Thursday 28 July 2022

Boss Ladies of Science

Boss Ladies of Science, written and illustrated by Phillip Marsden (Lothian Children’s Books), HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780734421227

Reviewed by Kathleen Grace

Asked to identify world-renown women scientists, most people might, at a stretch, be able to name one or two. In this non-fiction picture book for children, author/illustrator Phillip Marsden, has highlighted 32, ranging from astronomists, quantum physics scientists, neuroscientists, vaccinologists, and more. He has found these women at the top of their fields in all the world’s continents, from the Americas (Canadian Ann Makosinski) to Europe (Swiss Dr Fabiola Gianotti), Australia (Dr Cathy Foley), Africa (South African Prof Tebello Nyokong), and Asia (Chinese Tu Youyou).

On each page is a coloured illustration in cartoon-style of a woman with some accoutrements of their science, with a few short sentences below saying where she is from and what her achievements are. Above the scientist is a speech balloon. For example, there is Prof Veena Sahajwalla, an inventor and materials scientist from Indian who is based in Australia. ‘She is passionate about recycling and creating value from waste. She has figured out ways to use old tyres to make steel and to use old clothes to make furniture and building materials.’ Above the professor, the speech balloon contains the words, ‘If you have something exciting to bring to the table, you don’t have to be afraid to speak up.’ If a child reader is interested in any one (or more) scientist in this book, there is no bibliography: one assumes that the reader could Google the scientist and make further discoveries.

Some of the speech balloons contain messages to child readers: for example, environmentalist and climate activist, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim from Chad in Central Africa, says, ‘Women are experts on many issues, not only women’s issues.’ And this is certainly demonstrated in the book about climate researchers (Dr Gina Mosely from England), physicists (Prof Franciska Nneka Okeke from Nigeria), nanotechnologists (Dr Michelle Dickinson from New Zealand), and more.

This book is a great way to introduce ‘Boss Scientists’ who happen to be women. One hopes that its readers – children aged from 9+ years – will research further. It would perhaps have been a good idea to include a glossary so that words such as ‘quantum physicist’, ‘neuroscientist’, ‘artificial intelligence’, and ‘DNA’ could have been explained.

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