Posted in picture books

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything – Great STEM Bio!

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer, by Mara Rockliff/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536212525

Ages 5-9

Beatrice Shilling, a British World War II engineer, gets her time in the spotlight in this picture book biography. As a child, she “wasn’t quite like other children”, preferring tools and tinkering to usual childhood pursuits. After working for another female engineer as an apprentice, she went to school for engineering and eventually landed a position at the Royal Aircraft Establishment… to write handbooks about plane engines, not to work on them. Eventually, she did get to work on engines, and when World War II broke out, Beatrice was put in charge of a team that traveled to airfields and demonstrated winterizing planes to fighter pilots. She went on, with her team, to figure out an engine problem that fighter planes encountered during a dive, saving countless lives. Another great story about a female figure in STEM, The Girl Who Could Fix Anything tells Beatrice Shilling’s story; Daniel Duncan adds humorous reactions to Beatrice’s being “othered” as a woman in a traditionally “man’s field” and brings thrilling air fight moments to life to add some excitement. Beatrice is drawn as a determined, thoughtful woman, while men around her don’t always quite seem to know what to make of her. Endpapers show a variety of airplane parts, blueprint style. An author’s note and additional resources make up the back matter.


Posted in picture books

#HomesCool: Picture Book Math

How’s everyone doing with blended learning, in-person learning, or remote learning? Third grade math has been interesting to revisit, to say the least, so I decided it was time to enjoy some picture book math: let the games begin.

Sir Cumference Gets Decima’s Point, by Cindy Neuschwander/Illustrated by Wayne Geehan, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-57091-764-6

Ages 7-10

If you haven’t discovered the Sir Cumference series of books, you are missing out. I was introduced to them a few years ago, as a new librarian working with a student educator on a STEM/Discovery Club in our library. There are now 11 books and a book of classroom activities in the series, which follows a knight named Sir Cumference and the people he encounters, all named after math concepts. Each adventure takes on a new math problem, and the adventures use storytelling and mathematics to teach concepts like radius and diameter, area and perimeter, decimals, and more.

In this latest Sir Cumference adventure, Pia of Chartres, the best baker in Camelot, has been kidnapped by ogres! But they’re only borrowing her because they need her help: they are holding their annual feast and want her to make her famous Crème de la Crumb for the event. When Sir Cumference and the rest of the rescue party arrive on the scene and realize that Pia is in no danger, they all set to work baking and devising a way to make sure there’s enough food for everyone: ogres and surprise guests alike! The story introduces the decimal system in a way that blends easily into a story about baking and portions (for younger readers, think of Pat Hutchins’s The Doorbell Rang) as it explains tenths, hundreths, and thousandths. The warm, colorful artwork will draw readers right into its medieval fantasy world. Get the set and leave lots of scrap paper around; invite your littles into the kitchen with you and let them figure out portions of brownies and cakes as you bake!


Jefferson Measures a Moose, by Mara Rockliff/Illustrated by S.D. Schindler, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763694104

Ages 6-9

Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of numbers; he measured, counted, and journaled things he was interested in, like how much it cost to see a monkey (11 pence) or how long it took to grow a pea (85 days). When he caught wind that a famous French naturalist, the Count de Buffon, published a book saying that America was a “miserable, cold, damp place where nothing good could grow”, he had to answer back. Not only were Buffon’s observations mean, they were wrong. He’d never seen the animals in America, let alone weighed them, measured them, or listened to them! He sent a book of his numbers to Buffon, but the Frenchman would not be swayed. So Jefferson called on his friend, James Madison, to help: he needed to get hold of a moose. A humorous look at a moment in math, U.S., and natural history, Jefferson Measures a Moose is about a former President’s mania for math and the truth. Back matter includes more information on Jefferson’s passion for numbers, and primary and secondary sources. Colorful ink and watercolor illustrations bring humor and history to the story. This is a fun choice for a readaloud to a STEM or Discovery Club project on weighing and measuring. Publisher Candlewick has a free Teacher Tips sheet available.

Want more math fun for kids? AMP has math, science, and other lesson plans incorporating their 8-Bit Warrior series.