Virus by Marilyn J. Roossinck. Princeton University Press, 2016. 9780691166964.
The cover says “an illustrated guide to 101 incredible microbes,” which is why I picked it up. Each two-page profile of a virus includes: 1) a large colorized photograph of the virus, 2) a diagram of its anatomy, 3) a thumbnail guide to how it’s classified and what it does, and 4) a paragraph on its discovery and significance. There are also sections on virus basics like reproduction and immunity.
Each page I flipped to was fascinating and strange and beautiful. I liked it even though some of the science was beyond me. You can learn a lot about viruses or just ogle the crazy pictures: either way, this book is cool.
Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet, illustrated by Karen Lewis. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. 9781250113238.
What appears at first to be a sweet picture book about creatures in humans’ evolutionary tree, complete with actions and noises for a children to imitate (chomp like grandmother fish, squeak like grandmother mammal), is actually an incredibly well-made and researched introduction to evolution for kids. (The chomping represents the development of hinged jaws, the squeaking is making vocalizations with the throat. These and other ideas are explained in more detail at the back of the book.)
This was the result of 15 years of work and a Kickstarter campaign inspired by the author’s need for a book to explain evolution to his daughter. His care and effort shows.
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 9781481452496.
Ada thought it might be cool to fly from house to house and deliver the mail. (This was long before airplanes.) So she went about her project in a scientific way: she studied bird flight and anatomy, and designed really big wings out of wire frames covered with oiled silk to be connected to a harness for her back. She decided to write a book about her project called Flyology, then work on her steam-powered flying horse idea.
This whole thing worried her mother. Would she turn out to be a hopeless dreamer like her dad, Lord Byron, who had long since abandoned his family and died young? To calm her daughter down, she set her to studying math and science like she had. This did not work in the slightest.
At this point in the story, I was already thinking this is the coolest kid ever and I want to hang out with her. AND WE HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE COMPUTER STUFF YET!
The illustrations are simple, energetic, almost sloppy-looking paintings that really convey the excitement of Ada’s ideas and how happy she was when she got to figure things out. The explanation of the ideas leading up to the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, and why Ada’s writing on them was truly revolutionary (even if it was overlooked for years), was very well done. This a great biography for readers of any age.