It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
It is indeed fortuitous that there is a preponderance of biographies on notable females published over the past two years or so. We are now spoiled for choices and can really examine the titles for diversity, authenticity, and representation.
Written and Illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky
Published by Ten Speed Press (2016)
ISBN: 1607749769 (ISBN13: 9781607749769). Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Throughout history many women have risked everything in the name of science. This book tells the stories of some of these scientists, from ancient Greece to the modern day, who in the face of “No” said, “Try and stop me.
It is clear that Rachel Ignotofsky has raised the bar considerably with this collection of pioneer scientists. Thoroughly researched, with an Introduction that provides snippets and previews of the featured scientists, this collection also includes a graphical representation of lab tools, as well as pertinent statistics about women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
It reminded me a bit of an academic chapter that I was very privileged to have co-authored with one of the notable names in gifted education, Joan Freeman, published in 2016:
In our chapter entitled “Gender Differences in Gifted Children” we also explored gender differences in STEM pathways. While there are significant improvements over the years, much work still needs to be done to continue encouraging and empowering girls to pursue fields in the maths and sciences.
What I especially loved about this collection is how Ignotofsky astutely included women in the social sciences – see Karen Horney represented above. Finally, I see a psychologist represented! Too often, there seems to be this mistaken notion that social science is a ‘weaker’ sister to the natural sciences, requiring less rigour and systematic empiricism, subsequently gaining less respect from ‘more able’ scientific peers in the ‘hard’ sciences. Nothing, of course, can be further from the truth.
There are a few names that I did not know previously – in addition to the more common and familiar names such as Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, and Jane Goodall. While the text in the right hand side of the page is dense, the entire layout of the book is packaged in such a way that the left side of the page contains a striking image with an unforgettable quote, accompanied by three to four sentences or phrases summarizing the scientist’s notable accomplishments.
Possibly one of my favourites from this collection is Mamie Phipps Clark, another psychologist and a civil rights activist who has pioneered the intersections between psychology, race and a child’s identity. Her findings were eventually used in the 1954 Supreme Court case to end segregation in public schools in the United States. A beautiful blending of psychology and social justice – absolutely perfect for our current reading theme.
Another strength of the book is its capacity to make the science come alive by not talking down to its intended audience of young readers. There is sufficient respect in the child’s intelligence who is expected to get what Ignotofsky is excitedly talking about. She does this by providing substantive and meaty information without overwhelming the young reader’s sensibility, and giving enough scaffolding that will enable the reader to understand the context – or if not, to entice them in such a way that they will want to know more on their own.
My only peeve about the book, apart from the lack of representation of women coming from Southeast Asia (yet again – disappointing but not unexpected), is the multiple typographical errors I managed to catch: contiguous for contagious, or two of, or a missing open parentheses. Again, this is just me nitpicking – but I am hoping that later publications would be able to correct those copyediting errors. Regardless, this book is a must-have.
Written and Illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky
Published by Ten Speed Press (2017)
ISBN: 1607749785 (ISBN13: 9781607749783). Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
This is the cultural power of sports, through entertainment and competition, they inspire courage. The fight for social justice often starts in the field or on the court. Through historic victories and setting new records, female athletes like Billie Jean have shared their stories, broken down stereotypes, and created change.
I have always wanted to conduct an actual research study on eminent female athletes – so this book was a treasure trove for me. I was pleased at the range of sports represented here: from skydivers, judo experts, roller derby – all the way to tennis, soccer, basketball players.
While once again, there is a preponderance of athletes coming from the United States, there were efforts to also include Olympic champions from India and Colombia, just to name several.
Similar to the first book, I thoroughly enjoyed these additional information, such as muscle anatomy (see above) and the timeline of how women have been gradually included in sports competitions. What was striking for me was the pay and media statistics comparing female athletes with their male counterparts, with the former grossly underpaid, even up to the present time. While conditions have improved over the years, I echo my sentiments earlier about more work still needing to be done – in terms of advocacy and demanding equal recognition of women’s worth, hard work, talent, and discipline in their respective fields.
I was particularly impressed by the fact that this book also recognized basketball coaches and referees, and even included a snippet of how the referee Violet Palmer who refereed the 2014 NBA all-star game and the 2009 NBA Finals just to name a few, eventually went on to marry her longtime girlfriend in 2014. Talk about fearless representation, indeed.
Speaking of diversity and inclusion, the book not only shared female weightlifters and body builders, but also athletes who are differently abled – see photos below of Chantal Petitclerc, a wheelchair racer; and Melissa Stockwell, a paratriathlete.
These are indeed courageous women who are not afraid of adversity, not afraid to win, and definitely not afraid of their own strength and fortitude. Once again, the book is riddled with multiple typos that I managed to find (me nitpicking yet again) – but these are very minor, and do not diminish the overall beauty of this collection. These are two books that you should definitely add to your library.
#WomenReadWomen2019: Rachel Ignotofsky is based in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.