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Kim Tomsic

Friday, February 9, 2018

STEM Girls in Literature: Why This Matters

Stem Books for Girls and Boys that Break Gender Stereotyping

Gender Stereotyping
Another title for this article could be: Why STEM could be called STREAM (science, technology, READING, engineering, ART, and math). These areas of study can feed into one another in a beautiful synergistic dance.  But first, let's discuss the findings.  After dedicating millions of dollars in research, the National Science Foundation was able to prove this fact:  Creating a sense of BELONGING will keep girls interested in STEM classes. With belonging ability grows. 
In another study titled, "Peer influences on adolescents' self-concept, achievement, and future aspirations in science and mathematics: Does student gender and race matter?" The report says, “Recently, the gender gap in science and math performance has been closing but the gap in STEM self-concept and aspirations remains large.”

We have to keep working on this, people! And we can work on this through the power of books. But if you still need convincing, let me tell you about a study released two months ago.

In December, 2017, Great Britain’s advertising regulators released a study and announced their intention to crack down on harmful ads, the title: “Depictions, Perceptions and Harm”. After carefully considering the results, the Advertising Standards Authority announced there would be new rules to ban ads that promote unhealthy body images, ads that sexually objectify women, and ads that promote gender stereotyping (i.e. ads where little girls grow up to be ballerinas while little boys become mathematicians; or ones showing a family making a mess and the mom cleans it up by herself; or only girls who ride horses in skimpy and sexy outfits are fit for leadership).  
One of the most disturbing discoveries in the study was how stereotypes, “restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities” the ad viewer experiences, and that children were, “more susceptible to accept and internalize stereotypes at an age where they are unable to deconstruct them. Research showed that children start to consider their roles in society at a young age”.  The lead author on this report, Ella Smillie, says, “Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.”
If a thirty-second ad has such power, image the impact an hour with a book can make!  In the words of Shannon Hale, there are not boy books or girl books, there are simply books. Authors, teachers, librarians, parents, and adults have an enormous responsibility to make sure books that break gender stereotypes land in the hands of children.
I’ve curated a list of 2017 and 2018 titles featuring a STEM girl protagonist, one who breaks the gender stereotype. I hope someone will also curate a list of titles featuring boy protagonists who break gender stereotypes.      

AFTER THE ASHES by Sara K Joiner, Holiday House Books for Young Readers 9780823434411 

In 1883, Katrien Courtlandt is more interested in science and exploring the jungle than in becoming a young lady like her rival Brigitta, but when Krakatoa erupts and they lose their families, the two girls struggle to survive together.
AFTER THE ASHES was named an outstanding science trade book by the
National Science Teachers Association

COUNDOWN CONSPIRACY by Katie Slivensky (HarperCollins, 2017) ISBN-

10: 0062462555 ISBN-13: 978-0062462558. Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.  

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno (ISBN: 9781524720087) Knopf Books for Young Readers, A homeless girl searches for a place to belong by tracking all the trees and plants in Brooklyn.

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue, by Jeff Seymour ,G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Random House) ISBN: 9780525632733
Publisher's logline: "From debut author Jeff Seymour and bestselling illustrator
Brett Helquist comes this breathtaking fantasy adventure, starring an extraordinary new heroine and set in an unforgettable world where ships can fly." Bonus notes: Jeff grew up in Colorado and wrote Nadya when he was living in Niwot. STEM involved is mostly physics and chemistry, with a little ecology and botany.

Payback on Poplar Lane by Margaret Mincks, Viking Children's/Penguin
Young Readers, ISBN: 978-0425290903, out 1/30/18. If we let Economics in the STEM sandbox, this book uses an alternating POV, and one of the main characters is a twelve-year-old girl dipping her toe into the cul-de-sac business pool for the first time. ABC's Shark Tank meets The Terrible Two when a pair of sixth grade entrepreneurs compete to become top mogul on their block.

