Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

by Laurie Wallmark
Illustrated by Katy Wu
Sterling Children's Books
ages 4 and up
48 pages

Movie star by day, ace inventor at night: learn about the hidden life of actress Hedy Lamarr!
To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. Now Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu, who collaborated on Sterling’s critically acclaimed picture-book biography Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, tell the inspiring story of how, during World War Two, Lamarr developed a groundbreaking communications system that still remains essential to the security of today’s technology.

“Revelatory to young audiences in more ways than one.” —Kirkus

“Many STEM-for-girls biographies fan excitement over women’s achievements, but this title actually brings the central scientific concept within middle-grade reach.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


Hollywood glamour meets scientific brains in a way to inspire kids that even more interesting dreams can come true.

Hedy Lamarr was a famous actress, known for her films with the biggest stars, but she had a lesser known side to her life too. Hedy was a curious person with an inventive touch. Noticing things which could be improved around her, she created various inventions in her free time. Most were never patented. But one invention of hers was quite ingenious and is now used in daily life today.

While many young readers might not know who Hedy Lamarr is, this read still is an inspiring read which is sure to grab their interest. It begins with the Hedy Lamarr as a star in Hollywood, allowing young readers to see how successful and glamorous she was. Even if the actors and actresses don't ring a bell with every young reader, the message comes across loud and clear. After this, the book turns to Hedy's past and childhood in Austria. It shows her as a young girl doing average things, but with the twist of the interests she held. Young listeners can easily identify with her and see that she might not be so different than them. Then, the book turns to Hedy the inventor and explains how she came up with an invention which is still used today.

All of this is told in a interesting way and never runs into the danger of growing boring. When the second half of the book dives into her 'important' invention, time and care are taken to make sure the reader understands the theory behind her discovery. It covers frequencies, a concept which might seem high for young listeners, but the author does an amazing job at bringing the concept across in an easy and understandable way.

The illustrations have a nice flair, fitting to Hedy's time period but still holding enough similarity to modern illustrations to keep readers' interest. The illustrations also hold extra information next to the text, making the two work hand in hand as Hedy's life is explained. Hedy's own sayings from during her life are also mixed in with a more colorful text form, adding more of her personality. 

At the end of the book, there is a timeline which outlines the more important moments of Hedy's life; a couple of pages summarizes the Secrets of the Secret Communications System; a Bibliography; additional sources to learn about other woman who centered toward STEM; and a list and timeline of the films Hedy was in. 

And they are...

The Author...
Laurie Wallmark has degrees in Biochemistry from Princeton University, Information Systems from Goddard College, and Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She's the author of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books) and Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children's Books). Laurie lives in New Jersey and is available for interview. For more information, follow her on Twitter @lauriewallmark.

The Illustrator...
Katy Wu has a BFA in Illustration and Entertainment Arts from Pasadena Art Center College of Design and has worked for Google, Laika, Pixar, CinderBiter, and Simon & Schuster. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code was her first picture book. Katy lives in New York City and is available for interview. Follow her online at

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