Bugs by J R Tiedemann, and Ada Lovelace by Corinne Purtill, part of the Rebel Girls series, have very little in common. I’ve grouped them because they are both short investigations of a scientific nature, and almost biographies. Thank you to Net-galley and the publishers for the opportunity to review them.
Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code
by Rebel Girls ; Corinne Purtill et al
From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a story based on the exciting adventures of Ada Lovelace: one of the world’s first computer programmers.
Growing up in nineteenth century London, England, Ada is curious about absolutely everything. She is obsessed with machines and with creatures that fly. She even designs her own flying laboratory!
According to her mother, Ada is a bit too wild, so she encourages Ada to study math. At first Ada thinks: Bleh! Who can get excited about a subject without pictures? But she soon falls in love with it. One day she encounters a mysterious machine, and from that moment forward Ada imagines a future full of possibility—one that will eventually inspire the digital age nearly two hundred years later.
Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code is the story of a pioneer in the computer sciences, and a testament to women’s invaluable contributions to STEM throughout history.
Includes additional text on Ada Lovelace’s lasting legacy, as well as educational activities designed to teach simple coding and mathematical concepts. (goodreads)
Why haven’t I come across the Rebel Girls stable before? This is a brilliant initiative to raise the profile of STEM among girls of the right age. My girls of the right age are rapidly growing out of it.
I am amazed at the proliferation of books about amazing women scientists (most of whom I’d never heard of). I’d heard of Ada Lovelace, but only through on-line quizzing (!), and thus I was delighted to find out more.
This engaging story takes the few facts we have about Ada Lovelace and turns it into a biography. It may be based on very little, but invents a believable and accurately imagined world. She may have had some of these adventures, and definitely did have others. It’s an excellent mix of cause and effect. I found it all the more believable because the young Ada suffered so many of the same problems I would have done in her era. My mind would also leap on a piece of information in a geography lesson and go off into a reverie of how the local people might have lived, worked, and what the countryside was like.
Byron to Lovelace
I had been somewhat confused by how the young Ada Byron managed to turn into Lovelace. She married someone else entirely. That was solved near the end. Having finished with childhood, the book skipped over marriage and children (many!) to the point Ada got her name linked to computing. By that time she had become Lady Lovelace (hubby inherited the title).
Some reviewers disliked the amount of ‘invention’ required. But to me it was perfectly ‘right’ for the age and for the little we actually know. The rest is deduction, Dr Watson, and very well done indeed.
by J R Tiedemann
Imagine you had a superpower. Imagine you could fly, run 200 miles per hour, or slow down time. What story would you tell?
Filled with facts about their actual lives and behaviors, “Bugs” is a collection of short stories written from the insect’s point of view on the last day of its life. Join two monogamous wasps as they sort out their relationship, a firefly on his search for love, a pregnant mosquito as she deals with her unexpected cravings, and more. Each story is annotated with footnotes explaining their actual behaviors and offering more information about these fascinating creatures, such as:
Time moves four times slower for houseflies than it does for humans.
Honeybees see rivers of polarized light that help them navigate to flowers.
Silverfish have a long and intricate courtship ritual that can last up to 30 minutes.
“Bugs” will have you thinking twice before you ever squish, stomp, or spray another insect. (goodreads)
I am never afraid of making the animal my protagonist, and looking at things from his or her point of view. J R Tiedemann does this with insects, and very well he does it too. I enjoyed the exploration of the insect’s world (or arachnid, or whatever) and felt the scaled-up worlds and differences in senses was well handled.
However it started badly when I tried three different forms of ereader to read this book, and none of them could provide an image (such as the one on the cover) on a single page. It appeared to be loaded in four random parts. As this served as the chapter heading, it took some detective work to determine what bug I was supposed to be. Then the common problem of formatting footnotes came in. Some footnotes were pages from the link, and in the middle of another paragraph entirely. Some were so long it was almost impossble to find the thread of the narrative paragraph you were reading. Those are technical problems. I persevered.
Eventually, however, the sheer monotony of the denouement of each story, either by ignorant human adults or cruel and evil boys wore me down, and I had to speed-read to the end. There I expected a few references to show where this marvellous information had come from. From the internet. And from insect-exterminators’ websites. Not a reference at all from the hundreds of entomologists, coleopterists and others who spend their lives researching insect interaction and ecology.
I hope the last line of the blurb is true. But I wish Mr Tiedemann had a little more gravitas to add to his narrative.