March 14 – It’s National Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

National Woman’s History Month was established by the United States Congress in 1987 to recognize and celebrate the achievements of American women in the past and today. This year’s theme is “Balance for Better,” which encourages true gender equity in the workplace, in government, and at home. Only when all people are heard and treated equally will communities thrive. There’s no better time than now to get involved to ensure that all have the same rights and standing in all areas of their lives.

I received a copy of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Katy Wu

 

In 1938 people were lining up to see Hedy Lamarr in her first English-language movie Algiers. Hedy was the talk of Hollywood, and journalists and photographers captured her every move—almost. What movie-goers and the press didn’t know was that Hedy Lamarr was also a brilliant inventor. Instead of attending fancy celebrity parties, after a long day on the set, “Hedy hurried home to work on her latest invention. Her brain overflowed with idea after idea for useful inventions.” While she never tried to sell her ideas—like the collar to help find lost pets or the “flavor cube that changed plain water into soda”—she designed and redesigned them to perfection.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But how did Hedy get her start? She was born in Austria and as a child took apart mechanical objects just to see how they worked. Hedy’s father also loved science, and he encouraged his daughter to hold onto her dreams. In addition to science, Hedy loved movies and would use her dolls to reenact the scenes she saw.

When she got older, Hedy got a job as a script girl and then worked as an extra in a movie. She loved acting and once said, “‘I acted all the time…. I was a little living copybook. I wrote people down on me.’” While playing the lead in a stage play, the Hollywood producer Louis B. Mayer saw her and offered her movie contract. Hedy moved to America. It only took her six months to land a starring role in Algiers. After that she starred in many movies with some of the most famous actors and actresses. 

By now, the world was at war. One day, Hedy met George Antheil, a former weapons inspector who now composed music. Hedy remembered a “discussion she had overheard back in Europe about a problem with the guidance system for torpedoes. The guidance system couldn’t prevent the enemy from jamming the weapon’s radio signals” and sending it off course. She learned from George Antheil that the US Navy had the same problem.

They decided to team up to see if they could figure out a solution. Hedy was also an accomplished pianist, and she and George often played musical games on the piano. Once, while they played the same song in different octaves, Hedy had a brainstorm for building “a secure torpedo guidance system.” At the time, torpedo guidance systems only worked if the ship launching a torpedo and the torpedo were on the same frequency.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Hedy thought that if the ship and the torpedo could switch between a series of different frequencies, the enemy would be foiled. “Hedy called her discovery ‘the hopping of frequencies.” Working together, she and George devised a way to implement Hedy’s idea. When they presented their idea to the National Inventors Council, they were told the “idea had ‘great potential value.’”

There were still some issues to overcome to make the system automated, but Hedy and George answered those too. They applied for a patent, and a year later on August 11, 1942 it was granted. When they gave the idea to the United States Navy, “Hedy was proud her frequency-hopping idea might help America win the war.” But embroiled in the middle of the conflict, the Navy didn’t have “the time or money to implement a new system….”

Hedy, who still wanted to help America defeat the Nazis, was undaunted. She helped raise 25 million dollars by selling war bonds and volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen, where servicemen soon to be deployed gathered. Hedy went on to make more than twenty movies and continued to work on her inventions.

In the 1980s, the US Navy declassified Hedy’s frequency-hopping technology, meaning anyone could use it. Because the patent had long-ago expired, no one needed to give Hedy and George credit for the idea. “Companies raced to include frequency hopping in their own devices.” In 1997, Hedy and George were finally recognized when they “received the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for their significant contribution to computers.”

A timeline of Hedy Lamarr’s life, a description of how Hedy and George’s frequency-hopping technology worked, additional resources for further reading, and a list of Hedy’s movies follow the text.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laurie Wallmark knows how to weave a riveting tale that draws readers in to the lives of fascinating and scientifically minded women throughout history. Her detailed biography of Hedy Lamarr will wow kids with the twists and turns of how a vital feature of the electronics they use every day came to be. A history not only of this famous woman but of the times and policies that denied Hedy Lamarr the recognition and profits she deserved, the story is sure to spark plenty of discussion. The inclusion of a few of Hedy’s ingenious ideas as well as quotes on acting, inventing, and her views on life give children a glimpse into the mind of this unique woman.

Katy Wu takes readers back to the 1940s with her stylish illustrations reminiscent of magazine images of the time that depict both Hedy’s glamourous and inventive sides. Even as Hedy steps out of a limo to the glare of flashbulbs, acts under stage lights, and watches movies thrown by a projector’s beam, she’s dreaming of going home to work on her inventions in the light of a desk lamp. When the story turns to Hedy’s frequency-hopping idea, Wu clearly portrays the problems with the torpedo guidance system and the way single-frequency and multiple-frequency communications work. The way player pianos were controlled and how Hedy and George Antheil used this idea is also well portrayed. The final images of people using Hedy’s technology today lets kids fully understand the impact that Hedy Lamarr has had on their lives.

