Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson

Fiona Robinson brings her talents as a picture book author and illustrator (see below for reviews of two of her books that are favorites of mine) to a picture book biography with Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programer. Last year was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron. Her mother, Anne Isabella Byron, herself a gifted mathematician who was tutored at home, receiving an education equal to that of a man at Cambridge, ended her marriage after two years and kept Ada from her father, raising and educating her alone. 

Robinson details Ada's childhood, working in the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. It seems that touring factories where the machines that were "thrilling modern wonders," became a popular pastime for the wealthy. Ada's mother took her on these tours where her "imagination whirred along with the powerful engines! And her mind, so well trained by her many lessons, began to invent!" Ada called one of her ideas for a flying mechanical horse "flyology." Ada even signed off a letter to her mother, "Your Affectionate Carrier Pigeon," causing her mother to fear that some of her father's madness evident in his daughter. But, as Robinson writes, Ada's "imagination could not be confined by math, because Ada was starting to find her own sort of poetical expression . . . through math!"

Robinson shares the same details that Laurie Wallmark, herself a teacher of computer science, does in her book Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, while bringing a more poetic tone to her writing as well as a more imaginatively creative style to her illustrations. In fact, click over and read - or even just look at the pictures of Robinson's artistic process - in her interview at Design of the Picture Book.

Robinson takes Ada through her adolescence, her meeting with Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine and into her young adulthood and marriage. Robinson spends several pages writing about the Analytical Engine, making links to the Jacquard Loom when describing the the hole-punched cards (that also make up the fantastic endpapers and case of this book, as seen above) that Babbage fed into the machine to calculate sums. I was Ada who figured out the algorithm that would be punched into the cards, which Robinson illustrates with a very clever page of maze-like swirls and a list of instructions on how readers should navigate the swirls to find the treasures in the maze, which is VERY cool and an analogy that I could grasp.

I can't wait to share this book, and Wallmark's, with my second graders who do reports on people and animals who are heroes every year! Robinson's illustrations and text are engaging and even better, comprehensive.

My favorite picture books by Fiona Robinson:

More about Ada Lovelace:

Source: Review Copy

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