Another way to count the books

I asked a sociologist why there are more kids books about Curie than Einstein. He looked puzzled for a moment and then responded, “Of course! If your going to write a book about a scientist for girls you don’t have that many options, but if you are writing a book for boys there are so many options.” This would quite naturally inflate the number of books about the individual female scientists. In this scenario it is crucial to consider how many of the total quantity of books about each scientist are written about men and how many are written about women.

The initial data would seem to support this. While the woman and the black man are each respectively the most written about scientist and inventor, women and blacks are still dramatically underrepresented in the total quantity of books.

Children's Books in english by Gender

Children's Books in english by Race

Still, they are represented much more equitably in children’s literature than in books for a adult audience. See the charts below.

Books for adult audience sorted by the gender of their subject

Books about black scientists compared to white scientists

Final thoughts: I find it fascinating that the percentages for gender and race mirror each other so perfectly. In some sense it makes the comparison all the more powerful. While gender and race are radically different it is interesting to see that they have such a closely mirrored place in children’s books about scientists and inventors.

I think there is something to this sociologists idea but I am not sure it quite satisfies me. It is still nonetheless interesting. The next project is to historicize the information. The next way I want to play with the numbers is to see when Curie and Edison became the most written about scientist and inventor.

Bleh- meat pies

Anyone who has known me for about 24 hours knows that Tim Burton is my favorite Director. His new movie looks amazing, but Trevor has a policy against movies involving, well, cannibalism. Anywho- I did get to cut my own trailer for the movie, and I must say, allowing me to do so absolutely whet my appetite enough to try and get Trevor to change his mind. Enjoy my foray into trailer-making 😉

Why Historians Need to Be More Interested With Children's Literature

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong. This picture from the 1976 children’s book The Value of Learning: The Story of Marie Curie depicts the resolute young Curie standing her ground against a visiting Russian school inspector. (I have posted about this confrontation before) It is a ‘Value Tale‘ publication. If you aren’t particularly familiar with Curie’s life take into consideration the following. Curie, born in 1867 would have fifty by the October revolution of 1917, needless to say the Soviet Uniform worn by her harsh Russian instructor is a bit out of place. This could point to a interesting argument for why there are so many Curie children’s books, stories about harsh Russians past and present make for good stories during the Cold War.

But back to the title of the post. While The Value of Learning does not come highly recommended it is still one of the most avaliable to children around the world. I have to believe that if historians were involved in the review process for these books these kinds of kinks could be better ironed out.

Ann Donegan Johnson, The Value of Learning: The Story of Marie Curie (La Jolla, Calif: Value Communications, 1978).