An important story about an extraordinary woman, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor will inspire children to follow and accomplish all of their dreams. The book will spur creative thought across subject matter and would be a motivational addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454926917

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and her books on her website.

To learn more about Katy Wu, and view a gallery of her book and art, visit her tumblr.

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor written by Laurie Wallmark | illustrated by Katy Wu

This giveaway is open from March 14 through March 20 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 21.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Women’s History Month Activity

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Women in STEM Coloring Book

 

Discover five women who broke barriers  and made important contributions to the science, technology, engineering, and math fields in this printable  Women in STEM Coloring Book created by the United States Department of Energy.

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You can find Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 28 – Digital Learning Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012, today’s holiday raises awareness of the advances in educational technology for classrooms and teachers and to spread opportunities to schools and communities across the country for all youth to use. Digital Learning Day also highlights innovative educators who are using technology to enhance their lessons and bring the latest information and learning tools to students from kindergarten through high school. For more information on today’s holiday and to find resources for using technology in the classroom visit the Digital Learning Day website.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Katy Wu

 

As Grace Hopper finished writing a computer code to guide Navy missiles, she noticed that there was a certain string of code that she had repeated many times. “Grace snorted. What a colossal waste of time! There had to be a better way. Why not make the computer do the work?” Grace figured out a way for the computer to store pieces of a program and then find them again to create another program. Grace was the first computer programmer to do this.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Even as a child Grace loved to tinker with mechanical things. She once opened all the clocks in the house to figure out how they worked. What did her mother say when she saw that? “…all she could do was laugh. After all, Grace was just being Grace.” Later, she built an electric elevator for her dollhouse. She reveled in difficult problems, and while the girls in her class “wore frilly dresses and learned to be young ladies, Grace studies math and science.”

Studying hard, Grace finished high school two years early, and while she had the grades in math and science to go to college, she failed Latin. Without passing Latin, she couldn’t go to college. Grace buckled down and the next year she was off to Vassar College. Grace passed up taking classes such as “Husbands and Wives” and “Motherhood” to take math and physics. But Grace did a lot more than just study. “Her personal motto was ‘Dare and Do,’ and she took it to heart. She flew in a barnstormer airplane.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Grace went on to graduate school at Yale and then took a job teaching at Vassar. She knew how to make her classes fun and informative. At this time America was at war and needed mathematicians. She tried to join the Navy, but they told her she was too old and too thin. She kept asking, however, and after a year, the Navy agreed to let her join. She “was assigned to write programs for one of the first computers ever built, the Mark I. Only a few people had ever programmed before, so she had to learn how to do it on her own.”

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then one day Grace learned that “the new computer, the Mark II, had stopped working.” Grace and her coworkers searched and searched for an error in the code, but they found none. Then Grace thought that maybe the problem wasn’t in the code but in the computer itself. They looked inside the huge machine for loose wires or electrical shorts. Nothing. Then they saw it—a moth had gotten inside and was blocking a switch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grace-hopper-queen-of-computer-code-computer

Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With a tweezer, a worker removed the moth and the computer started up again. Grace taped the moth into the log book and wrote, “‘First actual case of [a computer] bug being found,’” and the term “computer bug” was born. Grace also revolutionized programming when she “invented a program that let people use words to tell the computer what to do” instead of pages and pages of 1s and 0s.

When Grace turned sixty, the Navy made her retire. Within six months, they asked her to return and she worked for them for another twenty years. She retired again at the age of eighty as the Queen of Computer Code. As many people called her, she really was “Amazing Grace.”

A timeline of Grace Hopper’s life as well as a list of honors awarded her and resources for further reading about Grace and other women in STEM.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grace-hopper-queen-of-computer-code-coil

Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laurie Wallmark’s engaging biography of Grace Hopper will delight kids as they see her grow from a precocious and innovative child to a woman who used her intelligence and imagination to lead the computer revolution. Specific examples of Grace’s successes and the support she received at home will encourage other engineering-minded kids, and the inclusion of her failure in Latin demonstrates that everyone has areas of weakness that can be overcome with hard work. Grace’s perseverance in getting the Navy to accept her is also a good lesson for children on not giving up on their dreams. The provenance of the term “computer bug” will surprise and amuse readers.

Katy Wu’s charming illustrations of events in Grace Hopper’s life take readers back to time when computers were new. Children will marvel over the size and design of early computers. Grace’s sense of adventure and humor are on display is colorful and action-packed images. Uplifting and encouraging sayings by Grace Hopper that will inspire children are sprinkled throughout the pages.

A book to motivate children to reach for their dreams and spark pride in individual accomplishment, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code would be an influential book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454920007

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and her books on her website.

To learn more about Katy Wu, her books, and her art on Tumblr.

Digital Learning Day Activity

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Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle

 

Digital communication has a language all its own! Open this laptop and find the twenty-two Internet-based words in this printable word search puzzle.

Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle and Solution

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You can find Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review