BPL Book Reviews: Four Children's Books on Celebrated Women

"A Computer Called Katherine" is one of 4 summer children's book reads recommended by BPL

Jane Clapp| Southside Branch Library

Although Women's History Month has passed, there are four children's books celebrating women that  I would like to recommend for those going to the beach or looking for great summer reads.  

I would like to start with the book Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon by Jeanine Atkins. 

Mary was a young girl living in England in the early 1800s. She often went to the beach looking for fossils to sell at her family’s gift shop. One day Mary discovered the bones of a “sea dragon.” She became quite famous.

Mary paved the way for future archeologist, both male and female. Mary continued throughout her life to excavate and study fossils and became the first person to make a living as a paleontologist. She died at the age of 48 in 1847. This was a most interesting story. 

Coretta Scott King was the wife of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was born on a farm near Marion, Alabama on April 27, 1927. She attended Antioch College in Ohio and then later studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While in Boston, she met and married Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

She supported her husband in the Civil Rights Movement and took care of their four children. After her husband’s assassination in 1968, Mrs. King planned a memorial to honor Dr. King and his work. This memorial is called the King Center. 

Mrs. King gave numerous speeches throughout the country and was the first woman to give a speech at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England. She was named Woman of the Year in 1960 and 1968. She was given the Hero Award by the Recording Academy for her work to help the poor and for equal rights in 2005. Mrs. King died on January 14, 2006. 

The book is an overview of Hurston’s life.  She was born in Eatonville, Florida, near Orlando, on January 7, 1891. She liked to read as a child and listen to stories from older neighbors. Her mother would tell her to Jump at the Sun! 

Zora Hurston left home as soon as she was able to. She joined a traveling show where she took care of the costumes. She next attended a high school in Baltimore, MD and then attended college in Washington, D.C. Ms. Hurston wrote her first short story, “John Redding Goes to the Sea,” which was originally published in Stylus Magazine in May 1921. 

Hurston later went on to New York City and Barnard College and continued to write magazine articles and short stories. She wrote a collection of short stories which were made into a book called Mules and Men in 1935. 

 She wrote her famous book called Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. She also wrote her life story, Dust Tracks on a Road in 1942. Zora died in Fort Pierce, Florida at the age of 69. 

Katherine Johnson is described as a pioneering Black woman in the space program due to her abilities as a mathematician. She worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later known as NASA) at the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in Virginia. She was a widow with three young girls.

As a child, she loved to count. Johnson took every available math class and later attended West Virginia State College. A professor there taught her especially difficult math. 

During her time at Langley, Johnson was very curious about space flight. She worked to determine the astronaut’s blast offs and splashdowns times. She worked at figuring these flights for Alan Shepherd in 1961, John Glenn in 1962, and Neil Armstrong in 1969, who took the first step on the moon.

 Despite being shunned by her male colleagues, Katherine worked for 33 years for NASA until she retired in 1986. In November 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Katherine the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Many Americans learned about the life of Katherine Johnson when she and her fellow black female colleagues at NASA in the 1960s were featured in the hit movie "Hidden Figures." The book is available for checkout at Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) member libraries, including the Birmingham Public Library.