Friday 30 November 2018

Ara the Star Engineer

Ara the Star Engineer by Komal Singh, illustrated by Ipek Konak (Page Two Books, distributed by Newsouth Books) HB RRP AU$24.99

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This book has two important features going for it: one is that is shows numerous females and people of colour in positive working roles and the other is that it is about computers and numbers. 

The author is a woman in technology who was challenged to write this book when her four-year-old daughter proclaimed, ‘Engineers are boys.’ Singh, in an author’s note at the front of the book, says research shows that girls start doubting their STEM intelligence (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by the age of six. Hence this picture book hopes to redress this.

The story begins with Ara, and her robotic assistant Dee Dee who explore the STEM world. Ara starts with telling the reader that the word ‘googol’ (meaning a number with a hundred zeros in it), was name by a nine-year-old. To figure out how many googols of stars there are in the sky, Ara and Dee Dee, travel to Innovation Plex, where they meet Kripa in the Data Centre who shows them now to use a computer to solve problems. Another woman tech whizz the two meet is Parisa who uses algorithms to solve problems. And so, the story moves on – to Coding Pods, and X-Space – as more interesting information is revealed.

This is a an inspiring, inclusive, whimsical way to learn about computers and technology from real-life trailblazers. The women at the centre tinker-and-tailor, build-and-fail, launch-and-iterate, and in the end discover an amazing algorithm of success -- coding, courage, creativity, and collaboration. The women mentioned in the book, by the way, are real: their biographies appear at the end. And, too, there’s a notebook with activities and information about women trail-blazers (like programmers Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, and NASA’s space investigator Katherine Johnson).

If you would like to inspire your budding computer, maths or science child, this is certainly a book which should do the trick! The book is filled with colourful illustrations to pour over which show workers in coding pods and other interesting work spaces.

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