Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

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Image Credit: Creston Books, LLC., Laurie Wallmark/April Chu


Ada Byron Lovelace. Enchantress of Numbers. Impressive Mind.

Ada grew up outside of London and away from her scandalous father, the poet Lord Byron. In the country, she explored, expanded her intelligent mind and loved to sketch machines based on nature. She even invented a flying machine and spent hours on the calculations! On a stormy day she went out to do an experiment by her pond but as a result, she developed a serious case of measles that left her paralyzed and blind. Determined to stay sharp, she continued to diligently work with numbers with her mother’s help. Her sight would come back but she was on crutches for 3 more years.

As a teen, she had impressive female mathematician and scientist tutors like Mary Fairfax Somerville and would befriend Charles Babbage. He designed an Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer, but never built it. Ada worked on this project for months and used her impressive knowledge of numbers to design a set of “instructions” for the machine, an algorithm; the world’s first computer program! She was ahead of her time. The author of this book, Laurie Wallmark includes an excellent Author’s Note with more useful information about Ada’s life and in general, does a great job in this book explaining science and history in an easy way for children to understand.

April Chu has a very distinct style of illustration. Her detailed pencil illustrations are colored with computer and the colors she uses are very rosy, golden, dark and warm. Her characters have straight noses and expressive eyes and she does an excellent job of recreating Victorian England. Chu has an “aerial shot” in her illustration that she uses in this book to take us inside of Ada’s room; a glimpse inside her world of imagination, numbers and calculations. This is my favorite scene in the book.

I highly recommend this biography. If you don’t already know about Ada Byron Lovelace, you really should. She’s an important contributor to not only history but modern technology!

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and up
Great for: Mathematics, Biography, History, Math History, Girls in Science/STEM, Computer Science, Computer Programming, Girl Power, Determination, Dreams, Curiosity, Inquisitive Minds, Steampunk, Victorian Era, Imagination
Book Info: Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark/Illustrated by April Chu, 2015 Creston Books, LLC., ISBN: 9781939547200

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Remy and Lulu

 

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), Kevin Hawkes/Hannah E. Harrison

Art has always been an integral part of my life so when I read this book for the first time, I was delighted. It’s very silly and endearing. Hawkes is a great storyteller.

In Remy and Lulu, Lulu meets a painter named Remy and they become friends. Remy is VERY confident in his art and claims to paint the “essence of a person, not their likeness” (his art is a blur) but his patrons are always disappointed and angered by his art! One day during a session, Remy stops to rest and Lulu picks up a brush and takes off painting. At first his patrons are angry but then they spot the tiny, meticulous masterpiece in the corner and are ecstatic! They thank Remy and pay him double and he’s reassured that painting from his heart will lead to great results (and money in his pocket and food in their bellies!)

Remy (and Lulu) becomes very famous but he has bad eyesight, so he never notices Lulu’s paintings UNTIL he has a commission from an optometrist who gifts him with new glasses. Finally his eyes are opened to the truth of their fame and he is angry and bitter and forgets about his good friend. Luckily, Remy comes to realize just how important friendship is when Lulu helps him find himself again.

Kevin Hawkes’ paintings are great; the scenes of the French countryside are beautiful and inviting. His style stands out with its bold color and strokes but so does Hannah E. Harrison’s. Her miniature, highly detailed animal paintings are gorgeous. Harrison’s oil paintings add something special to the book, similar to how聽Lulu is the best business partner and friend Remy could ask for. Check out her book Bernice Gets Carried Away which is also AWESOME and highlights her detailed style.

Be sure to read this story with your little budding artist and head out to the country side to paint like Remy and Lulu!

P.S. The story actually begins on the endpapers (when you first open the book)! Look at Lulu’s sad expression as the beautiful paintings are taken away. 馃槮


Recommended for
:聽All Ages
Great for: Humor, Art, Friendship, Determination, Dogs, Animals, Dreams, France
Book Info: Remy and Lulu聽written by Kevin Hawkes/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison, 2014聽Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books),聽ISBN: 9780449810859

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

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Image Credit: Lee and Low Books Inc., Katheryn Russell-Brown/Frank Morrison

 

A little girl picked up a big instrument and made a big sound that would rock the jazz world.

In recent years, there’s been a surge in excellent music biographies about women; I’ve already reviewed great books about Leontyne Price and聽Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. What attracted me to this biography of Melba Doretta Liston is that she is a Black female musician.聽Sure history remembers and celebrates many great Black female singers but musicians? Not really. I’d never heard of this woman until this book. Jazz fans, is she well known? I certainly hope so…

Melba Doretta Liston grew up with music in her blood and luckily she lived in the thriving, jazz town of Kansas City in the 20s when it was a mecca of #BlackCreativity. Like Millo and Leontyne, she dreamed and lived music and when she was seven years old, her mama bought her a shiny new trombone. Her grandpa helped build her confidence and skill and in no time, she was blowing and making waves on the radio. Her family moved to LA and Melba continued to shine. She began touring the country with a band in the 40s, arranging music and throwing down. Her sound and skill was glorious. Unfortunately she and her band faced segregation and racism on their trips down South but Melba didn’t let that stop her. She’d continue to make music for years to come, touring the world, writing music and being true to her craft.

