A Mighty Girl's top picks of books for children and teens about girls who love science and real-life female scientists who changed the world!
We don't always think about it, but every child is a scientist! From the moment she pushes a spoon off her high chair to see what happens or starts asking, "why?" to everything, she's started on a long and exciting lifetime of discovery. As time goes on, though, kids can be discouraged from this natural interest and come to believe that science is too complicated for kids -- so it's especially important to nurture that spirit of curiosity from a young age!
One great way to encourage a child's interest in science is by showing them role models of kids — particularly girls — in STEM fields. In fictional stories, they can see faces that match their own: kids who are turning their ingenious minds to investigating questions and solving problems using the scientific method. And, through non-fiction, they can learn about curious children just like them who grew up to make amazing scientific discoveries.
To that end, in this blog post, we've shared many of our favorite books about girls and women who love science, engineering, and math! In the first part of the post, you can discover many fictional stories about curious, inventive Mighty Girls, while in the second part, you'll find many inspiring books about real-life female scientists. From beautifully illustrated picture books to fascinating teen biographies, these titles show the importance of scientific curiosity and celebrate the scientific progress that we owe to women in science both past and present. They're the perfect choice to inspire the budding scientist on your gift list!
And, for science toys and kits to further support her interests, we've shared many recommendations in two blog posts, Wrapped Up In Science: Top 60 Science Toys for Mighty Girls and Building Her Dreams: 75 Building and Engineering Toys for Mighty Girls.
True Stories: Biographies About Real-Life Female Scientists
Who knew that the young girl who carried a stuffed chimpanzee around with her would redefine the meaning of human? In this charming story of Jane Goodall's childhood, readers learn how she first developed her interest in the natural world — as well as her patience when observing animals in their own environment, which she practiced on her family's chickens! This inspirational picture book biography focuses on Goodall's childhood, but includes a picture of Goodall with the chimps at Gombe to show how she realized her dreams. Fans of Goodall will also want to check out The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps for ages 4 to 8, as well as our Jane Goodall Collection with many titles for all ages.
As a child, Little Mae was a dreamer, and she decided that she wanted to see the Earth from space! Her mother told her, "If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible." Not everybody sees things that way, though — her classmates laugh and her teacher tells her, "Nursing would be a good profession for someone like you" — but Little Mae continues to dream... until her dream comes true, and she becomes the first African-American woman astronaut in space. This inspirational tale inspires kids to reach for their dreams and reminds them never to lose their childlike imagination and wonder.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that caterpillars were spontaneously generated from muck and mud, but even as a child, Maria Merian disagreed! As a young woman naturalist and artist, she watched and illustrated as caterpillars spun their cocoons, rested within, and emerged as "summer birds" — moths and butterflies. Her remarkable illustrations proved an astounding natural process: metamorphosis. This joyful and vibrant picture book biography aptly captures the passion Merian had for the beauties and wonders of the natural world.
Like many young girls of her time, Joan Procter hosted pretend tea parties... but unlike the other girls, she invited lizards, snakes, and other reptiles to her table! Joan loved all reptiles, and she became famous for carrying her favorite lizard everywhere she went, and even bringing a crocodile to school! And when Joan grew up, she found her place: Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum, and the designer of the Reptile House at the London Zoo, where she once again hosted children's tea parties — this time with her pet komodo dragon! This lively biography of a groundbreaking, lizard-loving scientist is sure to delight young readers.
As a young girl swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, Sylvia Earle developed a passion for the sea and the life within it. As an adult, she dove even deeper into the subject — literally! From designing new submersibles to swimming with the whales to deep-water walks in special dive suits, Earle has explored one of the most mysterious places still left on Earth; our vast oceans. And as Time Magazine's first Hero for the Planet — who is affectionately referred to as the Sturgeon General by colleagues — she is one of the most passionate voices for protecting what she calls "the blue heart of the planet." This exquisite picture book biography will fascinate young readers.
When Henrietta Swan Leavitt was hired by the Harvard College Observatory, it wasn't to observe the skies herself: instead, she was hired as a human "computer," and set to studying photographic plates that male colleagues had taken at the telescope. She spent years measuring star positions and sizes and, over time, discovered that certain stars had a fixed pattern to their changes — a discovery that allowed astronomers to understand the true size of the universe and brought Leavitt recognition as a pioneer of astronomical science. Award-winning artist Raul Colon's illustrations particularly shine in this appealing picture book biography.
This captivating picture book tells the story of Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee scientist who turned her love of nature and science into a career that not only revolutionized our understanding of what it means to be human, but also opened the door for generations of female scientists after her. From her childhood escapades, hiding in the family chicken coop so she could see a hen lay an egg first hand, to her decades of research in Africa, this book shows how Goodall turned her natural talents into a career that changed the world. Filled with colorful illustrations, this new addition to the Ordinary People Change The World Collection strikes a wonderful balance between information and inspiration and sends a strong message to kids about the importance of determination in achieving your goals.
