BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

I needed help with this one ...

This is the second of the "Early Reviewers" books that I've gotten from LibraryThing, and had not realized (when requesting it) that it was a "young adult" book, primarily targeted for teenage girls who might enjoy a career in Astronomy. Needless to say, this meant that I was not bringing the ideal set of eyes to review Mabel Armstrong's Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars, despite the numerous science books in my library!

However, I happen to be the father of a couple of bright young daughters, aged 8 and 12, the elder of which I figured was pretty close to being the intended audience for this; so I foisted the book on her once I'd read it, and encouraged her to do a review! I was very proud of the result, and, despite her protestations on length, she ended up writing a very substantial review (much longer than what passes for most "reviews" over on LibraryThing!).

The book is a series of biographical portraits of a couple of dozen women, from ancient figures to the likes of Sally Ride (plus a section of another dozen or so "rising stars"), with various side-bars and essays fleshing out some of the story points for each. The book is generously illustrated (hardly a page lacks at least a relevant bit of clip art), and has a lot of vintage photos (and line art) which open a historical window to the various eras discussed.

So, without further ado, here is what one very intelligent 12-year-old girl thought of the book:
Woman Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars

      Well, to start off I'd like to make it clear that I have never written a book review before so forgive me if it is not as good as my dad's super long ones. Here's my impression on this very informative book.

      Before this I had always thought that women were kept out of scientific fields almost completely, with maybe one or two exceptions, until the mid to late 1800s (not to mention ancient times!). This book has shown me that women have been able to get to the top in the scientific community even in B.C.E.

      As you would expect, in the earlier times the women who had any scientific influence were married to wealthy men or were from a high position family, but none the less they made a difference. That didn't impress me all that much, it would be expected that the higher powered families would have better chances, but what did surprise me was the fact that from about the 1600s on women achieved high positions on their own and it was because of their intelligence and determination that they gained high status and made such great discoveries.

      I found this book very informative, because I had always heard the idea that women didn't gain much of a scientific status until the 1900s but this has disproved all of those ideas. This book also inspired me because I am interested in pursuing a career that involves science and it has encouraged me to keep going towards that because if women back then could reach the top, then so can I.

      This is a very inspirational and informative book and I would recommend any girl who wants to pursue a scientific career to read this book.
Of course, you're not getting away without my two cents worth ... but most of my notes on this are on minutia. Many of the folks commenting on this on the boards were implying that Ms. Armstrong was playing "fast and loose" with the early historical bits, and there is a sense in the section on Hypatia that suggests that the author would have you believe that she'd invented the astrolabe, despite Ptolemy (living a couple of centuries earlier) had written descriptions of this device, as noted in the commentaries composed by Hypatia's father Theon. I also found it very irritating that they chose to illustrate both the Mayan and Aztec cultures with an image of the famed "calendar stone" from the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan ... something that they might have been able to slide by with (in the sense of it being a Mesoamerican artifact, even if having nothing to do with the Maya) if the two illustrations weren't on the same page! That bespeaks either sloppiness or laziness, and one of those is also no doubt the cause of repeating the Glossary entry for "Binary Star" both before and after the entry for "Black Hole". There is also an on-again-off-again timeline that runs across the bottom of about 3/4 of the pages ... while it's interesting early on, it's a distraction, and gets very crowded towards the end, and I think this would have ended up being far more effective done over 3-4 pages in its own section.

Anyway, as my daughter says, this book should be recommended to anybody in the target audience! For an intensely-illustrated larger-than-average format book, this is very reasonably priced, and Amazon has it at a discount that puts it under what a copy from the new/used vendors would run you with shipping. Being that this is a brand-new release, you should be able to find it at your local brick-and-mortar book store, should you be interested in picking up a copy!

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Tags: book review
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