Instructions Not Included – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

For Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate these women and how they “Coded the Future!”

I love how children’s authors are unearthing and writing about the untold stories of women’s  contributions to our world. INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED exposes kids to three more women who were fabulous mathematicians, the forerunners of today’s computer coders.

These three women were part of the team that turned a pile of wires and tubes into the computer ENIAC (see publisher’s description below). Its first test problem? Calculating an artillery launch for the war effort.

Text ⓒTami Lewis Brown & Debbie Loren Dunn Illustration ⓒChelsea Beck

The machine weighed 30 tons and was a third the length of a football field. And rumors circulated that the lights of Philly dimmed when they turned it on.

The authors build tension by showing how these women’s careers were on the line. If the test wasn’t successful, they worried they’d be sent packing. Not to mention it would be a failure for the Allies. I was biting my fingernails in suspense.

It’s instructive to see how the authors painted the three women’s distinct personalities in a single page, each: one is stubborn, one aims to win, and the third is a perfectionist. All three qualities served them well for the daunting task at hand.

It’s also interesting to see how the men in charge congratulated each other on their success, when it was the women who made it all work. Surprising? If you’re a woman in STEM, you shake your head and keep on keeping on.

Three pages of back matter go into more detail about the these women’s lives and the entire ENIAC project. A fabulous selection from Women’s History Month!

Text ⓒTami Lewis Brown & Debbie Loren Dunn

Publisher’s flap teaser:

Click. Whir. Buzz.
Not so long ago, math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by postman, and files were stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. But three women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty knew there could be a better way. During World War II, people hoped ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), one of the earliest computers, could help with the war effort. With little guidance, no instructions, and barely any access to the machine itself, Betty, Jean, and Kay used mathematics, electrical engineering, logic, and common sense to command a computer as large as a room and create the modern world. The machine was like Betty, requiring outside-the-box thinking, like Jean, persistent and consistent, and like Kay, no mistakes, every answer perfect. Today computers are all around us, performing every conceivable task, thanks, in large part, to Betty, Jean, and Kay’s pioneering work. Instructions Not Included is their story.
This fascinating chapter in history is brought to life with vivid prose by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn and with striking illustrations by Chelsea Beck. Detailed back matter including historical photos provides a closer look.


Check out coding resources at the Girls Who Code website

Have fun with Cool Math Games

Even kindergarteners can enjoy Vi Hart’s Möbius strip story about Wind and Mr. Ug (Vi Hart is a fabulous mathematician/artist as well.)

Title: Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future

Authors: Tami Lewis Brown & Debbie Loren Dunn

Illustrator: Chelsea Beck

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, 2019

Grades: 1-5

Themes: Computer history, STEM, girl power

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.

9 thoughts on “Instructions Not Included – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. FictionFan says:

    It’s great to see some of these forgotten women scientists and mathematicians get a bit of recognition at last. But I do hope they managed to get home in time to make their husbands’ dinners… 😉

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Hahahhahhaaaaaa. I’m hoping that, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, their husbands were more inclined to do the cooking. But then again, maybe they were footloose and fancy free or were those superhuman types who managed to do everything.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    I love seeing how authors are searching for these ordinary women who made extraordinary contributions to win the war and better mankind.

    I keep thinking about the stories that authors will be looking for about ordinary heroes doing extraordinary things during the virius outbreak. There will be so many angles of this story to tell that will include breakthroughs, leading women scientists, acts of heroism, kindness and so on.

  3. Ste J says:

    It’s always wonderful to learn about people behind the scenes who have influenced our lives without us knowing it. This is a wonderful tribute and I’m happy to be redirecting my thinking and thanks.

  4. glensketch says:

    Has anyone done a STEM book on Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage? The first programmer and the first computer designer respectivly. A monumental collaboration early in the history of computer science.

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