Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Interest Level: Ages 4 - 8
Author: Diane Stanley
Illustrator: Jessie Hartland
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Books for Young Readers), 2016
Reading Level: Lexile 810L
Retail: $18.99, hardcover
Summary: Illustrated biography of Ada Lovelace (1815-1852). Lovelace saw the potential to combine the ideas behind Joseph Marie Jacquard's mechanical loom and Charles Babbage's calculating machine (the Difference Engine). She worked to create the first computer program, one hundred years before the modern computer age. Includes a limited glossary, timeline, and endnotes.
Awards: An ALA Notable Book
In reading this book, and in my subsequent research on Ada Lovelace, I learned a lot of new things. I am embarrassed to admit that her contributions to our world were unfamiliar to me, and this book is among several published for children in recent years to bring her accomplishments to a wider audience.
The target age for this picture book spans from Preschool to the 3rd Grade. The balance of text to illustration favors a longer attention span for young children, but he pictures are vibrant and full of whimsy. I found the story easy to read aloud, and I appreciate the high vocabulary level.
The artwork of Jessie Hartland is bright and manages to be both soft and impressionistic and detailed at the same time. Observant readers will notice the cat featured on many spreads. The tone of most scenes is upbeat (nearly everyone is smiling all the time).
Ada Lovelace's upbringing was undoubtedly privileged, but descriptions of her childhood passions will be understandable to many children. Faces are rendered in this book with the feel of a child's drawing, adding to the relatable quality of the story. It is clear that Lovelace's accomplishments were as much due her talents as the circumstances in which her interests were allowed to flourish.
The endnotes of Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science touch on some of the controversy surrounding Lovelace's accomplishments. Was she in fact the first computer programmer, or did she merely assist Charles Babbage? One cannot try to answer this question without diving into semantics and academic ethics. Whatever the case, it is clear that Ada Lovelace made an important contribution to the history of computers in her short 36-year-long life. Who knows how history would have unfolded without her?