March is a time for paying tribute to the pioneering heroines who paved the way for the generations of women after them. Three new biographies for young readers will introduce three extraordinary ladies who made lasting contributions in science and math.
With a title that’s hard to top, Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles, by Patricia Valdez, is sure to intrigue little readers. As a girl in London during the early 1900s, Procter entertained an unorthodox fondness for snakes, lizards and turtles, which she studied with keen enthusiasm. Well-suited for a career in science, she eventually became curator of the Reptile House at the London Zoo—the first woman to hold the position. Asked to redesign the Reptile House, Procter created a cutting-edge enclosure with light and heat, along with plants similar to those found in the creatures’ native environments. Her career took off when two Komodo dragons—seven-foot-long lizards, one of whom Procter befriended—are brought to the zoo, attracting worldwide attention. Felicita Sala’s soft, colorful illustrations bring the story of Procter and her cherished reptiles to vivid life. There’s plenty to love about this playful biography of a trailblazing zoologist.
A KNACK FOR NUMBERS
Tanya Lee Stone chronicles the remarkable career of a 19th-century math whiz in Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace. The daughter of poet Lord Byron, who deserted the family early on, young Ada was raised in Kent, England, by the strict Lady Byron. In an effort to curb any capriciousness her daughter might have inherited from her flighty father, Lady Byron made sure Ada received a first-rate education with an emphasis on mathematics. But there was no denying Ada’s creative side—she longed to design a pair of wings or a horse-shaped flying machine. When Ada met inventor Charles Babbage and assisted him with his calculating device, the Analytical Engine, she wrote what’s considered to be the first computer program. Stone’s story of how she comes into her own as a mathematician features whimsical illustrations by the incomparable Marjorie Priceman. Inspiring from start to finish.
MAKING HISTORY IN THE LAB
Demi provides a fact-filled yet accessible biography of a groundbreaking female physicist in Marie Curie. Born in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, Marie—called Manya by her family—was an eager student who was captivated by her physics-teacher father’s scientific instruments. But she experienced her share of hardships and made the best of it after the deaths of her mother and sister. Given the opportunity to study in Paris, Marie attended the Sorbonne and graduated at the top of her class with degrees in physics and math. While in Paris, she also met and married like-minded scientist Pierre Curie. In the midst of raising children and keeping house, she conducted important research with Pierre involving radiation. The hard work paid off when the pair received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. The first woman to receive the award, Marie had a history-making career. Demi’s luminous, finely detailed illustrations enliven this fascinating tale of a rare genius.