Friday 4 November 2016

ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 4th November 2016 - "Ada's Ideas" by Fiona Robinson (Abrams and Chronicle)

Oh dear, once again it was just TOO TOUGH to pare down our Book of the Week winners to just two....
Hah and I remember the ways when we used to have only one, but nowadays we're really struggling to keep up with the sheer quality of children's books and the dazzling array of titles to choose from.

But this one, well this one hit us right in our most book-sensitive spots. Both Charlotte and I love Ada Lovelace for obvious reasons. The daughter of Lord Byron and Anna Isabella Millbanke, Ada really was destined to grow up completely unlike any other girls of the era. Ada wasn't interested in pretty dresses or marrying some rich fop, Ada loved numbers, she loved machines and most importantly she wanted to push her ideas beyond existing concepts.

Ada's childhood dream was actually to build a steam-powered flying horse (how cool is that!) but while Mum and Dad (despite their rather radical approaches in other areas) had other ideas. While Dad was a dreamy poet, Mum was a cooly logical lady and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics. Still with a sympathetic ear for her father's imaginative and poetical ideas, Ada early on began to see mathematics and numbers as poetic and artistic in their own right.

From an early age, Ada was obsessed with machines and steam power. Definitely our kind of girl!

Through a family friendship with Charles Babbage, Ada became interested in mathematical "engines", spurred on by her love of factories and machinery. As Babbage developed the world's first mechanical calculators and computers, Ada was the driving force behind providing those machines with the most important part of any computer - the programs themselves.

Coming up with a radical system of adopting punched paper to feed into Babbage's machines, Ada effectively became the world's first computer programmer and the first proponent of turning calculations into an art form in their own right.

In a ridiculous era when young girls were expected to devote their entire lives to becoming wives and mothers, Ada saw a very different future for herself. Good on her!

It seems ironic that Ada's achievements went unrecognised for a number of years, but now Ada is equally as famous as Babbage himself and it's fantastic to once again see a children's picture book celebrating Ada Lovelace and her amazing achievements. Brilliantly inspirational stuff for girls like Charlotte who also love all things technological and computery.

Fiona Robinson's brilliantly entertaining retelling of Ada's life story, fused with the most gorgeous papercut-style artwork, really brings Ada to life. An utterly fantastic book, don't just stand there gaping at its beauty, go and buy it! It's the only logical thing to do!

Charlotte's favourite bit: Ada's brilliant (but sadly never realised) dream of making a steam powered Pegasus. Oh how I wish she'd done that as well, it would've been the icing on the cake of a truly fascinating life!

Daddy's favourite bit: Ada is the sort of historical figure I never tire of discussing with Charlotte. She was a mighty mathematician with a fabulous artistic imagination, seeing beyond the boundaries of science and technology of the time and coming up with ingenious ways to build on Charles Babbage's work - and actually make it work!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Abrams and Chronicle)

"Ada's Ideas"

Written and Illustrated by Fiona Robinson

Published by Abrams and Chronicle

Publication Date: August 2016