Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls

The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls

Catherine Thimmesh
Illustrator:   Melissa Sweet 
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2002   ISBN: 978-0618076987

In a world which is still very much dominated by men, the achievements of women are often ignored or forgotten. History books all too often forget to mention the women who made extraordinary discoveries, created inventions, and broke records. In this book readers will meet just a few women who made some extraordinary discoveries in the fields of biology, astronomy, history, zoology, paleontology, and more.

Many of us know Beatrix Potter as the creator of wonderful little picture books for children. But there was another side to Beatrix; she was also a knowledgeable and ever curious naturalist who eagerly studied the natural world around her. She studied fungi with great diligence and discovered that lichens are not in fact an alga but a symbiotic amalgam of alga and fungi. Beatrix's discovery was ignored for many years, and abandoning her scientific studies she turned to creating children's books instead.

Jane Goodall, a hardworking and dedicated zoologist saw something remarkable as she was studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. Not only did her subjects communicate and have a complex social structure, but they also used tools, something which scientists and archeologists were sure, until that point in time, was the sole prevue of humans. Suddenly the world saw chimpanzees in a new light. These remarkable creatures used sticks to fish for termites, sticks which they carefully trimmed just for that purpose. They valued their fishing sticks, carrying them around from one termite mound to the next. They used leaves to clean themselves and to scoop up water. Jane Goodall's discovery made the connection between humans and apes look a lot less distant.

In all the author of this book looks at the lives of more than fifteen women and girls, people whose discoveries have had a lasting effect on the world as a whole. The articles are engaging, interesting, and wonderfully illustrated with Melissa Sweet's unique multimedia artwork. This book should be required reading in schools all over the world.