From the moment she saw a shark swimming in an aquarium as a girl, Eugenie Clark was fascinated — but as far as the world was concerned, sharks were mindless and dangerous eating machines. As the Japanese-American girl grew, she became a scientist — a surprising choice for a young woman in the 1940s — and made groundbreaking discoveries about the beautiful, mysterious ocean creatures that she loved. This beautiful picture book biography of the "Shark Lady" is a celebration of the wonder of nature and of a daring woman who changed the way the world saw the ocean. For another biography about Clark, check out Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist.
Over two hundred years ago, a teenager who gathered seashells to supplement her family's income made an astounding discovery! Mary Anning, the discoverer of the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton, would become famous not only for her incredible luck — she also found two complete plesiosaur skeletons, the first pterosaur skeleton outside of Germany, and many important fossils of fish — but also for her observations that changed the way people thought about prehistoric life. This picture book biography captures Anning's determination, intelligence, and patience at a time when no women could fully participate in the scientific world.
Grace Hopper was a software tester, a creative inventor, and a top-notch mentor — but she was also a famous rule-breaker, risk-taker, and sometimes a real trouble-maker! In this riveting picture book biography of the woman nicknamed "Amazing Grace," author Laurie Wallmark captures the determination and cleverness of the woman who invented the COBOL computer language, allowing people to "talk" to computers with typed commands. Fun anecdotes — like the time she found a literal bug in the computer — provide a glimpse into the extraordinary life of this accomplished woman, who famously knew that it's always better to ask forgiveness than permission...and that quick thinking and insatiable curiosity were the key to pushing a (sometimes reluctant) world forward!
As a shy young woman, Rachel Carson found joy and purpose in studying the creatures all around her. Her articles and books about marine life made her a best-selling author, but it was her groundbreaking book Silent Spring, about the effects of the pesticide DDT on wild animals and birds, that turned her into a household name. Along the way, she would help found the modern environmental movement. Written for the fiftieth anniversary of Silent Spring's publication, this thoughtful picture book shows how a quiet and dedicated scientist changed the way people thought of their effects on the Earth. Middle grade readers interested in learning more about Carson can check out Who Was Rachel Carson? from the Who Was...? biography series for ages 8 to 12. For more books resources on Carson, visit our Rachel Carson Collection.
When Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden joined NASA, they were hired as "colored computers" — their mathematical genius was put to use calculating launch trajectories for America's first trips to space. They overcame both racism and sexism, carved out careers in science, and participated in some of NASA's greatest triumphs. Fans of the Hidden Figures movie will be excited to share this picture book adaptation of the story of these groundbreaking women mathematicians with younger readers! Middle-grade readers can learn more about these inspiring women in Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition.
Temple Grandin was considered a strange girl, and doctors told her mother she'd never speak, let alone have a productive life. But her mother refused to believe it: she saw potential in her observant and creative child. As Temple grew, she attended school, got part-time jobs, and started learning how to articulate the different way that her mind worked: her astounding visual memory even allowed her to draw whole blueprints just from one tour through a facility, and her empathy with animals helped her design spaces that help them stay calm. Today, she is a powerful voice in science, advocating for autistic people like herself. This picture book biography told in rhyming text is an inspiring introduction to an important figure in scientific history. Older kids can read about Grandin's story in Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World for ages 9 to 14.
Caroline Herschel was the youngest child in a poor family, and nobody expected her to amount to anything — especially once she ended up scarred by smallpox and stunted by typhus. Her family used her as a scullery maid, but her brother William saw something different in her, so when he left for England, he took her with him. Together, the astronomy-loving brother and sister built the greatest telescope of their age, which Caroline used to discover fourteen nebulae and two galaxies. She even became the first woman to discover a comet — and the first woman officially employed as a scientist. This picture book biography of the groundbreaking astronomer will inspire kids with her spirit of curiosity and resilience.
Thanks to her mathematically talented mother, Anne Isabella Byron, young Ada had the opportunity to develop her remarkable intelligence. Years later, when she met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, he named her the Enchantress of Numbers for her astounding mathematical skills. Little did either of them know that, when she designed an algorithm for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she would be making history — by writing the world’s first computer program! With vivid artwork and intriguing anecdotes about Lovelace's genius, this picture book biography pays homage to a little-known but deeply influential figure in computing history — the world's first computer programmer. Ada's story is also told in three more picture books, Who Says Women Can't Be Computer Programmers, Ada's Ideas, and Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science.
When Patricia Bath was coming of age, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing. The intelligent young woman was determined to become a doctor, but she had many obstacles in her way: racism, sexism, and poverty all seemed to be working against her. Nevertheless, she continued to strive, and she broke new ground for both women and African Americans in her chosen field of ophthalmology. And when she invented the Laserphaco Probe in 1981, she created a quick and nearly painless way to treat cataracts — one which has now been used on millions of patients around the world, in some cases restoring vision to people who had been unable to see for years. This inspiring story, which includes a note from Bath herself, highlights the power of fighting for a dream.
Marie Tharp's father was a mapmaker, but by the the time she was grown, there wasn't much left to map... or was there? In fact, people knew almost nothing about the ocean floor, and Tharp decided that she would be the first to map the mysterious depths of the Atlantic. Although she faced many challenges — including being turned away from research ships because it was "bad luck" to have a woman on board — Tharp took bits and pieces of data from many sources to assemble the first map of the ocean floor — and discovered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, evidence that helped prove the theory of plate tectonics. This fascinating story is sure to inspire children to seek out even more of the world's mysteries.
