Wonder is both essential to the life of a scientist and a
great addition to any STEM-related picture book.
BY SARAH HUNTER
Inspirational lives are a mainstay of picture-book biographies. But when it comes to those who worked in STEM fields, the concepts can sometimes be big enough that it’s difficult to articulate why a luminary’s work is significant in
terms little ones can understand. Luckily, curiosity and exploration make sense at
any age, and those attributes are key for successful scientists, too (not to mention
more than a dash of perseverance—and an aggressive patent attorney—if we’re following the Thomas Edison model).
The following introductions to both famous and not-so-famous scientists for the
youngest set cover a broad scope of disciplines and innovations, but each has a
similar message: fascination about the world—and beyond!—and its inner workings
is at the heart of scientific inquiry, and there’s nothing too complicated about that.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking
Machine. By Laurie Wallmark. Illus.
by April Chu. 2015. Creston, $17.99
(9781939547200). Gr. 1–3.
With soft illustrations and informative
text, this tribute to pioneering computer-programmer Ada Lovelace showcases
notable moments in her life and work,
with special emphasis on her boundless imagination and dreams of a flying
machine—a dream nicely realized by a
spacecraft operating a computer language
named in her honor.
Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown
Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur
in the World. By Tracey Fern. Illus. by
Boris Kulikov. 2012. Farrar/Margaret
Ferguson, $17.99 (9780374305161).
As soon as Barnum Brown could toddle,
he collected fossils, but Barnum’s biggest
find would come in the early 1900s with
the discovery of a new species, which
Barnum named Tyrannosaurus rex. Vivid,
personality-rich text pairs with intricate,
breathtaking renderings of dinosaur bones
in this captivating biography of an idio-
syncratic dinosaur hunter.
The Boy Who Loved Math: The
Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. By
Deborah Heiligman. Illus. by LeUyen
Pham. 2013. Roaring Brook, $17.99
(9781596433076). K–Gr. 3.
With math constantly woven through
the lively text, this introduction to
relatively unknown mathematician Paul
Erdos demonstrates not only his love of
numbers but the different way he saw the
world. Pham’s animated artwork emphasizes the importance of math in Erdos’
Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and
Times of Benjamin Franklin. By Robert
Byrd. Illus. by the author. 2012. Dial,
$17.99 (9780803737495). Gr. 2–5.
Large in format and ambitious in scope,
this appealingly designed book spotlights
Benjamin Franklin. In addition to the
well-researched, clear text, the detailed
ink-and-watercolor artwork creates a distinctive period look and delivers plenty of
historical information visually.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of
Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. By Claire A.
Nivola. Illus. by the author. 2012. Farrar/
Frances Foster, $17.99 (9780374380687).
With lyrical text incorporating Earle’s
own words and evocative artwork, this
stunning picture-book biography invites
young explorers to connect Sylvia Earle’s
early life as a child “investigator” to her
career as a world-renowned marine scientist and advocate for ocean preservation
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. By Kathryn
Gibbs Davis. Illus. by Gilbert Ford. 2014.
Houghton, $17.99 (9780547959221).
George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.’s
eponymous invention was initially ridiculed by laypeople and engineers alike,
but once passengers were taken aloft in
his marvelous contraption, everyone was
convinced of his brilliance. Like Mr.
Ferris’ invention, Davis and Ford’s picture book soars, matching the gregarious
text to smaller, often tech-based side