Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
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Inspiring bio of woman who published first computer code.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about the start of modern computing. Shows what accepted role of women in society was during early 1800s, and how difficult it was for a woman to defy that and be taken seriously as a mathematician.

Positive Messages

Ambition, intelligence, and creativity are all traits to be admired. Women can be as good as men at math. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ada is smart, creative, persistent. She had a supportive but demanding mother and a partner who valued equality and helped fuel great discoveries.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code, by Rebel Girls, is the inspiring history of the creator of the first published computer program in the early 1800s, and a reminder of how much more Ada could have achieved if the world had considered women equal to men. Readers see both sides of Ada's privileged but often lonely childhood, and can decide if her mother's ways of educating her helped or hindered Ava's accomplishments. The humble beginning of computing is interesting, especially for readers who've grown up with smartphones and ever advancing technology. At the end of the book, there are activities for young engineering minds. The punch card symbols or binary codes match to letters of the alphabet, and readers decipher the code to find the answer to jokes, and see how coding works at a most basic level.


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What's the story?

ADA LOVELACE CRACKS THE CODE traces the early life and remarkable achievements of the person who, among other inventions and technological advances, published the first computer code. Born in 1815 into wealth and high social standing but abandoned by her famous poet father, young Ada Byron's education by private tutors was overseen by her demanding mother. Ada was fascinated by inventions and created a flying machine and her own flying laboratory until measles made her bedridden and weak. When Ada was well enough, her mother took her on a tour of a fabric factory, where Ada first saw how automation could help labor-intensive processes. Ada pursued her ideas but was held back by a society that didn't see women as capable of inventing, publishing, or being serious contributors.

Is it any good?

Filled with examples of creativity sparked by small observations, this detailed look at the earliest days of modern computing is engaging, informative, and inspiring. Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code is packed with historical information about the kinds of innovation that were just starting to be considered in the early 1800s. Readers who've grown up with hand-held, lightning-fast computers will get an interesting view of the woman who started it all, and will come away with an appreciation of the social pressures she faced as a woman who insisted on using her brain in a time when that was not required.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about if and how women's place in society has changed since the time of Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code. What can girls do now that they couldn't then? 

  • How would you react if you knew the only way your amazing ideas could be published is if they were under someone else's name?

  • What other books about female trailblazers have you read?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love math and science

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