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari Maathai was unique for being allowed to earn an education; she also learned traditional Kikuyu reverence for nature. As a young adult, she had the opportunity to attend university in the US, but she always planned to return to her home. When she did, she combined her newfound scientific education with her appreciation for good husbandry of natural resources to found the Green Belt Movement, which not only provided sustainable work for women across Kenya, but also helped them replant millions of trees and restore the land's natural beauty. This vibrant picture book biography of the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize is a true showstopper. Fans of this book can also check out Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya for ages 4 to 8 or the other resources in our Wangari Maathai Collection.
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers; as a child, she loved studying algebra and calculus and she even knew exactly how many miles to the moon and back. But the best part of math was when it could solve a problem in the real world! Her love of math took her to studies at MIT and then to a job at NASA, where they were planning a mission to the moon...and computers were going to be a part of it. Hamilton hand-wrote the code for the Apollo missions — and when a last-minute problem cropped up as Apollo 11 prepared for a lunar landing, it was Hamilton's forward-thinking code that saved the day! This lively look at a pioneer of mathematics and computing is a great way to show young readers that math really can take you to the stars.
She's been called one of the greatest American minds of all time, and when NASA first started using computers to calculate launch trajectories, they only trusted them after she double checked the math! Katherine Johnson broke both gender and racial boundaries when she started working for NASA in the 1950s as a human computer, performing the complex calculations necessary to launch rockets, satellites, and eventually, the Apollo 11 moon mission. Fans of the hit movie Hidden Figures will be excited to read their very own book about Johnson from Ready to Read's You Should Meet series. Older readers can check out Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition for ages 8 to 13.
Mae Jemison dreamed of becoming an astronaut from childhood. She went to medical school and joined the Peace Corps, but she never forgot that dream — so in 1985, she applied to NASA, and in 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman to go into space! In this Level 3 Ready-To-Read book from the You Should Meet non-fiction series, newly independent readers can learn all about Jemison's fascinating life and career. Additional material at the end includes information about math and history, and even a timeline with fun facts about space!
Meet the women who programmed the first all-electronic computer and built the technological language kids today can't live without in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read book! In 1946, six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without any programming languages or tools, and by the time they were finished, the ENIAC could run a complicated calculus equation in seconds. But when the ENIAC was presented to the press and public, the women were never introduced or given credit for their work. Learn all about what they did and how their invention still matters today in this story of six amazing young women everyone should meet!
Young Anna Comstock adored being outside: she spent her days enjoying nature and observing everything she could, from ants on the move to the constellations in the sky. And even though many people thought science was only for men, she went to university and continued to study. She became famous as a nature expert and artist, creating many stunning books about nature. As a leader of the nature study movement, Comstock also believed it was important to foster children's appreciation for nature and created one of the earliest school curriculum focused on studying nature outdoors. This charming biography not only celebrates a pioneer for women in science, but also celebrates the joy of studying the great outdoors.
Before people could orbit the Earth or fly to the moon, there was a group of "human computers": dedicated female mathematician who used pencil and slide rule to calculate how to launch rockets. Four African-American women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, were critical to the story of space flight -- and yet their story was largely untold. In this young readers edition of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, tweens will learn how these women, so little appreciated in their time, changed both NASA and America for the better.
Sally Ride is famous as the first American woman in space, but she was also so much more: a brilliant physicist who loved English literature, a nationally ranked tennis player, an advocate for girls and women in science careers, and a role model for both girls and to the LGBTQ community. In this comprehensive biography, Sue Macy gives equal treatment both to her groundbreaking role as an astronaut, to her work with NASA after her time in space (including her role in the Challenger investigation), and to her education and advocacy work after she left NASA. It's a fitting tribute to the woman who changed how girls saw the future. For more resources about this inspiring scientist, visit our Sally Ride Collection.
In her nearly 60 year career, Jane Goodall went from an oddity — a woman researching primates in the wild? — to one of the world's most recognizable scientists and conservationists. Along the way, she changed the way we think about our planet — and what it means to be human. In this beautiful biography of Goodall, readers will learn about her amazing achievements, born of her remarkable ability to connect with the chimpanzees she sought to study. Primary sources and full-color photographs create a vivid and inspiring depiction of this trailblazing scientist. Fans can also check out Who Is Jane Goodall? from the popular Who Was...? biography series for ages 8 to12 or find many more titles in our Jane Goodall Collection.
A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists. Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past. Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell longed to discover a new comet and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did. Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.
This charmingly illustrated and educational book highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection profiles well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!
When Caitlin O'Connell traveled to Namibia for the first time, local villagers hated elephants: the animals could easily break down fences and eat an entire year's worth of stored food in a single night. Scientists were desperate to help the elephants; the villagers were desperate to preserve their livelihood. O'Connell decided to study the behavior of the elephants to see if she could find a way to protect both; that desire led to surprising discoveries about how elephants communicate — discoveries that have been used successfully to keep elephants away from farmland. Full of exquisite photographs, this biography of the woman called "the mother of all elephants" is sure to delight animal lovers. Fans of this volume can check out the rest of the Scientists in the Field series.