A PROBLEMATIC PARADOX by Eliot Sappingfield, Putnam Young Readers ISBN-10: 152473845X
"Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in this wild, warm-hearted, and hilarious sci-fi debut about a brainy young girl who is recruited for a very special boarding school."

THE SERPENT'S SECRET, by Sayantani DasGupta, Scholastic, 978-
1338185706 Logline: Meet Kiranmala: Interdimensional Demon Slayer (Only she doesn't know it yet)!

TINY INFINITIES by J.H. Diehl Chronicle Books (May 8, 2018) 9781-4521-6335-2 Logline from JLG: Funny and devastatingly honest, this sharply observed depiction of family, friendship, and determination to prove one's self, rings loud and true. (A JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION) The story revolves around a science experiment performed by 13-year-old Alice, a competitive swimmer, and her best friend and teammate, Harriet, whose interest in getting a jump on the annual middle school science fair leads the girls to recreate firefly bioluminescence in a makeshift basement lab. 

The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins February 13,
2018) ISBN0062654942 (ISBN13: 9780062654946)

Wishes, magic, and dares abound when a tween math whiz tries to fit in at her new school by wishing on a magical cat clock only to suffer catastrophic consequences! Kirkus calls The 11:11 Wish a "funny fin fix."  In the midst of dealing with pinocchio-esque reprecussions, Megan, the main character, uses the scientific method to try to understand magic.

THE INVENTORS AT NO. 8 by A.M. Morgen, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, (ISBN 978-0316471497). 

Brimming with mystery and treasure, this action-packed tale sends a boy in need of luck and girl in need of a friend on an adventure that will change their lives forever. STEM connection:  main character is a genius! She is based on Ada Byron Lovelace who is recognized as the first computer programmer.

THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT by Mae Respicio, Random House Kids & Wendy Lamb Books (ISBN 978-1524717940). 12-year-old Lou Bulosan-Nelson longs for a place of her own to escape her lovable but large Filipino family. She plans to build a tiny house on land she inherited from her dad, and discovers it’s not so easy. But Lou won’t give up on her dream—her friends and family won’t either.

THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras KD Books/Penguin Young
Readers, ISBN: 978-0735229266, March 6, 2018. (MG fantasy historical adventure), A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home—with all the excitement of Ranger's Apprentice and perfect for fans of heroines like Alanna from The Song of the Lioness series.  At first glance, this may not seem like STEM, but the protagonist is a tough and independent girl who knows her woods, how to find water and food in the wild, plus there are various scenes of her judging distances in terms of rock-climbing and sword-play. All that, AND a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly: "Empathetic, bold, and entirely herself at a time when women were dismissed as weak, Drest shines in this fastpaced adventure."

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL, Random House Children's Books, May 1, 2018, ISBN-10: 1524767573, ISBN-13: 978-1524767570  "What do you get when you add 1 genius math brain, 2 new friends, and 1 shelter dog?" "Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college.
She just has to pass 1 more test—middle school!"

WHAT THE WOODS KEEP by Katya de Becerra, Imprint/Macmillan (Sept. 18, 2018)  
ISBN: 9781250124258A physicist’s daughter inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets. Hayden relies on physics and the scientific method to deal with her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before
, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

THE ZANNA FUNCTION by Daniel Wheatley, Jolly Fish Press/North Star Editions (ISBN: 9781631631689) The Zanna Function follows super smart, fourteen-year-old Zanna Mayfield and her adventures at St. Pommeroy’s School for Gifted Children. Zanna discovers she can manipulate basic scientific functions, like velocity and chemical reactions, but she’ll need more than science to stop a mysterious woman determined to shut her down.

Author: Cindy Baldwin
Publisher: harpercollins Children's Books
ISBN: 0062665863

Logline: When Della's Mama starts showing symptoms of the illness that landed her in the hospital four years ago, all the math problems in the world won't keep Della's own anxiety away—but when her grand plans to permanently heal Mama go awry, Della must learn that love means accepting her Mama just as she is.

AMERICAN PANDA by Gloria Chao, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 9781481499101. 

