiastically recommends Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.