When Temple Grandin was born, autism was newly described — and a diagnosis meant a life in an institution. But her mother refused to believe that her daughter was incapable of learning, and to everyone's amazement, Grandin learned to speak and attended a regular school. As a teen, a love of science and an empathy with animals around her, who also found themselves overwhelmed and frightened by sensory stimuli, led her to a career in the animal sciences, where she has revolutionized the livestock industry and provided a role model for autistic people around the world. This compelling biography shows readers that a different way of seeing the world can be of tremendous value in scientific discovery.
Over decades of groundbreaking scientific work, Marie Curie created the field of atomic physics and coined the term "radioactivity" — but to do so, she had to overcome many challenges, including the limitations and prejudices directed at women in science. In this book, kid can learn about Curie's life while doing hands-on experiments and activities of their own! While reading about Curie's work — including her title as the only person ever to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines — kids will also make a model of the element carbon, examine World War I X-rays, and even try their own Polish pierogies. It's an excellent way to step into the shoes of this remarkable and trailblazing scientist.
Dr. Kimberly Stewart is known as the Turtle Lady of St. Kitts for her devotion to preserving and studying the leatherback sea turtle. Although the 800-pound adult turtles don't look like they need protecting, only one in a thousand sea turtle eggs laid on the beach will reach adulthood. So Dr. Stewart is not only collecting data to understand the turtles better, but also sharing her knowledge with local residents so that they can find sources for food and income that don't risk the species' survival. In this 2014 addition to the Scientists in the Field series, renowned author and photographer Stephen R. Swinburne uses dramatic photographs and a detailed history of the leatherback turtle and Dr. Stewart's work to show how science and the community are pairing up to protect the species.
Virginia Apgar. Sally Ride. Rachel Carson. These names are etched in history and included here as part of this awe-inspiring collection of profiles of some of the world's most influential women in science. Author Rachel Swaby delves into the minds of thirty-three such women, whose vision, creativity, passion and dedication have helped make important strides in the world of science -- who have in fact changed the world. Middle grade kids will be fascinated by these snapshot profiles of 33 of history's most important female scientists. This volume for middle readers is an adaptation of the author's best-selling book for teens and adults, Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science -- And The World.
In 1958 America, as the quest for space was just beginning, NASA had a rule that an astronaut had to have military pilot experience — and of course, the military only accepted men in those roles. But some people wondered if some of the equally daring women pilots of the day belonged on the first space missions. This book tells the little-known story of the Mercury 13 women, who underwent astronaut testing and training decades before the first American woman would go to space. For kids who have grown up with both male and female astronauts, reading about the Mercury 13 and their quest for the stars will shed new light on how far we've come — and how far we have to go.
When Maria Merian began studying the world around her, bugs were considered to be "beasts of the devil." Everyone knew they spontaneously generated from mud; why would anyone want to study them? Merian's curiosity drove her to examine even these creatures, and through her notes and her art, she successfully documented something miraculous: the metamorphosis of the butterfly. This stunning biography, which is beautifully accented by full-color original artwork from Merian herself, provides an exciting look at one of the first female entomologists and her lifetime of exploration.
In 1934, Irene Curie, the daughter of the famous Marie Curie, developed artificial radioactivity with her husband, a discovery that won the couple the Nobel Prize — but Curie was not permitted entry into the French Academy of Sciences, who thereafter banned all women. Four years later, Lise Meitner used Curie's research to help her understand nuclear fission, a discovery that was critical to the nuclear age, but she was left unrecognized by the Nobel Committee, while her colleague Otto Hahn was given full credit for their joint research. In this narrative non-fiction book, Winifred Conkling highlights the struggles these groundbreaking women faced in the male-dominated world of research, and includes sidebars that elaborate on the science of the book and shed new light on these remarkable figures from scientific history. Younger readers interested in learning more about Meitner should check out Lise Meitner Had the Right Vision About Nuclear Fission for age 7 to 10.
Emi is a Sumatran rhino, the world's smallest rhino and one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. At her home in the Cincinnati Zoo, she's well fed and kept healthy — but if the species as a whole is going to survive, every female rhino needs to have as many calves as possible. Thanks to Terri Roth, Emi became the first Sumatran rhino to give birth in captivity in over a century. In this fascinating book from the Scientists in the Field series, readers learn how Roth's work with rhino hormones might help save these curious and friendly rhinos. Fans of this book will also want to check out The Tapir Scientist from the same series, which follows Patricia Medici's work to study the mysterious lowland tapirs of Brazil.
For these six women, curiosity about the natural world and a passion for science drove them to overcome obstacles and prejudices in previously male-only occupations! Jeannine Atkins discusses the childhoods and careers of six very different women — Maria Merian (b.1647), Anna Comstock (b.1854), Frances Hamerstrom (b.1907), Rachel Carson (b.1907), Miriam Rothschild (b.1908), and Jane Goodall (b.1934) — all of whom became renowned scientists, artists and writers. An excellent resource for students and a fascinating read for young science lovers, this book reminds readers that amazing discoveries can be found in surprising places.
