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Extraordinary Women

By on March 8, 2018

Often forgotten by history, tales of women’s achievements are no less dramatic and inspiring than those of men. The women in these books have earned a place in “herstory” for their hard work, dreaming and daring to think and act outside of the expected. Read and share these wonderful stories with young
people who need models of what can be. Dream on!

by Meribeth C. Shank 

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot

by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares

BOOK-lighterSophie Armant Blanchard was a dreamer, whose childhood hope to fly was realized when she met Jean-Pierre Blanchard, the daredevil showman who, with “John Jeffries, were the first to cross the English Channel by balloon.” She called
flying the “incomparable sensation,” feeling “only a breathless thrill,” as the “wind carried her up.”

The world’s first woman pilot, Sophie also became known in Europe as the Bird Woman. She “learned how to make a living doing what she loved most,” flew solo over the Alps, and even was known at the Emperor Napoleon’s court as “Chief Air Minister of Ballooning.”

The beautifully constructed ink and watercolor paintings not only visualize the tale of Sophie’s amazing life, but capture the elegance, design and inventiveness of the balloons themselves. But most intriguing are the skies, from clear, to rainy, and cloudy follow Sophie’s mood, and include the richness of a darkening sky or the
skies of the morning. Paired with Smith’s poetic text, and lilting language, the illustrations give life to Sophie’s soaring achievements.
Candlewick Press, $16.99  Interest Level: Grades 2-4
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main, North Dade Regional, North Shores, South Dade Regional, West Kendall
Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women’s Olympics, Based on the True Story of Lucile Ellerbe Godbold

 by Jean L. S. Patrick, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
ludyLucile “Ludy” Godbold was an active child, who
becomes an athlete and uses “her long arms to
encourage her teammates.” In her last year on thet rack team at Winthrop College in South Carolina, she tries the shot put, and sets a record at over 35 feet. Immediately, Ludy and her coach take a train to New York, where the young white woman enters the tryouts for a new international meet, the Women’s Olympics.

During this independent competition, she breaks her own record, earning herself a place on the U. S. Women’s Olympic Team. Although she thinks it’s unlikely she will go to France since she lacks the funds, her college classmates, faculty and staff donate money to send her to Paris, where Ludy once again breaks her own record to win.

Patrick uses an informal down-home style to convey this peppy, entertaining story of an outstanding athlete to young readers. The dynamic oil paintings with gouache feature Ludy’s long arms, often extended, making them seem even longer. Gustavson has successfully captured her expressive face and likeness and shows both the
dress and style of the time period. More about this exceptional individual and the unique competition are included in the backmatter, along with an Author’s Note, photos, and a brief bibliography.
Candlewick Press, $16.99 • Interest Level: Grades 2-4
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Miami Lakes, North Shore, South Dade Regional, West Kendall Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu

BOOKgraceGrace Hopper was the white woman who revolutionized computer coding. But before that she was a curious girl who disassembled alarm clocks to see how they worked and constructed a working elevator for her dollhouse.

Always focused on math and science, Grace discovered that her poor grades in Latin kept her from an early entrance into college. So, she worked hard, “conquered Latin,” passed her exams and was accepted as a student at Vassar College.

Adventurous and something of a joker, Grace needed all her powers of persuasion to enlist in the Navy after graduating college, completing
graduate studies, and teaching college classes. “Because of her superior math skills,” the Navy assigned her “to write programs for one of the first computers ever built, the Mark I.”

Problem solving became a challenge Grace relished. One of the anecdotes tells of how she found and named the first computer “bug!” Wallmark’s text is filled with  captivating incidents to engage young readers. Both prose narrative and breezy rhyming verse, including a scattering of Grace’s own words, are accompanied by Wu’s
vigorous, brisk, colorful digital illustrations. Retiring from the Navy when she was 80 years old, Grace Murray Hopper was known for her skill and inventiveness. She often used unconventional thinking as a key to solving problems and is a “shero” for a new generation. Endpapers include supplemental information, timeline, bibliography,
and list of honors.

Sterling, $16.95 • Interest Level: Grade 2-4
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main, West Flagler. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, has taught classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web:

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