Morrison’s art is so dynamic. Limber bodies sway to the beat, round smiling brown cheeks, energetic musicians and Melba, the star, takes full control of that huge yellow trombone. His oil paintings embody jazz. Be sure to check out this awesome biography; Melba is someone to know and remember.

P.S. What a great cover, right? 馃槈 She’s sttrreeettchhing from edge to edge.

Recommended for:聽All Ages, especially 1st grade and up
Great for: Girl Power, Diversity, Music, Music History, Girls in Music, We Need Diverse Books, Determination, Family, Jazz, Dreams, Segregation, Community, Biography, African-American, BlackGirlsRock, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone聽by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, 2014 Lee and Low Books Inc.,聽ISBN: 9781600608988

Drum Dream Girl

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael L贸pez

Do you feel the beat? Have a desire to make music and feel rhythm in everything around you? Cuban-American poet Margarita Engle鈥檚 new picture book is about the Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga who dared to drum when it was taboo for a girl to do so.

Drum Dream Girl dreams of drums; she can鈥檛 help it because the music is a part of her but on her island of Cuba in the 30s,聽only boys can drum and even her father discourages her drumming. She continues to dream in drumbeats and every sound is a rhythm. Despite what everyone thinks, she drums and drums and even joins an all girl dance band formed by her sisters. Though he tells her once again that she shouldn’t play the drums,聽her father finally comes around and takes her to a teacher who nurtures her talent and helps her grow into a gifted drummer. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga would go on to be a world famous musician and her music, her defiance and passion, would inspire female musicians in her home and no doubt, around the world.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael L贸pez

Passion, color, music and hope fill the pages through Raphael L贸pez鈥檚 glowing illustrations. He uses acrylic paint to create warm brown skin, large hands, wide expressive eyes, colorful flowers and birds and these details bring the island of Cuba to life. There鈥檚 often a smiling sun or moon shining down on Millo as she drum-dreams. Similar to Raul Col贸n鈥檚 illustrations in Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century, L贸pez draws a whirling strand of colorful ribbons to depict music. Engle’s poetry is beautifully descriptive and great for reading aloud.聽Drum Dream Girl will inspire you to learn more about Millo and it will make聽you feel like you鈥檙e in Cuba, sitting in a caf茅 on a hot summer night, sipping a drink and enjoying the sound of drums.

P.S. If you’re looking for more info about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, check out the book Anacaona:聽The Amazing Adventures of Cuba’s First All-Girl Dance Band by Alicia Castro,聽published by Atlantic Books, London, 2007. Thanks for the info Margarita Engle and Tony Koehler! 聽馃檪

 

Recommended for:聽All Ages
Great for: Defiance, Non-Fiction, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books,聽Read-Aloud, Rhythm, Family, Poetry, Gender Non Conformity, Girl Power, Music, Music History, Cuba, Dreams, Drums, Biography, Jazz, Girls in Music, Black History Month, Black History Month Children’s Books
Book Info: Drum Dream Girl聽by Margarita Engle/Illustrated by Rafael聽L贸pez, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,聽ISBN: 9780544102293

 

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books (Random House LLC), Carole Boston Weatherford/Raul Col贸n

 

Opera. Amazing Voice. Black Woman. World Domination. 馃槈

Carole Boston Weatherford’s latest biography book tells the story of the talented opera singer, Leontyne Price who started in the segregated South of Laurel, Mississippi and rose聽to stages around the world. As a young girl, Leontyne’s parents, knowing she’d grow up in a segregated world, encouraged her talent and made sure she knew she was loved and important!

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books (Random House LLC), Carole Boston Weatherford/Raul Col贸n

Music came naturally to Leontyne and Marian Anderson was her inspiration. After she studied聽voice in college,聽she began on Broadway and would later dominate the opera stage. She was the first black singer to star at La Scala in Italy and would continue to enchant and inspire people, especially people of color, around the world with her long and impressive career.

This picture book is well written. Weatherford’s voice is strong and she knows how to tell a story with style; “Leontyne was in the church choir, praising God with her gift. A song of promise welled up in Leontyne, as it had in young Marian.” I love it.聽Raul Col贸n…what a boss. He’s one of my favorites because his illustrations are always FIRE. He uses watercolor, colored pencils and warm colors. His signature scratch technique is on every page and whenever he depicts music, he uses a rainbow swirl of color that envelops Leontyne. The colorful music is a part of her.

If you’re looking for an excellent new biography book about an often overlooked but well respected Black woman, check this one out! It’s pretty special.

Recommended for:聽1st-2nd grade and up
Great for: Diversity, Music, Non-Fiction, Discussion, Inspiration, Opera, We Need Diverse Books, African American, Family, Girl Power, History, Segregation, BlackGirlsRock, Biography
Book Info: Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century聽by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by Raul Col贸n, 2014 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books (Random House LLC)),聽ISBN: 9780375856068