Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World Book Poster Image
Lively, illustrated bios encourage girls to pursue STEM.

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Kids say

age 5+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Brief biographies of 50 women throughout history who've made important contributions and discoveries in a wide array of STEM fields. Illustrations are surrounded by trivia-type information providing extra detail. Soft and hard STEM subjects are presented, as are women from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. Lots of historical context. A timeline, an illustrated glossary, and a two-page spread illustrating common lab equipment add enriching detail.

Positive Messages

There's still an enormous gender gap in STEM fields that needs to be narrowed and eliminated. If women are half the population, think how much brain power is out there, ready to make the next big discovery. Many women had to fight alone against social injustice, and like the many who fought with others, we need to continue fighting together against injustices that still go on today. "We've always done it this way" is the most damaging phrase to scientific advancement and social progress.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each scientist is presented positively; the bios concentrate on celebrating achievement in the face of adversities such as lack of access to education. Many stories emphasize women who refused to let setbacks and negative attitudes stifle their curiosity or keep them from pursuing their goals.

Violence

Mention that one scientist was killed by violent extremists and that a volcanologist was killed when a lava flow unexpectedly changed direction. One was force-fed while on a hunger strike. A couple of brief descriptions of dissecting insects and embryonic chicks. Mention that poverty has driven people to eating chimpanzees.

Sex

A small illustration of a classroom setting has the female reproductive organs on the blackboard. Gynecologists, a gonorrhea infection, the herpes virus, and AZT fighting AIDS are mentioned but not explained. Small illustration of a fetus in utero. "Penis envy" explained; "womb envy" mentioned.

Language

"Poop," "penis."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Illustration of one scientist smoking and mention that she was a heavy smoker, which caused health problems later in her life.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World is an illustrated encyclopedia in chronological order of women who have made important discoveries and contributions in a wide variety of STEM fields. All the women are presented in a positive light, with emphasis on their achievements and obstacles they overcame. It'll really encourage girls to pursue their dreams and maybe convince more than a few that if these women can make it, so can they. Big science buffs will enjoy reading through it, but it's best as a resource, at home or at school, for kids who need inspiration for a report topic or who are curious about women's history, science history, or the sciences as fields of study. There's a glossary, but there's also a lot that's not explained, so kids should be encouraged to look up anything they don't understand.

User Reviews

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Kid, 10 years old October 6, 2017

Great for Young Girls

Lately, young girls like myself haven't been getting pushed to the STEM related fields of the world. I would like to be a microbiologest when I graduate, b... Continue reading

What's the story?

From Hypatia in ancient Egypt to current cutting-edge mathematicians, WOMEN IN SCIENCE: 50 FEARLESS PIONEERS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD tells about the lives, achievements, and challenges behind some of science's biggest breakthroughs. It encourages interest in the sciences and provides encouragement and inspiration, for girls especially.

Is it any good?

This charmingly illustrated encyclopedia is sure to spark interest, imagination, and a can-do attitude in middle-grade girls interested in STEM subjects. Huge science buffs will want to savor Women in Science by reading it through, but its brief biographies of women from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of expertise make it a great classroom or library go-to for students looking for report topics. The chronological presentation enriches historical context and obstacles the women overcame, and tweens and teens will be inspired by the examples set before them, as well as by the strong arguments presented that science needs lots more women involved in everything from space travel to microbiology. The notebook-doodle style of illustration keeps the pages lively and engaging.

As a reference book, the chronological presentation makes it difficult to find women by field of expertise, so a reader interested in astrophysicists, for example, would have to do a lot of flipping from the index. Placing life spans prominently near the name would have added a helpful quick reference, but the information is in the table of contents, and each biography does include dates for important life events. A few typos may confuse younger readers who might wonder what a "suggragist" is or think that the plural of "potato" doesn't have an "e." Although there’s a glossary, it's brief; a lot of terms aren't explained, so kids should be encouraged to look up anything they don't understand.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the women in Women in Science. Who was your favorite? Why?

  • Were you surprised about something you learned about one of the scientists or about science in general? What surprised you the most?

  • Which STEM field is most interesting to you? What kind of science jobs are there in that field?

Book details

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