While 90% of children today have used a computer by age 2, we would bet that most kids (and tweens, teens, and adults) sadly don’t know of Ada Lovelace or the immeasurable contribution she made to the modern world way back in 1842 that still impacts us all. But one author is making sure that readers age 5 and up most certainly do. Meet Laurie Wallmark author of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, a new picture book biography that pays a beautiful tribute to the world’s “first computer programmer” with stunning illustrations by April Chu.
At a time when girls and women were routinely denied education and had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. She grew up to be an accomplished woman, who Suw Charman-Anderson notes, “saw further into the future than any of her male counterparts,” and whose “work influenced the thinking of one of World War II’s greatest minds.”
It’s the story of this curious girl turned extraordinary woman that Laurie Wallmark, a children’s writer with degrees in biochemistry and information systems, tells in her new Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, which was just released last week on Ada Lovelace Day.
From the official book synopsis:
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.
In a guest post for the blog My Brain On Books, Laurie wrote of the challenge she had in writing a picture book biography – telling Ada’s complete story in a limited number of words. “I couldn’t show Ada using computers as a child, since computers didn’t yet exist. Instead, I included events from her childhood to illustrate both her personality and her love of mathematics. In order to introduce children to her professional accomplishments, I gave simple explanations in the text and saved the more technical details for the back matter.” She added, “My hope is that children will read Ada’s story and be inspired to learn more about her and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).”
Laurie Wallmark has published stories in Highlights, Cricket, and other children’s magazines. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College (she has degrees in biochemistry and information systems). Laurie is pursuing an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Visit her blog here.
April Chu is an architect with an architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley, who decided to return to her true passion of illustrating and storytelling. She lives and works in Oakland, California. Her previous book, In a Village by the Sea, received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, as well as a rave review from the New York Times and Fuse #8. Visit her website to see more of her work.