“An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.”

BRIGHTLY BURNING by Alexa Donne, HMH Teen (ISBN 978-1328948939). A romantic, cinematic, richly-imagined retelling of the classic Jane Eyre set in space, about seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley, a mechanic who takes a governess job on board the private ship, the Rochester and falls in love with the ship's mysterious and troubled captain. For Marissa Meyer and Kiera Cass fans. This novel might be light on STEM, but it’s absolutely worthy of this list, because protagonist is an engineer who wants to be a teacher.

CALCULUS OF CHANGE by Jessie Hilb (Clarion Books, February 2018, ISBN
9781328830258) Aden isn't looking for love in her senior year. She's much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike's and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden's heart is gone in an instant. 

The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom's faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden's brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?

Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory

DARE MIGHTY THINGS by Heather Kaczynski, HarperTeen (ISBN 978-
0062479860). THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Eighteen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she is to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL by Maxine KaplanAbram/Amulet 978-1419728587. Publisher's catalog logline: "After getting caught hooking up with her best friend’s ex on the last day of junior year, Kendall starts senior year friendless and ostracized. She plans to keep her head down until she graduates. But after discovering her online identity has been hacked and she’s being framed for stealing from a dealer, Kendall is drawn into a tenuous partnership with the mastermind of a drug ring lurking in the shadows of her Brooklyn private school. If she wants to repair her tattered reputation and save her neck, she’ll have to decide who she really is—and own it. The longer she plays the role of “bad girl,” the more she becomes her new reputation. Friends and enemies, detectives and drug dealers—no one is who they appear to be. Least of all Kendall.”   STEM connection: 
Kendall, the MC, is a closet science nerd, who in the wake of social disgrace, has plotted her escape by applying for and being accepted into the Young Astronomers Talent Search semester away. The blackmail that forms the impetus of the plot is about her preserving her slot in YATS. And she solves one of the final mysteries, by using her science knowledge

HEART OF THORNS Bree Barton, Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins ISBN-10:
0062447688, ISBN-13: 978-0062447685 
Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood. Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother. But when she is forced into a marriage she desperately doesn't want, Mia discovers she has the very dark magic she has sworn to destroy.

INK, IRON, AND GLASS by Gwendolyn Clare, Imprint, Feb 20 2018, ISBN: 9781250112767 Logline: In steampunk Italy, Elsa crafts entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology.

THE DEEPEST ROOTS, Miranda Asebedo. ISBN: 9780062747099, Published by HarperTeen (September 18, 2018). Brash 17-year-old mechanic Rome and her two best friends set out to uncover the truth about why the girls of their rural Kansas town are all born under a mysterious curse, but one of them goes missing and all secrets must be revealed if they’re to find her. 
NOT EVEN BONES by Rebecca Schaeffer out September 4, 2018 from HMHTeen isbn: 978-1328863546 Logline: Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark debut about a girl who dissects monsters and sells their body parts on the internet. The MC wants to be a biological researcher studying monsters

(cover to come)

NOTHING BUT SKY by Amy Trueblood, Releases March 27, 2018 from FLUX, ISBN: 978-1635830163: Grace Lafferty, an eighteen-year-old wingwalker, thrills crowds with barrel rolls and loop-the-loops in hopes of making enough money to get to the 1922 World Aviation Expo. When one of her maneuvers saves a pilot's life, a film studio offers Grace a chance at a coveted Hollywood contract. But after a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether her life is worth risking for one final trick. "Amy Trueblood takes an overlooked page in history, folds it into an intense drama, and sends it soaring. Post World War I wing walker Grace Lafferty is the kind of spunky, stubborn heroine that will make readers feel like the sky's the limit."  Another book that busts the gender roles. This female MC is a wing walker who spends part of the book as a mechanic taking care of the planes. A 2018 Junior Library Guild selection.

