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Kid Scientists

Kid Scientists: True Tales of Childhood from Science Superstars

David Stabler, Illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Quirk Books
2018
207 pp.
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Kid Scientists by David Stabler is a biography about the childhoods of famous scientists. The featured scientists—including Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking—are presented at around the same age as the target audience, making it easier for readers to identify with them. The book’s main goal, which is admirably achieved, appears to be supporting young people’s interest in science.

Each story starts with that particular scientist’s early inspiration and is accompanied by simple activities that any child can do, such as stargazing. An essay on Katherine Johnson, for example, describes her predilection for counting household items, such as dishes, long before she became a professional mathematician.

Stabler carefully avoids favoring any one group of people, achieving an even balance between scientists of different races and genders, which makes it easier for children of various backgrounds to find role models who look like them. Although the author’s efforts to emphasize the stories of women and people of color appear obvious to an adult reader, children are unlikely to notice this as a deliberate choice on the author’s part. (Children may likewise fail to notice when the book glosses over important details, such as the influence of the World Wars on the scientific enterprise.) Occasionally, the book’s attempts to communicate the barriers faced by women and minorities in science lack subtlety and can come across as heavy-handed (e.g., “because of her gender, [Rosalind Franklin] was never given proper credit for her discoveries”), but, overall, the stories read well.

In the end, Kid Scientists is an interesting collection of anecdotes, with stories about Benjamin Franklin’s swimming fins, Ada Lovelace’s obsession with flying horses, and other fun facts that most readers are unlikely to have encountered before. As such, most children should enjoy reading it, without noticing how much they are learning, as they internalize the idea that they, too, can grow up to be scientists.

About the author

Ucko is an 8th-grade student at Takoma Park Middle School, Silver Spring, MD 20912, USA. Nusinovich is a senior editor at Science Translational Medicine.