Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future
by Tami Lewis Brwon & Debbie Loren Dunn,
illustrated by Chelsea Beck
Disney-Hyperion, 2019, 64 pages
Now, in Instructions Not Included, meet three of the real women behind the computers that are so much a part of our daily lives. They are Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty - three very different women from very different backgrounds with one thing in common - they loved math.
Their job now was to create a code that could be understood by ENIAC using mathematics so it could do the calculations that the women downstairs were working on but more quickly and correctly. Did they succeed? Yes, they did and in fact, if you read the Author's Note in the back matter, you will discover all the innovations that they went on to make in the burgeoning world of computers.
Instructions Not Included is the kind of picture book I wish I had had when I was teaching IT to young kids. What a difference it might have made in my classroom. I know it is a simplistic look at the contributions of the women who worked on ENIAC and paved the way for today's computers, but it is also a book that could be used to inspire young kids, especially girls, to think about mathematics in a different way. What counts is that all the important points about the work of Betty, Jean, Kay, and all the women who worked on this secret project are covered. And they are shown as having more interests than math - Betty played the double bass, Jean loved baseball and Kay just was good at everything she did.
The colorful, stylized illustrations have a very 1940s feel to them, and each of the women is seen dressed in the same color in each illustration, and where they are seen working on ENIAC - Betty is red, Kay is green, Jean is yellow. This not only individualizes the women, but it also helps the reader tell they apart, and, interestingly, works to show each women's movements, giving the illustrations a sense of motion.
As a picture book for older readers, Instructions Not Included is an important addition to the ever growing STEM/STEAM body of literature and is an inspiring book that should be used liberally by parents, teachers, and librarians.
You can find a very useful Educator Guide courtesy of the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, HERE
This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL