December 6 – It’s Computer Science Education Week

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About the Holiday

Computer Science Education Week was launched in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of computer coding in all careers and to invite people to learn how to code. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 are especially encouraged to take an interest in computer science and learn coding skills and also to take part in Hour of Code programs at school and elsewhere. The holiday is celebrated in December to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born December 9, 1906 and went on to become a United States Navy rear admiral. Her work with machine-independent programming languages led to the development of COBOL, and she was instrumental in many other early computer-related advancements. To celebrate this week, check out Hour of Code and try coding for yourself!

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing

Written by Dean Robbins | Illustrated by Lucy Knisley

 

“Margaret Hamilton loved to solve problems.” When she looked around, she saw many things that made her wonder “why?” Instead of going with the status quo, though, she came up with her own answers. Some things she questioned were why girls didn’t play baseball and why there were so few women doctors, scientists, judges and other professionals. So Margaret joined the baseball team and studied “hard in every subject at school—reading, music, art, and especially mathematics.”

From her father who was a poet and philosopher, Margaret learned about the universe. She wanted to know “how the planets moved, when the galaxies formed, and why the stars shone.” She loved to gaze “at the night sky in wonder.” She especially wanted to know more about the moon—how far away is it? How many miles is its orbit around the Earth? What is its diameter?

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In school, Margaret found it fun to solve “harder and harder math problems” in algebra, geometry, and calculus. “And then she discovered computers!” She realized that she could use computers to solve so many of her questions about the universe. She began writing code and called herself a software engineer. After starting with simple mathematical problems, Margaret moved on to writing code that “could track airplanes through the clouds,” predict the weather, and perform functions they never had before.

In 1964 she joined the team at NASA that was working on sending astronauts to the moon. In writing her code, “Margaret thought of everything that could happen on a trip to the moon.” What if the spacecraft went off course or lost power? What if one of the astronauts made a mistake? Margaret wrote code that could solve all of these problems and more. Soon Margaret was leading a team of her own as “Director of Software Programming for NASA’s Project Apollo.”

She was instrumental in helping Apollo 8 orbit the moon, Apollo 9 hook up with another ship in space, and Apollo 10 come “within nine miles of the moon’s surface.” When NASA was ready to land people on the moon, Margaret wrote the code. She thought of every problem that could arise and included a solution. The printout of her code stood taller than she was.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

On the day of Apollo 11’s launch, Margaret was in the control room while the world watched on television. It took four days for the spacecraft to reach the moon. Finally, the lunar module, Eagle, separated and was ready to make the landing. But just as it was about to descend, an astronaut flipped a switch that sent the Eagle’s computer into overload.

Had Margaret “prepared for this problem? Of course! Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.” Slowly the Eagle approached the surface of the moon and touched down. “The Eagle has landed!” Neil Armstrong announced to an amazed audience. In NASA’s control room, everyone cheered. “Margaret was a hero!”

An Author’s Note with more information about and photographs of Margaret Hamilton follow the text.

With excellent examples from Margaret Hamilton’s childhood and adult life, Dean Robbins presents an accessible and compelling biography that reveals, from the beginning, Margaret’s curiosity, confidence, and convictions. Robbin’s focus on Margaret’s hard work, her excitement at discovering computers, and her leadership at NASA creates a narrative that is inspirational for all children. His emphasis on positive, affirming events in Margaret’s life is welcome, allowing girls and boys to realize that through dedication and self-assurance, they can achieve their goals just as Margaret—a superb role model—did.

Lucy Knisley’s bright, supportive illustrations, full of thought bubbles of Margaret’s ideas and wonderings, give readers the kinds of details that will spark their imaginations and help them understand and appreciate Margaret Hamilton’s many gifts and expertise. Images of mathematical problems give way to lines of code, helping children see the connection between what they’re learning at school and future careers. Kids interested in space exploration will be enthralled with the illustrations of the NASA control room and lunar launches.

For kids interested in computer science and other sciences, biographies, and history, Margaret and the Moon is an excellent addition to home as well as classroom and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399551857

Discover more about Dean Robbins and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lucy Knisley, her artwork, books, and comic, visit her website.

Computer Science Education Week Activity

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I Love Computers! Coloring Page

 

Learning to code is awesome! Why not try an Hour of Code here and then color this printable I Love Computers! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

March 12 – It’s Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

From its beginning as a single-day observance in 1911 , the celebration of women’s achievements and contributions throughout history grew to a week-long event in 1982 and finally to encompass the entire month of March in 1988. During this month we remember the trail-blazing women of yesteryear who used their creativity, intelligence, and perseverance to promote rights for women while contributing their own innovations to science, art, social reform, medicine, and other disciplines as well as today’s pioneers who carry on their legacy and make our world a better place. 

To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space

Written by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan | Illustrated by Nicole Wong

 

As a child Kathy Sullivan loved to explore. Her father designed airplanes, and when he brought home blueprints, she carefully studied every line and curve. When she saw airplanes in the sky she wished she were on them, flying to exciting locations all over the world. Maps and foreign languages fascinated her. “Their strange symbols, exotic tales, and musical sounds made her feel like the world was waiting for her.” Kathy wanted to see that whole world and thought maybe she’d like to be a spy or a diplomat, but her friends and other adults told her those weren’t jobs for women.

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Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of nicole-wong.com

But Kathy always followed her heart. She loved going fishing with her dad and brother and finishing the day with a swim. She “delighted in how her arms and legs moved in slow motion underwater.” Kathy was still a teenager when she learned how to pilot a plane. At first the busy instrument panel made her nervous, but she quickly learned how to manage all the “dials, buttons, and numbers.”

Kathy got a taste for the thrill of space when she bravely jumped at the opportunity to ride in a Breezy—an open air framework plane. Sitting at the very tip of the airplane, in front of the pilot, Kathy had a bird’s eye view. “The wind rushed past her face so fast it pushed her cheeks back. Higher! Faster! Young Kathy looked at the ground below her feet. She felt like she could see the whole world.”

As an adult, Kathy put all of these experiences to good use as she studied complex science that would lead her to NASA. And when she became the first American woman to walk in space, she fulfilled her childhood dream to see the whole world!

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Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, have written a compelling biography of Dr. Sullivan that not only tells the story of her adult achievements, but also reveals the childhood and teenage motivations and influences that fostered her journey to the stars. As each event in Kathy’s young life is introduced, it is followed by an adult accomplishment: Kathy’s poring over her father’s aircraft blueprints leads to a spread of college-age Kathy studying charts in textbooks. Her enjoyment of swimming underwater is followed by an illustration showing her NASA training underwater. Her initial introduction to a plane’s instrument panel informs her later responsibilities inside the spacecraft. And the question she once asked herself as a child—what kind of job would allow her to see the whole world—is answered as the astronaut Kathy gazes down at Earth from space.

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Image copyright Nicole Wong, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Nicole Wong’s lovely, realistic watercolor and ink paintings clearly show readers Kathy Sullivan’s trajectory from curious girl to accomplished astronaut. The blueprints that Kathy studies are filled with schematics. The aqua water she swims in swirls and bubbles in the wake of her cannonball dive, and the crisscrossing fields lay like a mottled green quilt under the Breezy. Especially stunning and effective are the illustrations of Dr. Sullivan’s work with NASA. Kids will love the up-close view of the spacecraft’s instrument panel with its myriad buttons and dial. Likewise, they will find the gorgeous two-page spreads of the space shuttle’s launch, the view from the cockpit, and Kathy’s spacewalk particularly thrilling.

Following the text is a personal note from Kathy Sullivan to her young readers. More extensive biographical notes reveal how Dr. Sullivan discovered her love of science as well as information on the NASA missions she supported. Two more pages highlight the women of the first space-shuttle class, which included Kathy Sullivan, and other firsts by eight other women in space.

