non-fiction

Mini-review: Ada Lovelace, Lucy Lethbridge

Title: Who Was… Ada Lovelace, Computer Wizard of Victorian England (Goodreads)

Author: Lucy Lethbridge

Rating: ★★★★☆

Daughter of the famous romantic poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was a child prodigy. Brilliant at maths, she read numbers like most people read words.

In 1843 Ada came to the attention of Charles Babbage, a scientist and techno-whizz who had just built an amazing new “Thinking Machine”. She and Mr Babbage started working together – a perfect partnership which led to the most important invention of the modern world: THE COMPUTER!

Details

Series: Stand alone but part of the Who Was… collection.
Genre: Children’s non-fiction
Published: Short Books, 2004
Pages: 81

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
No e-book copies available.

Review

Ada Lovelace is widely acclaimed in modern popular culture as being one of the first computer programmers because of her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1943. Her modern-day following love her – not only was she a brilliant mathematician and rather nerdy (by today’s terminology), but also, a girl. Ada Lovelace day is held each year to “raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths”.

Ada Lovelace: Computer Wizard of Victorian England tells the story of her life in a very interesting and easily understandable way, aimed at primary-aged children. Ada herself was rather ill for much of her life and probably suffered even more from the medical treatments of the day (electro-shock therapy, anyone?). She didn’t sound like a very easy person to work with, except when she was obsessed with a mathematical problem. All this comes across quite strongly in this book.

I think the most important messages that Ada Lovelace’s story can teach us these days is that not only is it important for the contributions of women to be recognised in the sciences, but also that anyone, man or woman, if they’re passionate about something and society looks down upon them for that, they should go ahead and keep trying (as long as no-one is hurt in the process, of course!). Ada didn’t care what the nobility thought of her eccentric ways, she just kept doing what she loved.

No warnings, this is squeaky clean.

Review: The Wand in the Word, Leonard S Marcus

Title: The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy (Goodreads)

Author:  compiled and edited by Leonard S Marcus

Rating: ★★★★☆

In a series of incisive interviews, Leonard S. Marcus engages thirteen master storytellers in spirited conversation about their life and work, providing inspiring reading for fantasy fans and future writers alike.

Finely nuanced and continually revealing, Leonard S. Marcus’s interviews range widely over questions of literary craft and moral vision, as he asks thirteen noted fantasy authors about their pivotal life experiences, their literary influences and work routines, and their core beliefs about the place of fantasy in literature and in our lives.

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: Non-fiction, interviews with Fantasy authors
Published: Candlewick Press, 2006
Pages (Hardcover): 202

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
Not available as an e-book.

Review

The Wand in the Word consists of thirteen interviews with writers of Fantasy, including Lloyd Alexander, Franny Billingsley, Susan Cooper, Nancy Farmer, Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman and Jane Yolen.

The questions asked during each interview vary, but range from descriptions of childhood to what their typical writing schedule is like, and revealing questions about characters from each writer’s works.

I picked this book up at the library purely by chance as I was passing the non-fiction shelves and I’m so glad I did! Not only does it include some of my favourite authors, it has given me a few more books to add to my reading list.

The interview answers are a lot more candid than the usual dry author bio descriptions and we’re given fascinating insights into the lives of these people. For example, Lloyd Alexander tells of serving during World War II, while several of the other authors were children during this time. Quite of few of them speak of their influence from JRR Tolkien, and one or two of them even studied under him at Oxford University, but then almost all of them go on to say that they have written stories very different to Tolkien’s.

Each author offers their advice on writing and how the people in their lives encouraged them to persevere. Did you know that L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was turned down by publishers twenty-six times?!

The style differs from interview to interview, which gave me the feeling that the interviews were written rather than conducted face-to-face. They read easily and are engaging and I do recommend reading all the way through to Jane Yolen’s – it’s really quite funny!

The Wand in the Word is a very enjoyable read for fans of the Fantasy genre and contains valuable advice for those who wish to write Fantasy stories.

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