At last, Ada Byron Lovelace is getting some recognition. Last year, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine came out to critical acclaim. This year Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer was published by Abrams.
Both books cover some of the same basic facts about Lovelace: her parents were a poet and a mathematician; she had a lonely childhood but loved to experiment; her life was changed when she met Charles Babbage, who invented the first computer, and she wrote the first computer program for his unfinished invention.
Yet for all their similarities, the two books have a very different feel. Last year’s book focuses more on specific childhood events. Its art (pencil drawings) is dense and detailed, composed like paintings you might see on the walls of museums.
Ada’s Ideas focuses less on Lovelace’s childhood. In it, we get a broader view of her life–for example, we learn that she married and had children. Most significantly, it examines the social and historical context of her life. We learn that she lived during the time of the blossoming of the Industrial Revolution and we see how her nascent computer program was inspired and informed by new weaving technology.
The art in Ada’s Ideas feels airy, whimsical, and playful. It’s made of watercolor pictures that have been cut out, layered, and then photographed.
Both books are interesting, but even more interesting is to put the two of them side by side. I think Ada Byron Lovelace would have fully approved.
Here’s a book trailer for Ada’s Ideas.
Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson. Abrams: 2016
Every week I participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.