In the mid-1800s, a young woman with a passion for the stars became America's first female professional astronomer: Maria Mitchell. Despite many obstacles to her education and practice, Mitchell would become famous for discovering a comet by telescope in 1847, for which she became the first woman and American to receive one of King Frederick VI of Denmark's gold medals. Rather than writing a simple chronological biography, author Beatrice Gormley opts to set the stage by talking about 19th century Nantucket, Mitchell's home, and her life and career as an adult, so that tween and teen readers can more easily understand just how unusual Mitchell's life really was. Complete with multiple pages of photographs, this is a unique biography of a unique woman.
There are few figures as inspiring as an astronaut: not only are they daring adventurers, they're also intelligent, dedicated scientists! In this book from the Women of Action series, kids will read about trailblazing women from ten different countries who dreamed of traveling to space. Including important figures like the Mercury 13, Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, Chiaki Mukai, Kalpana Chawla, and many more, this book shares the obstacles they faced, the wonders they saw, and the influence they've made on the world. For any science-lover or would-be space traveler, this book is full of inspiration.
Bold Women of Medicine: 21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs
Bold Women of Medicine: 21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs
From battlefield nurses Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale in the 19th century, to modern medical miracle workers like Dr. Catherine Hamlin and Bonnie Simpson Mason, women have long played a key role in medicine — but their contributions have often been downplayed or forgotten. In this fascinating new title from the Women of Action series, young adult readers get to meet some of the daring and trailblazing women of the past two hundred years of medicine. From adventurers like Mary Carson Breckinridge, the "nurse on horseback" who delivered babies in the Appalachian Mountains, to research physicians like Virginia Apgar, who created the Apgar score that has saved millions of new born babies, these women defied prejudices and expectations, created incredible new procedures, and devoted their lives to healing people around the world.
When these three women scientists started working for Louis Leakey studying primates in the wild, they were groundbreaking in many ways: not only were women in science still oddities, but their methods and ways of thinking led them to remarkable new discoveries. In this triple biography of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas — sometimes known as the Trimates — Jim Ottoviani tells their stories in compelling fashion, emphasizing their accomplishments but also presenting them as real people with flaws and quirks of their own. Inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks capture the excitement and drama of their discoveries and their lives. Accessible, entertaining, and informative, teens will devour this graphic biography.
For every famous name like Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, there are dozens or hundreds of women whose work in science is little known — and even when it is, their contributions are often minimized or forgotten. Rachel Swaby was inspired to write this book after reading an obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill that spent the first paragraph focusing on her beef stroganoff recipe and her family life. Within it, she provide capsule biographies of 52 women scientists whose stories need to be told. Broken down into categories like medicine, physics, biology, math and technology, and invention, this book shows the innumerable ways in which women have advanced our scientific understanding. Fascinating for both teens and adults, it's sure to get your Mighty Girl thinking about what she might grow up to discover!
Unbridled Curiosity: Stories About Girls Who Love Science
One of the great things about science is that it encourages the natural curiosity and wonder that kids have! These stories show how that drive to understand fosters scientific investigation... even if things don't always go as planned.
The girl in this story is dreaming of a space adventure! She imagines herself as a member of a shuttle crew, blasting off into orbit — and then, discovering how every-day occasions like taking a nap or having a meal change when you have to do them in zero gravity. She'll go for a space walk and even fix a satellite... and then, finally, come safely home to Earth. Space-loving little ones will love picturing themselves riding along!
Maisy is curious about space — so she sets off for the moon! As kids learn scientific vocabulary like satellite and landing module, they also get to move levers and tabs to launch a rocket, drive the moon rover, and open a parachute when she's ready for landing. This book, one of the Maisy's First Science Book line, is a fun way to show kids that childhood curiosity can lead to a scientific career.
Mary spends so much time tinkering in her lab that she doesn't have any friends... so when she's feeling lonely one day, she invents the Sheepinator! Mary's new pet sheep — and her amazing invention — catch her classmates' eyes, and she decides to maintain these new connections by bringing all the other kids sheep, too. But when her plan goes a bit sideways, her newfound friends are ready and willing to help! Author Sue Fleiss' clever reimagining of the classic poem combine beautifully with Petros Bouloubasis' wacky illustrations to create an appealing combination of science and friendship.
On a long hiking trip with her aunt and uncle, Rhoda makes a beeline for what she loves most: rocks! Everywhere she looks there are rocks with different patterns and colors and textures, and all of her treasures end up in her increasingly heavy backpack. By the last day, though, her pack is too heavy to lift. Fortunately, she comes up with a clever solution — one that will allow her to share the beauty of her finds with future hikers. This charming story of a girl who particularly loves one aspect of the nature will give kids new perspectives on the things they see every day.
Kate is playing hopscotch when she hears a cry of frustration from the bare hilltop near her town. The wind there is powerful, and the man who lives there can't escape it. Kate knows the solution: planting trees! Over years — enough years that Kate becomes a teenager and the man's beard goes grey — Kate plants trees over the steep hill, tends them, and helps them grow. Finally, the trees are tall enough that Kate can truly claim to have tamed the wind. This simple story shares an important message, both about the role that trees play in making our spaces healthier and more comfortable, and about the need for long-term planning and action to keep our world green.