SANCTUARY by Caryn Lix, published by Simon & Schuster Pulse on July 24
2018. ISBN: 9781534405332. The tagline is: Alien meets Alexandra Bracken’s
The Darkest Minds in this thrilling debut novel about prison-guard-in-training,
Kenzie, who is taken hostage by the superpowered criminal teens of the Sanctuary space station—only to have to band together with them when the station is attacked by mysterious creatures. (The main character, Kenzie, uses coding and computer sciences to solve a number of problems).

YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon, published by Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse on January 2, 2018. ISBN: 978-1481497732. A heartbreaking and lyrical debut novel about twins who navigate first love, their Jewish identity, and opposite results from a genetic test that determines their fate--whether they inherited their mother's Huntington's disease. It's dual POV, and one of the MCs wants to be a surgeon

TEN AFTER CLOSING by Jessica Bayliss Sky Pony Press, 2018. ISBN-10: 1510732071. ISBN-13: 978-1510732070: This female protagonist has been doing paramedic training which comes in quite handy in this thriller. Logline: "10PM: Closing time at Café Flores. The door should be locked, but it isn’t. TEN MINUTES AFTER CLOSING: The first gunshot is fired. Someone’s dead. And if Winny & Scott don’t come up with a plan, they may not live to see morning."

Author: Ingrid Palmer
Publisher: Creston Books

ISBN: 978-1-939547-48-4
Logline: Sixteen-year-old Andrea's life is split between acing honors classes and moonlighting for her mother's controlling drug-dealer boyfriend. When her worlds threaten to collide, Andrea must escape one dangerous life and salvage what’s left of the other. 

Picture Books:
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines
As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science
Jeannine Atkins
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists.

Mimi's Village and How Basic Health Care Transformed It
Katie Smith Milway
Kids Can Press
In this addition to the CitizenKid series, Mimi Mahalo and her family help bring
basic health care to their small Kenyan community.          

A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist
Cynthia Moss by Toni Buzzeo Dial Books ISBN 9780399187254
Readers are introduced to Cynthia Moss, who devoted her adult life to studying African elephants, the largest land animals on the planet.

To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space
Carmella Van Vleet & Dr. Kathy Sullivan
Charlesbridge Publishing ISBN 9781580896443
Kathy liked fishing and swimming; flying planes and studying science. That's what she liked and that's what she decided to do with her life. She followed her heart and eventually became a NASA astronaut and the first woman to walk in space.

The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 9780544636224
When scientist-in-the-making Madeline Little starts sixth grade, she soon learns that middle school is nothing like a perfect lab experiment--and that she now has to find the cure for her newly messed-up life.

Lucy's Lab #1: Nuts About Science by Michelle Houts, Sky Pony Press, ISBN 9781510710641
On Lucy's first day of second grade, she's excited to meet her new teacher, Miss Flippo, and find out everything's she's going to learn about this year in school. And when Miss Flippo tells the class that they're going to have their very own science lab, complete with lab coats and goggles, Lucy can't wait to start exploring.

Click'd by Tamara Ireland Stone, Disney-Hyperion, ISBN 9781484784976

Allie Navarro can't wait to show her best friends the app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. Click'd pairs users based on common interests and sends them on a fun (and occasionally rule-breaking) scavenger hunt to find each other. And it's a hit. By the second day of school, everyone is talking about Click'd.

Ada Lace, on the Case by Emily Calandrelli with Tamson Weston, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN 9781481485999

In this first novel in a brand-new chapter book series, eight-year-old Ada Lace-who has a knack for science, math, and solving mysteries--teams up with her best friend, Nina, to find a missing dog.

The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague - coming
Sept 2018 by Julia Finley Mosca, Innovation Press, 9781943147427

After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. 

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles - coming March 2018, by Patricia Valdez, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young

While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere--she even brought a crocodile to school! 

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed
Science - coming Feb 2018 by Joyce Sidman, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN

Newbery Honoree Sidman explores the extraordinary life and scientific discoveries of Merian, who discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented the science behind the mystery in this visual biography that features many original paintings by Merian herself.  

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