Published on: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Visiting authors

We’ve got two interesting author programs in March, so mark your calendars!

First, on March 7 at 7:30 p.m., award-winning author Winifred Conkling will help us kick off Women’s History Month as she discusses her new book Radioactive!: How Irene Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World. Aimed at readers in middle school and high school, Radioactive! tells of how two overlooked women scientists made major contributions in the field of nuclear science; Curie won the 1935 Nobel Prize in chemistry, along with her husband, Frederick Joliot, while Meitner had a periodic table number – 109, Meitnerium – named after her.

In a starred review, Booklist called the book “a thorough and engaging study of two female scientists worth their weight in radium.” School Library Journal noted, “Luminous and fascinating, it recounts the lives and amazing findings of chemist (and daughter of Curie) Irène Joliot-Curie, co-discoverer of artificial radiation, and physicist Lise Meitner, co-discoverer of nuclear fission.”

Conkling is the author of two other books for young readers. In her novel Sylvia & Aki, she tells the well-researched, but fictionalized, story of how institutionalized racism connected two real girls, Aki Munemitsus and Sylvia Mendez during World War II. When Aki’s family was forced to move to a Japanese internment camp, Sylvia’s family moved into their house, and Sylvia’s father became the plaintiff in a landmark case when he challenged California’s segregated schools law.

In Passenger on the Pearl, Conkling tells the story of Emily Edmonson, who at the age of 13 was part of the largest slave escape in U.S. history. The slaves were eventually captured, but Emily was ransomed by her parents and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe. After graduating from Oberlin College, Emily became a teacher in the first school in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the education of AfricanAmerican girls.

Our second author event is something totally different, but also a way of celebrating strong females during Women’s History Month. On Monday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m., author/illustrator Ursula Vernon will present the second book in her Hamster Princess series, Of Mice and Magic. The series is focused on a hamster named Harriet Hamsterbone, a “warrior princess” who “prefers swordfighting and fractions to sighing and fainting.”

In the first book in the series, Harriet learns that like Sleeping Beauty, she was cursed at birth to fall into a deep sleep at the age of 12. Undaunted, Harriet realizes that until then, she’s invincible, and she plans to make the most of it. Kirkus praised the book, calling it “creatively fresh and feminist” while Booklist noted in a starred review: “The spunky, slightly bonkers Harriet is a delightful heroine who turns this fairy tale on its head, and the book is peppered with clever two-color cartoon illustrations that will attract even the more reluctant readers.”

Harriet’s adventures continue in the new book, which offers a twist of the tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. In a starred review, School Library Journal concluded, “A quick and satisfying read that is as hilarious as it is fun.”

Vernon first found popularity among young readers with her Dragonbreath series. Like the books in that series, the Hamster Princess books are “hybrid” books with numerous illustrations interspersed with the text. The books are aimed at readers ages 7-10.

Politics & Prose bookstore will be selling copies of the authors’ books at both of these events. But the programs are free, and no purchase is required to attend. Please join us for one or both of these great events.

This article appeared in the March 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.