Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, March 8, 2019

Silver Screen Glamour And An Award-Winning Innovation

There are those who embrace the occupation or calling for which they are best known every single day.  There are others who do what they love outside of the public eye.  Many pursue daily work in order to afford to follow their true passion.  The secret is to not give up your dream.  You are destined to make a difference.

Today is International Women's Day 2019.  The theme this year is #BalanceforBetter.  It's time for a more gender-balanced world with, for one, notice given to the achievements of women.  Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor (Sterling Children's Books, February 5, 2019) written by Laurie Wallmark with illustrations by Katy Wu celebrates the life of an exceptional woman.

Hedy Lamarr led a double life.  The public knew here as a glamorous movie star, famous throughout the world.  But in private Hedy was a brilliant inventor, a fact known only to her closest friends.

Do you know Hedy Lamarr is responsible for inventing a form of technology which keeps electronic devices, like phones and computers, less susceptible to hacking?  Most people familiar with this woman know she became a big hit on the silver screen with the release of Algiers in 1938.  Most people familiar with this woman do not know she took the parlor in her home, repurposing its use.  In this space she designed a workshop for an inventor.

Growing up in Vienna, Austria Hedy often conversed with her father about their shared interests in science.  Hedy wanted to know why things worked as they did.  Fascination with motion pictures and performing became a huge interest.  She wanted to be in movies.  Every opportunity, no matter how small, was taken by Hedy to perfect her acting skills.

Before she knew it, a Hollywood producer recognized her talent when she was performing in a play.  She was twenty-five when she starred in Algiers opposite Charles Boyer.  She shared the screen with other greats like

Angela Lansbury, Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland, and Clark Gable.

Movies were important to a public caught in the terror of World War II.

During this time period, at a social outing, Hedy met George Antheil.  He, like Hedy, was a man of dual talents.  During a conversation, they discussed problems with guidance systems, torpedoes and ships.  A game with piano playing between the duo lead to a major new ingenious design.  Their creative minds and talents through months of work lead to the receipt of a United States patent.  Hopeful this would assist the Navy, the duo was not expecting its reception.  Time and circumstances were against them until forty years later.  More than ten years after this, fifty plus years after the patent, the world saluted their efforts.

What readers will appreciate about the writing of Laurie Wallmark is the impeccable manner in which she shifts from one time period in Hedy Lamarr's life to another.  She begins by highlighting her success as a film star and her passion for inventing.  She answers questions we may have at how she arrived at these points by taking us back in the past and working forward.

Her meticulous research is evident in the specific details she offers along with more than eighteen quotes of Hedy's beliefs supporting a particular portion of the narrative.  Laurie Wallmark not only tells us of Hedy's major invention but explains the thought process begin this form of communication.  Here are two passages with a quote.

Cameras flashed.  The glamorous movie star stepped out of her limousine and onto the red carpet.  Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood was there.  The star-studded premiere of her first English-language movie, Algiers, was the social event of 1938.

Journalists and photographers crowded around her.  If they only knew the story, the true story, behind the world's most beautiful woman.


Rendered digitally by artist Katy Wu the first image we see on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is as stunning as Hedy Lamarr herself.  The depiction of her dual abilities is design genius.  Placing the title text within a marquee type frame is another wonderful element.

To the left, on the back, on a canvas of teal one of Hedy's quotes is placed above an introductory description of Hedy Lamarr.  Notes from her inventions float on tiny vertical dotted lines; a mirror of the marquee effect.  The opening and closing endpapers begin and end the narrative visually and textually.

On the first, actor and inventor are defined with a question concluding the representation.  On the second readers are provided with a selected bibliography, additional reading about other women in STEM and Hedy Lamarr's Films on the left.  On the title page Hedy looks at readers attired in a formal dress.

Through illustrations on full page, partial page and on double pages we are granted a view of this exciting and innovative woman.  Katy Wu draws us into each picture by shifting the perspective to coincide with the text.  We are privy to a younger Hedy sneaking into a movie theater to watch a full screen movie production.   When Hedy and George are talking about ships, torpedoes and communication systems a pictorial presentation is placed in an adjoining speech bubble.  Scientific explanations are accompanied by diagrams easily understood by readers.

We feel as though we are a part of Hedy's world through the portrayal of clothing, posters, magazines, automobiles, accessories in homes, the buildings in Austria and the vessels of World War II.  The facial expressions and body postures shown on Hedy give vitality to this amazing woman.  The fire burning within her is contagious to readers.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages on a canvas of white.  A large grand piano is shown from the left to the middle of the right.  The top has been removed to show the inner workings of strings and keys.  George and Hedy are seated side by side on the piano bench, playing.  Through the look on Hedy's face we know an idea has surfaced.  This idea will be the beginning of her "hopping of frequencies" theory.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor written by Laurie Wallmark with illustrations by Katy Wu is a spirited, intelligent look at a gifted woman.  We gain knowledge and inspiration from reading this book.  I am grateful this book is in the world to be shared repeatedly with all readers.  You will want to find a place for this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Laurie Wallmark has accounts on Pinterest and Twitter.  Katy Wu has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Here is a link to a teacher's guide.  The cover reveal post is found at A Fuse #8 Production hosted by Elizabeth Bird, Collection Development  Manager of the Evanston Public Library system.  Wonderful writer of nonfiction, Melissa Stewart talks about this book on her site Celebrate Science.  She has an interview with Laurie Wallmark, too.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher this week as others share their titles in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  Alyson chose this title among others to showcase this week.

No comments:

Post a Comment