Breaking Through the Clouds by Sandra Nickel

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Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson by Sandra Nickel, illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022) teaches readers about an unknown young woman who went into a unique STEM field in the mid-1900s, this time the study of meteorology. Her interest in clouds began even as a young child while she explored the lake near her home in Cape Cod, Massachusets, during her lonely childhood.

Despite gender norms and the punishing environment in the 190s, Joanne persevered in her studies and became the first woman to earn a doctorate in meteorology. Her work led her to study the formation and impact of wind patterns and clouds on helping to determine and understand predictions in weather patterns. She created mathematical models of how clouds form. Did you even know that cloud formation is actually mathematical? I certainly did not.

Joanne Simpson created a satellite system for tracking weather patterns and storms in the tropics around the world. She won high honors throughout her life, eventually becoming the head of the American Meteorological Society.

Despite all of her amazing work, her name is unfamiliar to most of the world. Joanne Simpson was a woman in an era in which most colleagues wished to keep her on the ground. It seems she could only go to college, pursue her dreams, and remain unmarried because her family was wealthy enough to support her. How many other unknown women have contributed greatly to STEM that we never heard of? How many would have done so if they hadn’t been held down because of their gender? As with so many other scientists, Joanne Simson’s story inspires readers to learn

Breaking Through the Clouds has illustrations of various types of clouds on the endpapers, and her inspiration in studying clouds teaches readers that there is a lot more to cloud formation than simply water droplets condensing in cool air! It is a great book for upper elementary and middle school readers to learn about the science of clouds.

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Reviewed on October 26, 2022

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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