Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

How We Are Smart

How We Are Smart

W. Nikola-Lisa
Illustrator:  Sean Qualls 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 11
Lee & Low Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-1600604447

People can be “smart” in a variety of ways. Some of us are superb writers, poets, artists or musicians. Others can manipulate numbers with ease and compute all kinds of complex equations. Then there are those who are skilled in the field of athletics and dance. Though the skills required to do these things are different, they do have one thing in common. To do them well a person has to be smart. In this book you will meet people who have gifted the world with their music, art, dance, science, writing, their understanding of the law, and their courage to explore the unknown.

   On every spread readers will meet a smart person who used his or her skills, combined with hard work, to do something meaningful with their lives. Some of the people will be familiar, while others will be new to readers. We begin with Luis Alvarez, a physicist who was always “fascinated by how things worked.” He studied experimental physics when he was in college, and then went on to work on radar landing systems, the atomic bomb, and the detection of subatomic particles. Working together, Luis and his geologist son suggested that the dinosaurs died out because the impact of a large meteor hitting Earth changed the planet’s climate. Today many scientists believe that this is indeed what happened all those millions of years ago.

   The next person me meet took a very different path in her life. Maria Tallchief was a gifted musician and she could have been “a clear-throated soprano” or a “professional musician / playing concert piano,” but “dance was what she lived for,” and she became America’s first prima ballerina. Maria studied with famous teachers and then became the principal dancer for the New York City Ballet.

   Thurgood Marshall used his smarts to become a lawyer, civil rights activist and judge. The great-grandson of a slave, Thurgood became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and was able, serving in that capacity, to provide “justice for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color.”

   For each profile in this book readers are given a quote, a poem, an illustration and a biography. Together they give readers a compelling picture of each person, helping us to see how all these amazing people found their place in the world, and how they use their intelligence and determination to reach their goals.