Young Ada is full of boundless curiosity, so when her house fills with a toe-curling smell, she's determined to track down the cause. Not afraid of failure, she 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! Fortunately, Ada and her supportive family realize that it's always worth asking "why", even if only leads to more questions. This new release by the author of Rosie Revere, Engineer and the new Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers reinforces the importance of perseverance captured in that book, as well as celebrating a love of science and a burning desire to learn.
Every scientific discovery began with two works: "I wonder." In this beautiful book, Eva and her mother take a walk and explore some of the mysteries of life: how gravity works, why things live and die, and even how big the universe really is. Along the way, Eva learns that it's okay to say, "I don't know" — and that some mysteries are out there, still to be discovered by curious minds like hers! This book is a wonderful way to remind kids that there's no such thing as too many questions.
Any scientist can tell you that, for every experiment that works, there are an awful lot of missed steps! This hilarious book actually teaches the scientific method — complete with hypotheses, experimental methods, and conclusions — as the book's irrepressible narrator decides to explore questions like "Can a kid make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup?" and "Can a washing machine wash dishes?" Fortunately, while these particular experiments may not turn out well, this eager young scientist knows it's only a matter of time until she gets one just right.
All anyone can talk about is Velma's amazing older sisters... which means that nobody notices Velma at all. That is, until her first grade class takes a field trip to the butterfly conservatory, someplace her sisters have never been. Velma is thrilled and quickly studies up on everything she can learn about butterflies — and when a monarch takes a liking to Velma, she'll never be forgotten again. More importantly, though, Velma has discovered a new identity and a new passion: she loves science! This charming and funny story is perfect as a read-aloud.
Zoey has made an amazing discovery: magical animals show up in her backyard when they need help — so it's up to her to help them feel better! This time, it's a sick baby dragon she names Marshmallow. With her beloved cat Sassafras by her side, Zoey will have to use the scientific method to determine enough details about her patient to find the cure. She'll experiment to figure out if Marshmallow is warm or cold blooded; herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore; and much more. This first book in a new early reader chapter book series will show kids how they can use scientific principles every day. Fans of this book can follow Zoey's further adventures in the sequels Monsters and Mold, Merhorses and Bubbles, and Caterflies and Ice.
Marty's third-grade class has a challenge: find ways to save the Earth! And Marty's sure her idea — composting leftovers from the cafeteria with the help of some hungry worms — will win the grand prize. But worms take a long time to work, and when they manage to escape, the whole class is mad with Marty! She'll have to recapture the worms, maintain her friendships, and learn a little patience if she wants to reach her goal. Any kid who's found that "simple" experiments are harder than they seem will appreciate Marty's frustration, as well as her pride when her lowly little worms work just as they're supposed to.
Third grade scientist and inventor extraordinaire Ada Lace has a new challenge to take on: her neighbor's beloved Yorkie dog has been dognapped! Ada is sure that her homemade gadgets and her knack for scientific thinking will allow her to crack the case. A quirky neighborhood girl, Nina, insists on helping, but she has has her own theory about the missing dog (involving alien abduction, of all things!) As Ada and Nina get closer to the solution, though, they'll also discover that opposites can make for the best of friends! This new series from Emily Calandrelli, host of Xploration Outer Space and MIT graduate, provides a scientifically-minded detective young readers will love. Fans of Ada can also check out the second volume of the series, Ada Lace Sees Red.
This young mad scientist is determine to take over the world — but before she does, she'll have to perfect her methods! This imaginative (if a bit maniacal) girl explores areas from cloning to time travel over the course of the seven books collected in this fun box set. Colorful illustrations make this series a treat for young readers, and they'll giggle to see the predicaments Franny gets herself into! Throughout it all, they'll appreciate that it's Franny's intelligence and ingenuity that saves the day. For one of Franny's adventures with a robotic theme, which is included as part of this set, check out The Fran With Four Brains.
Imagine a world where Lady Ada Byron (who created the first computer algorithm) and Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein) met as girls — and decided to turn their combined brainpower to solving mysteries! That's the premise behind this unique new series in which the pair form The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. In order to find the missing heirloom — and prove the false confession wrong — they'll have to use science, math, and creative analytical thinking to unveil the true culprit. Ada and Mary's adventures continue in the sequel, The Case of the Girl in Grey.
It's 1900 in San Francisco, and 13-year-old Lizzie Kennedy puts on a brave face at her finishing school, acting like a "proper" young lady. But secretly, her passion is science, which she indulges when she joins her doctor father on house calls. That's where she first learns of a dark side to the city she loves — a side that's full of rumors of the plague. Everyone, including her beloved father, insists it's nonsense, but then why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Lizzie will have to cross the lines of gender, class, and race if she wants to solve the mystery and save the people she loves in this medical mystery.
