Review: Hungry for Science

Kari-Lynn Winters and Lori Sherritt-Fleming
Illustrated by Peggy Collins
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018

As society recognizes that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields need to become more diverse and inclusive, and as creative people increasingly add “art” to STEM fields to produce STEAM (art-influenced science-based thinking), a volume like Hungry for Science represents a welcome addition to libraries and book shelves.

The poems in this short picture book speak to basic scientific concepts such as magnetism, chemistry, life cycles, and sustainability; they’re intended for pre-readers and beginning readers. The chunky, boldly coloured illustrations accompanying the poems are pleasant and inclusive. Some of the little scientists are girls. Some are people of colour. Some are people with disabilities. All playfully suggest that science is for everyone — an important idea, particularly for early learners (who, research shows, are likely to represent scientists as male and able-bodied). The bouncy, playful verses will encourage repeated reading aloud, and the scientific concepts introduced in the poems are supported by a brief back matter to point scientists-in-the-making to further topics for investigation.

Hungry for Science makes science fun and appealing. It’s a great addition to school and classroom libraries, with lots of potential contact points for extension in math, science, ecology, and health lessons. It would also make a strong addition to public libraries, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods where young readers may need encouragement to see themselves in creative, innovative futures.

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, December 2018.

 

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Girls and STEM

Earlier this year I was invited to write an article for T8N magazine about girls, women, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and it’s such an important topic. If you’re interested in reading it, here’s the link.

 

Review: Wonder Women

by Sam Maggs
Quirk Books, 2016

wonderwomanSam Maggs is a Canadian writer and editor. You may be familiar with her 2015 book The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks or with her work on various websites and newspapers. Her new book is called Wonder Women, a breezy survey of twenty-five women who have excelled in science- and math-related disciplines as well as other areas of endeavour. It’s a fun, fact-filled volume intended to inspire girls and young women.

Wonder Women is a well-built book. It represents a range of cultures and eras, with a strong emphasis on women’s accomplishment in STEM fields. It also includes short interviews with contemporary women working in science, research, and communications, exactly the kinds of role models teens and young women need today as they encounter sometimes destructive pressure to conform to narrow social roles and behaviours. I liked the inclusion of the section “Women of Adventure,” featuring a mountaineer, an explorer, a pilot, and several women who pursued interests once believed to be restricted to men.

My major concern with this book is that it underestimates teen girls. Girls reading to learn about feminism don’t need to be lured by slang and anti-male mudslinging. They can handle serious prose; they read it elsewhere in their lives, and if they are serious about understanding feminism, they’ll be motivated to read seriously. I’m not in any way saying feminism can’t be fun, funny, or even silly; I am saying that we don’t need to write as if teens are incapable of reading standard prose. One could read this book cynically to suggest that stories of accomplished women must be made super catchy and accessible to be read, despite that this is clearly not Maggs’s intention.

Wonder Women is a smart, accessible book that should be part of junior and senior high school libraries and would make a lively addition to any public library with a strong teen program. But do anticipate that readers will likely find its references and phrasing out of date fairly quickly.

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, December 2016.