To the Stars is a wonderful book to teach children that following their own heart is the best path to future happiness and personal accomplishment. It’s a beautiful addition to any budding scientist’s or adventurer’s library!

Ages 5 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580896443

To find fun activities for To the Stars—including how to make space play dough—as well as other books by Carmella Van Vleet, visit her website!

To learn more about Nicole Wong and view a portfolio of her artwork, visit her website!

Women’s History Month Activity

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Astronaut Coloring Page

Would you like to be an astronaut? Draw yourself in this spacesuit and then grab your crayons, pencils, or markers and have fun with this printable Astronaut Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

February 28 – National Women Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate women inventors, both past and present, who have changed our lives and the world for the better through their intelligence, creativity, unique vision, and perseverance.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer

Written by Robert Burleigh | Illustrated by Raúl Colón       

 

Henrietta Leavitt loves the stars. Every night she sits on the front porch and asks herself what were—in the early 1900s—unanswerable questions. How high is the sky? How far away are the stars? She traces the form of the Big Dipper to the North Star and feels that the stars are trying to tell her something.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Robert Berleigh. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

As a young woman she takes an astronomy class—one of the few women to do so. She learns about light years, planets, and the vast distances that fascinate her. After graduation she takes a job at an observatory, and while it houses a large telescope to study the sky, Henrietta is not allowed to use it. She and the other woman who work at the observatory are only there to record, measure, and calculate data, not to have new ideas.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

But in doing her job, Henrietta begins to notice a pattern in the brightness of certain stars. She discovers new “blinking” stars. Taking careful measurements, Henrietta finds that a star with a slower “blink” time—the time it takes for a star to go from dim to bright, or from off to on—contains more light power than stars with faster blink times. But what does this mean? After more study she realizes that the blink time can determine the true brightness of any blinking star, even those far, far away.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Henrietta has made a breakthrough in astronomy! By knowing the true brightness of a star, astronomers can figure out the star’s distance from Earth. Henrietta publishes her star chart in a magazine, and it helps other astronomers measure first the Milky Way and then galaxies they didn’t even know existed! Henrietta is an astronomer–one who advances her beloved science! Even as she grows older Henrietta continues to look to the sky, to ask questions and dream.

More information about Henrietta Leavitt and her discoveries, Internet and print resources on astronomy and other women astronomers, a glossary, and more are provided on the final pages.

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Instead of first presenting Henrietta Leavitt as an adult already working as an astronomer, Robert Burleigh chooses to introduce her as a child, when all she had were questions and dreams about the sky and the stars. It’s a fitting emphasis for a picture book aimed at children who themselves are only just discovering the questions that will guide their lives.  Burleigh’s style is simple and straightforward, revealing pertinent facts about the working conditions of a woman scientist in the early 1900s, but emphasizing Henrietta’s internal contemplations that led to her important discoveries. It’s good for children to see that one does not always need to be the “astronaut” rocketing to the Space Station to contribute— the life of the mind is just as noble and needed a pursuit.

Raúl Colón’s watercolor and ink illustrations echo the theme of dreams and contemplation with soft muted colors and antique, sepia tones. Brightness on the pages comes from the points of light that fill the skies and Henrietta’s mind. As a child and young woman, Henrietta sits and stands in the glow of the stars and, one can imagine, her own thoughts.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2013 | ISBN 978-1416958192

Discover more about Robert Burleigh and his many, many books in the categories of science, art, poetry, adventure, sports, and more for children and adults on his website!

National Women Inventors Month Activity

CPB - Star Coloring Page

Be the Star You Want to Be Coloring Page

 

Everyone has “stars in their eyes”—dreams and hopes for what they will accomplish in life. Decorate this printable Be the Star You Want to Be coloring page to show what’s in your imagination and in your heart.