11-year-old Calpurnia is curious why the yellow grasshoppers in her yard are so much bigger than the green grasshoppers. But it's Texas in 1899, and girls are supposed to devote their time to proper activities like needlework, not tromping through the grasses studying bugs. Still, Calpurnia recruits her grandfather, an avid naturalist, to help her figure out the mystery. As the pair grows closer, Calpurnia dreams of becoming a scientist, even as it becomes more obvious how difficult that will be for a girl of her time. This award-winning novel will give tweens new perspective on the challenges that faced female scientists in the past. Fans of Calpurnia can read the continuation of her story in 2015's The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.
Flavia de Luce is an aspiring chemist with a particular interest in poisons, but in her 1950s English village, she's definitely the oddball. But her talents for listening at keyholes and picking locks come in handy when a series of mysterious events come to the mansion at Buckshaw: first a dead bird on the doorstep with a postage stamp on its beak, then a dying man in the family's cucumber patch. No matter what happens, Flavia can't help but admit that her life began in earnest once murder came calling! Rollicking and intriguing, this is an excellent option for teens and adults alike. You can continue the series with The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag.
Putting It Together: Books About Engineers and Tinkerers
Some kids want to go beyond academic curiosity and start getting their hands dirty! The Mighty Girls in these books love engineering and technology.
Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this colorful book about a little girl and bird explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!
When this little girl builds her own robot, she thinks she's got the perfect best friend: one who will do whatever she says! But even robots can get tired of being told what to do all the time, and eventually — after being ordered to mow the grass and hoe the garden — the robot storms off. The little girl will have to figure out the right way to make amends before the friends can play again. This simple comic reader from the Step Into Reading series is a great read-aloud for very young kids and is easy enough for early readers to read on their own.
This Cinderella is a whiz at rocket ship repair! So when her stepmother and stepsisters desert her on a planet while they head off to the Prince's Gravity Free Ball, she accepts a gift of tools from her fairy godrobot and soon repairs a derelict rocket. When she heads off to space and encounters the Prince in his broken down ship, Cinderella might just discover a new calling — as the new chief royal mechanic! This fun story with its retro-style illustrations is sure to delight kids with its tinkering heroine.
The little girl in this story has an idea in her head for the most MAGNIFICENT thing... so with the help of her puppy sidekick, she collects some bits and pieces and starts building. Except that the result isn't quite as magnificent as she wanted, so she tries again... and again... and again. Eventually, frustration overtakes her, and she not only smashes, pummels, and explodes, she also quits. It's not until she takes a walk with her dog and clears her head that she can see the potential in all her previous design and build something that she really does feel is magnificent. This fun picture book sends a great message to young would-be inventors about the power of persistence.
Cleonardo's father is an inventor...and so was her grandfather, her great-grandfather, and even more generations gone by. She desperately wants to be an inventor too, but no matter how many ideas she gives her father, he never uses any of them. So Cleonardo — with the help of Leonardo, her grandfather — decides to make her own invention, which she does successfully. She thinks it's wonderful, but will others think the same — especially her dad? This book celebrates both the desire to create and invent and the importance of fathers and daughters spending time together.
Violet Van Winkle could fix almost anything in her house by the time she was two. By eight, she's building incredible flying machines, even though the kids at school tease her for her eccentric creations. She decides to earn their respect by winning the blue ribbon at the Air Show, but on her way to the show, Violet sees a Boy Scout troop in trouble and has to decide which is more important: showing off her creation for applause, or using it to do the right thing. Kids who dream of careers as pilots or aeronautics engineers will cheer as Violet shows the world the joy of flight!
The eager young scientist in this book has a great idea for her school's science fair: a real-life robot! But in the process of building, she gets a little carried away, adding a superclaw, a laser eye, and even the power to control dogs' minds. It's not until she turns it on at the fair, though, that she realizes her biggest mistake: she forgot to give it a way to register her commands. It's going to take all her ingenuity to save the day now... This hilarious story also provides a good reminder for budding inventors: plan your design very, very carefully! Fans of this book will enjoy the sequel, Oh, No! Not Again! (Or How I Built A Time Machine To Save History) (Or At Least My History Grade), which touches on the perils of time travel.
Quiet Rosie dreams of inventing gizmos and gadgets, so when she hears her Great-Aunt Rose (of Rosie the Riveter fame) sighing that she never fulfilled her dream to fly, Rosie decides to create a solution that will let Aunt Rose soar. Despite her hard work, though, the heli-o-cheese-copter hovers for just a moment before crashing to the ground. Although Rosie considers it a failure, Aunt Rose reassures her that it was actually a tremendous success — because you only truly fail if you quit. This fun story about perseverance is sprinkled with a tidbits about women's aviation history. Fans of this title will want to check out Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers, which provides plenty of fodder for her own engineering adventures!
A little girl who loves to tinker and fix things finds a robot in the woods — and is shocked when the push of a button activates him for the first time! Soon, the pair are the best of friends, but the little robot is also curious about its own kind. Unfortunately, the large, sinister robots at the factory that made the little robot are looking for him too and they don’t care who they hurt along the way to get him back. Now, the two new friends will have to fight for the little robot’s freedom! This fun and charming wordless graphic novel, which stars an inventive and intelligent Mighty Girl, will be a hit with any young reader who’s imagined having their own robot friend.
Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself
Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself
Nick and Tesla are 11-year-old sleuths who use science and technology to save the day! In this adventure, a rash of robberies has hit the town of Half Moon Bay, and to catch the criminal, the pair will have to build several different robots. Step-by-step directions using mostly household items guide kids through building hoverbots, robo-roaches, and more as they work to solve the case. Budding young builders will love puzzling out the solution to the mystery as they learn about real-life science concepts.
When her mother was still alive, Nicolette learned to be an inventor by her side; now that she's gone, her stepsisters laugh and call her "Mechanica." But when she discovers a secret workshop full of mechanical tools powered in part by fey magic, she sees the opportunity to escape her miserable situation: with both a technological exhibition and a royal ball approaching, if Nicolette can't impress the prince, perhaps she can impress investors. This innovative fairy tale, featuring a steampunk Cinderella, celebrates a mechanically-inclined Mighty Girl and also conveys important lessons about the value of independence and freedom.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future. No one — including Cinder herself — knows that Earth's fate hinges on one very special young woman... To follow Cinder's further adventures, all five books in the series are available in The Lunar Chronicles Box Set.
Numbers Game: Stories About Math-Loving Mighty Girls
It's easy to forget the M from STEM — math! But the truth is that mathematics provide the basic principles necessary to understand and operate in all scientific fields. These math-loving Mighty Girls show just how useful math concepts can be.
Peg likes to work things through logically and analytically; her friend Cat is creative and intuitive. And when it comes to dealing with tricky math problems, it takes both of them to find the best solution! In this picture book adaptation of one episode of the PBS show, someone's left the chicken coop open and the chickens are running amok. Peg and Cat will need to combine efforts to make sure that all 100 chickens get home safely. With illustrations full of details and a "can-do" attitude on every page, kids will love finding out how Peg and Cat deal with this predicament! A video version of this book is also included as one of eight episodes on the Peg + Cat: Chicken Problem DVD.
The ten flower friends in this book wish that they could fly — and a passing fairy, despite being puzzled by their request, agrees to transform them one at a time. As each flower becomes a butterfly and soars into the sky, though, there is always a total of ten! And when the flowers miss their old selves, and realize that they like themselves as they were, they count back down until all ten are flowers again. This clever picture book by bestselling author and math whiz Danica McKellar teaches the essential math skill of grouping numbers to ten, while also celebrating self-acceptance!
Zero is just a big, round nothing — all the other numbers have value, but she doesn't add anything to the equation. So she tries to stretch and bend and twist herself into a number that counts, without success. Then, one day, Zero realizes that she has incredible power: with her, 1 becomes 10, then 100, then 1000! Soon all the numbers are combining instead of adding, and discovering that Zero help other numbers "count even more." In addition to introducing math concepts, there's a subtle body-positive message in this book that parents will love.
Clever Rani in this story shows that, with a solid understanding of math, it's easy to outsmart a selfish raja! Rani's village is starving, and the raja has more than enough rice to feed them all — but in his greed, he hoards it. When Rani does him a good deed and he offers to let her pick a reward in return, however, she asks for a seemingly humble amount: one grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days. It doesn't seem like much... until you add it up. Kids will love the procession of animals that bring Rani's reward, from one grain in the beak of a bird to 256 elephants carrying enough rice to feed everyone. The vivid illustrations and poetic language make this a stand-out telling of this traditional tale.
Uma feels so small when she looks up at the night sky. How can she ever possibly imagine infinity? But as she wonders, she starts thinking of different ways to think about this enormous concept. Is infinity an endless racetrack? A number that grows forever? An ever-growing family tree? Can infinity even appear in an ice cream cone? This contemplative picture book takes a big idea and makes it accessible to young philosophers who, even though they're small, are already starting to think about things that never end.
One day at school, this girl's teacher says, "You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem" — and the next day, when she wakes up, everything is! She has ten things to do and thirty minutes before the bus arrives... is there enough time? How many pints are in a gallon? Then the problems become a little wackier: does tunafish + tunafish = fournafish? How many M&Ms would it take to measure the length of the Mississippi River? It turns out that this Math Curse can actually be pretty funny! For any child who's considered word problems to be the bane of their existence, this book will show them the light side of math — and prove the point that math really is everywhere.
Sophie, Margaret, and Rebecca are all students at St. Veronica's when their routines are broken by the appearance of a ghostly face in a window across the courtyard! The face turns out to be a woman in need of help: she is estranged from her daughter, but might be able to repair the relationship if the girls can help her solve a scavenger hunt full of logic puzzles and geometry equations. But the girls aren't alone in their quest, so they'll have to work fast to get to the treasure first! Full of twists, turns, and laugh-out-loud moments, this is sure to be a favorite with math and mystery loving Mighty Girls.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For science toys and kits to further support her interests, check out our blog posts: Wrapped Up In Science: Top 50 Science Toys for Mighty Girls and Building Her Dreams: 50 Building and Engineering Toys for Mighty Girls.
- For more books — both fiction and non-fiction — about STEM fields, visit our Science & Technology Collection.
- For books about real-life female scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, visit our selection of Scientist Biographies.