Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor (Laurie Wallmark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor, written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu, a look at the talented and brilliant icon.

While most of the world may know Hedy Lamarr as a beauty and Hollywood starlet, many never knew that she was a brilliant and prolific inventor. She never sold any of her inventions, finding satisfaction in solving problems and improving products using her ingenuity and intelligence. That is until she – with assistance from a friend named George Anthiel – came up with a torpedo guidance system that they felt could help the U.S. win the war against the Nazis. And to this day, Lamarr’s technology is used in cellphones, computers, and Bluetooth devices all over the world.

Lamarr’s story is a fascinating one, and this book does an incredible job of introducing both the woman and her work to a young audience. Deftly moving from biography to technical explanations, to montages of invention and inspiration, the story does a fantastic job of showing Lamarr as a well-rounded talent as well as fiercely loyal and dedicated immigrant American – her passion for performance, science, and public service are all treated with equal importance, and show that women can have a multitude of interests and talents. And the walkthroughs of her most notable invention – spread spectrum frequency hopping – are inspired, breaking down complex technology in a way that readers of all ages can understand. Wu’s illustrations are lovely, capturing Lamarr’s sparkling eyes and creative drive in each expression. The length is better for slightly older bookworms, but we both really enjoyed it. A phenomenal look at an often-overlooked feminist icon in STEM, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Mary Wears What She Wants (Keith Negley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley, a picture book reimagining of the childhood of trailblazer Mary Edwards Walker.

Long ago, it was illegal for girls to wear pants. Women and girls could only wear dresses, which were cumbersome, uncomfortable, and restrictive. Little Mary thinks this is unfair, so she makes a decision: she will wear pants instead of her bulky dress. At first, her new wardrobe is liberating – she plays and cartwheels with joy. That is until the local townspeople see her… then the ugliness begins. Adults and children alike heckle Mary, pelt her with fruit, and tell her to stop wearing “boys’ clothes”. Hurt, Mary confers with her father, who explains that people are often afraid of change. Mary asks if she should wear a dress again, but her father encourages her to make her own decision. After some thought, Mary opts to continue wearing the clothes that make her happy – not “boys’ clothes”, but HER clothes.

Wonderful. While the story itself is more inspired by Walker than literal account, it simplifies a message that speaks to both the past, present, and future of gendered clothing. Especially nice is the inclusion of Mary’s father as a male advocate, and the show of solidarity by her female classmates at the end. Equally appreciated is the short but extremely informative backmatter biography of Walker, who was one of the first female surgeons in the United States and remains the only woman to have ever won a Congressional Medal of Honor. The cartoonish drawings and simple color palette are nicely balanced, creating a lot of emotion while keeping the heavier aspects light. The length is fine, JJ liked it, and it was a delight start to finish – Baby Bookworm approved.

She Persisted Around The World: 13 Women Who Changed History (Chelsea Clinton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is She Persisted Around The World: 13 Women Who Changed History, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, a brief and inspiring look at some international female role models.

Second in the pair’s series, Around The World expands on the theme of inspiring female leaders and trailblazers, this time reaching beyond the United States to spotlight figures both familiar and lesser-known. Young readers are introduced to ladies like suffragist Kate Sheppard, whose efforts drove New Zealand to establish equal voting rights, or Leymah Gbowee, who united Muslim and Christian women in peaceful protests to end civil war in Liberia. Scientists such as Madame Curie and Caroline Herschel, activists such as Malala Yousafzai and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and trailblazers like Aisha Rateb and Mary Verghese – there is no shortage of women to inspire little ones (especially girls), to stand up, be heard, and persist.

Lovely. Continuing the tone that the pair established in the previous book, each woman’s story is distilled down, condensed in a way that allows readers to get a brief sense of each woman’s aims, obstacles, and accomplishments before moving onto the next. The choice of the women included is nicely varied, representing different cultures, backgrounds, and abilities, and each one is illustrated in a loving, dreamy style that casts her as the fierce, intelligent, and ultimately triumphant heroine of her story. I do wish that a little more context had been provided, such as backmatter or even the time period in which each woman lived, but the overall message is clear and timeless: girls can accomplish great things, even while fighting harder to be heard. The length is fine for slightly older bookworms, and JJ loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History (Vashti Harrison)

Hello, friends! We’re wrapping up Women’s History Month with today’s review, Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History by Vashti Harrison, a fantastic encyclopedia of inspirational black women for young bookworms.

They were pilots, writers, scientists, dancers. They were astronauts, actresses, abolitionists, and spies. And each of the forty remarkable women featured in this tome of black girl magic was a revolutionary in her time, paving the way for those who would follow. With each spread – featuring a three- to four-paragraph biography of the woman’s achievements coupled with an illustration of the pioneer herself – readers will learn about icons like Mae Jemison, Wilma Rudolph, Ruby Bridges, Nina Simone and many, many more.

Absolutely phenomenal. Everything about this book makes it an instant must-have for little readers’ shelves, especially for young girls of color. The storybook-style layout of each woman is perfect for either sharing with an adult or exploring on one’s own, and makes for a reading experience as long or short as the reader wishes; while JJ and I would never be able to read this together in one sitting, we made it through five biographies comfortably. The illustrations are lovely, featuring each subject against a background representative of their time and accomplishments (often including a quote by the woman), but sharing the same round face and proud smile that allows young readers to project themselves into the subject’s shoes. It’s an inspired choice, and we loved it. This is a gorgeous nonfiction storybook that entertains and informs as it inspires, and we recommend it for any little trailblazer-in-the-making. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Golden Girls Of Rio (Nikkolas Smith)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Golden Girls Of Rio by Nikkolas Smith, a celebration of the gold-winning female athletes of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In the summer of 2016, on the world’s stage, a handful of young female athletes captivated, awed, and inspired. But before these young women were champions, they were little girls from all across America, who worked hard and practiced tirelessly to become the best in their sports. They made friends and formed teams along the way, and were invited to represent their country in the largest athletic competition in the world – and all of them triumphed. Michelle Carter became the first US gold medalist in shotput, while Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel broke multiple swimming records between them. And of course, The Final Five, the multiple gold medal-winning gymnastics team, including Simone Biles, the most decorated US gymnast of all time.

A cute book that celebrates some seriously awesome women. If you weren’t enraptured by the female US athletes during the Rio Olympics, you weren’t watching, and it’s great that there is a book that celebrates not only their achievements, but the immense amounts of determination and hard work that went into reaching gold. The digital art is a little uneven, lacking depth at times but creating great abstract visuals at others, and is the one place where the book struggles. Otherwise, the length is fine, and JJ definitely enjoyed it. One personal note: since the book was published, members of the Final Five have gone on to be prominent figures in the #MeToo movement, and instrumental in prosecuting one of the worst monsters and most corrupt institutions brought to light in this reckoning. So in my very biased opinion, any book that celebrates them as athletes and women deserves to be shared with every little reader. Baby Bookworm approved.