Last week I read my 4-year-old her favorite book (at the moment) for the 100th time, Violet the Pilot.
*Side note: this was our most recent book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. If you do not know about this program, you can read all about it here → Kids’ Corner: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Anyways! I actually don’t mind reading this book to her so many times because I loved how the book features a GIRL engineer/pilot. This jogged a memory from last year when I read Ada Twist, Scientist and had similar feelings. It is so wonderful to read STEM books featuring girl main characters. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. When browsing the picture books at the library, I notice that my daughter is drawn to books with anything princess, fairy, unicorn, ballerina, etc. They are often very PINK and very sparkly. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these books, actually they often hold important themes & lessons, HOWEVER it is also nice to see books that center around girls in traditionally male-dominated fields like science & math.
Long story short, I started researching to find more STEM picture books that featured girl main characters. Sadly, I was disappointed with my findings. There are very few of these books.
Here are the books I did find…
» Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Age Range: 4-7 years
Scientist Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. What would you do with a problem like this? Not afraid of failure, Ada embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!
I really like how this book encourages curiosity. Ada was filled with passion to know the answers to all of her questions. Ada Twist, Scientist also introduces young readers to the scientific method (ask a question, gather data, experiment, observe, and conclude)through Ada’s actions.
Sadly, this was the only STEM book featuring a black girl main character that I found. We not only need to work on creating more STEM picture books with girl main characters, but also ones with more diverse girl characters.
» Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen
Age Range: 4-8 years
By the time she’s two years old, Violet Van Winkle can fix nearly any appliance in the house. And by eight she’s building elaborate flying machines from scratch, mind-boggling contraptions such as the Tubbubbler, the Bicycopter, and the Wing-a-ma-jig. The kids at school tease her, but they have no idea what she’s capable of. Maybe she could earn their respect by winning the blue ribbon in the upcoming Air Show. Or maybe something even better will happen, something involving her best ever invention, a Boy Scout troop in peril, and even the mayor himself! A classic underdog story full of humor and sweetness and retro pizzazz, Violet the Pilot is both endearing and adorable. It’ll fly right into your heart.
This is one of my daughter’s favorite books! It is a wonderful story about a little girl who likes to build flying machines. There are some great themes like being true to yourself, perseverance, and putting others’ needs first. Plus there’s a dog side-kick named Orville.
» Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Age Range: 4-7 years
Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal–to fly–Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fly but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose inisists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.
Another great book by Beaty! The message in this one focuses on mistakes & learning from them.
» The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Age Range: 3-7 years
Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!? But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.
For the early grades’ exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes. The clever use of verbs in groups of threes is both fun and functional, offering opportunities for wonderful vocabulary enrichment. The girl doesn’t just make her magnificent thing — “she tinkers and hammers and measures, she smoothes and wrenches and fiddles, she twists and tweaks and fastens.” These precise action words are likely to fire up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The Most Magnificent Thing addresses something I’m sure most inventors feel at one time or another: frustration when things do not turn out the way we imagined. I also enjoyed how the author gives us some great ways to deal with frustration – taking a step back & coming back later after you’ve calmed down, learning from failures, seeing the positives, and to keep trying.
» 11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter
Age Range: 4-8 years
Is it possible to eat snowballs doused in ketchup—and nothing else—all winter? Can a washing machine wash dishes? By reading the step-by-step instructions, kids can discover the answers to such all-important questions along with the book’s curious narrator. Here are 12 “hypotheses,” as well as lists of “what you need,” “what to do,” and “what happened” that are sure to make young readers laugh out loud as they learn how to conduct science experiments (really!).
Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter—the ingenious pair that brought you 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore—have outdone themselves in this brilliant and outrageously funny book.
This book is perfect for kids that will be participating in their first science fair. 11 Experiments That Failed is a hilarious book about a little girl’s experiments going horribly wrong. I think this would probably appeal more to 7 & 8 year olds.
» Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood
Age Range: 4-7 years
Once upon a planetoid,
amid her tools and sprockets,
a girl named Cinderella dreamed
of fixing fancy rockets.
With a little help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is going to the ball–but when the prince’s ship has mechanical trouble, someone will have to zoom to the rescue! Readers will thank their lucky stars for this irrepressible fairy tale retelling, its independent heroine, and its stellar happy ending.
This is a Cinderella retelling where Cinderella fixes space ships! Do I really need to say more? I absolutely adored how this one ends.
» Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford
Age Range: 5-10 years
When I looked up, I shivered. How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity. I started to feel very, very small. How could I even think about something as big as infinity?
Uma can’t help feeling small when she peers up at the night sky. She begins to wonder about infinity. Is infinity a number that grows forever? Is it an endless racetrack? Could infinity be in an ice cream cone? Uma soon finds that the ways to think about this big idea may just be . . . infinite.
Infinity and Me is all about the concept of infinity, which is obviously a difficult concept for young kids to grasp. Not sure I would exactly classify this as a “math book” BUT I couldn’t find any other books centering around math with a female main character, so here we are.
» Cleonardo, the Little Inventor by Mary GrandPré
Age Range: 4-8 years
Cleonardo’s father is an inventor. So was her grandfather, her great-grandfather, and all the great-greats before them. Cleo wants to be an inventor too. She tries to help her father in his workshop, but he never uses her great ideas. Can Cleo invent something big and important and perfect all by herself?
This imaginative story of a father and his daughter brings the magic of creativity to little inventors everywhere.
Cleonardo, the Little Inventor felt very much like a fairytale. I really enjoyed the different approaches Cleo and her father took in regards to inventing. Cleo’s father took a more mechanical approach, and Cleo took a more organic approach. I appreciated Cleo’s creativity and resourcefulness.
» The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Age Range: 4-8 years
Acclaimed picture book biographer Jeanette Winter has found her perfect subject: Jane Goodall, the great observer of chimpanzees. Follow Jane from her childhood in London watching a robin on her windowsill, to her years in the African forests of Gombe, Tanzania, invited by brilliant scientist Louis Leakey to observe chimps, to her worldwide crusade to save these primates who are now in danger of extinction, and their habitat. Young animal lovers and Winter’s many fans will welcome this fascinating and moving portrait of an extraordinary person and the animals to whom she has dedicated her life.
The Watcher is about the infamous Jane Goodall, a primatologist who is known for her work studying chimps in Africa. I loved reading about Jane as a young child and her dreams to one day study animals, then her experiences while studying the chimps in Africa, and finally her conservation efforts. I also appreciated that the author included direct quotes from Goodall & more details about her in an author’s note.