The Brilliant Calculator By Jan Lower; Illustrated by Susan Reagan

The Brilliant Calculator

How Mathematician Edith Clarke Helped Electrify America


Published by (2023-03-14)

A Mathical Honor Book

Hidden Figures
meets Rosie Revere, Engineer in this STEM/STEAM picture book about Edith Clarke, the innovator who solved an electrical mystery and built the first graphing calculator—from paper!

Long before calculators were invented, little Edith Clarke devoured numbers, conquered calculations, cracked puzzles, and breezed through brainteasers. Edith wanted to be an engineer—to use the numbers she saw all around her to help build America.

When she grew up, no one would hire a woman engineer. But that didn’t stop Edith from following her passion and putting her lightning-quick mind to the problem of electricity. But the calculations took so long! Always curious, Edith couldn’t help thinking of better ways to do things. She constructed a “calculator” from paper that was ten times faster than doing all that math by hand! Her invention won her a job, making her the first woman electrical engineer in America. And because Edith shared her knowledge with others, her calculator helped electrify America, bringing telephones and light across the nation.

Book Details

Format: Hardcover
Price: 18.99 USD / 24.99 CAD
Published: 2023-03-14
ISBN: 9781662680069
Page Count: 40
Trim Size: 8-1/2 x 11

A Mathical Honor Book
A Rise Feminist Book Project Recommended Title
A Bank Street Best Children's Book

"The full-color images catch the eye and playfully include mathematical puzzles. Edith’s quotes are interspersed throughout, highlighting her love of math and her determination to succeed in a traditionally male field. This one will inspire and validate any readers who love mathematics and calculations, especially anyone who has felt marginalized within STEM fields...Rousing encouragement for readers—especially math-minded ones—to follow their dreams." —Kirkus Reviews

"(T)he text tells Clarke’s story in terms that are accessible to children and offers more information in the extensive back matter. The attractive illustrations, drawn digitally and brightened with watercolors, do a particularly good job of portraying Clarke as she gradually grows from childhood to maturity. An intriguing introduction to a trailblazing woman in the field of electrical engineering."—Booklist

“Oh, me oh my, I DO so love a good picture book biography when it has something to do with math. And as I mentioned before, over the last 10 or so odd years there’s been a notable uptick in the marketplace. I wonder, though, if you were to look at which publishers create such books, would the same names come up time and again? For example, the Calkins Creek imprint appears to be better suited to publishing a book of this sort. Why do I say such things? Because when I read a book like The Brilliant Calculator about Edith Clarke I notice several smart choices throughout. Fake dialogue? Not present. Is the story itself more fun than the backmatter? You betcha. Plus this is a smart duo of author and artist to pair together. Lower’s A Song for the Cosmos: Blind Willie Johnson and Voyager’s Golden Record was an accurate but dreamy take on its subject matter, while Reagan’s work on Revolutionary Prudence Wright elevated a book that might not have gotten attention otherwise. Here they have to prove their mettle in one specific way: Are they afraid of numbers? I’m not kidding about this. Many is the mathematician bio that eschews almost any mention of actual math (check out the bulk of books on Katherine Johnson if you don’t believe me). Ms. Reagan does include math in the details of the art, though the equations reminded me of the year I served on the Mathical Prize committee and the mathematicians there started trying to solve the math in the art that they found in such borders. But with her accurate rendition of the Clarke Calculator patent, I am certain everything checks out. Great writing, an interesting person to learn about, and some truly awesome art. A winner!” —Betsy Bird, A Fuse8 Production blog (School Library Journal)