Super Cool Scientists, written by Sara MacSorley and illustrated by Yvonne Page, is a celebration of women scientists making waves in their fields. From physicist LaNell Williams to paleontologist Michelle Barboza, Super Cool Scientists tells the stories of diverse scientists who are using their creativity and compassion to better understand our world, take care of our planet, and conserve our vital ecosystems.
As Sara MacSorley writes in the dedication: "Super Cool Scientists is also for all the women out there, right now, doing incredible things in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is for the women who are bringing others with them on their journeys as mentors—we want to lift as we climb. It is for all the women who have come before us to pave the way for our opportunities. It is for all the women, and men, who will come after us and continue our important work in science mentorship and inclusion."
This inspiring coloring book is proof that representation matters. Paging through, I marveled at how many stories I knew next to nothing about—and how many women are bettering the world that I live in through their work in the labs and in the fields. When I shared this coloring book with a friend's daughter, it was such a gift to see her joy. My hope is that books like Super Cool Scientists will inspire young women to pursue their passions, find meaningful work in the sciences, and believe in their power to tell their own stories. Herewith, creator Sara and I talk about writing new narratives and creativity.
LOAM: What inspired you to create this book?
SARA: I've always been interested in science. My first degree is in Marine Biology! I wanted to be a researcher until I had my first research project my junior year of college and realized that I didn't like it. Although no one else told me what to do with a science degree, I had some really great people in my professional world so I had several jobs that gave me the opportunity to be around the science without doing research.
I eventually came to Connecticut to work for Green Street Art Center. I felt like I had veered off course from having science in my life and I missed it. I was looking for something that brought more science into my life at the same time as I was searching for different ways to manage my anxiety. Coloring was part of my toolkit, but when you googled "women and science coloring books", nothing came up. That was the lightbulb moment. I coordinated a Kickstarter for the project and did the whole "learn-as-I-go" thing!
LOAM: How do you hope your book will encourage readers to write new narratives for themselves?
SARA: Representation matters. You can find your mentors and inspiration in all kinds of people but it's easier when they look like you. Throughout the whole book, I tried to provide as many touch points for connection as possible for readers. I wanted to show not only what [these scientists] do now, but what they like to do with their families. As far as writing new narratives, it was important for me to include a really wide range of science fields. From communications to research to policy. When you are working in the field you do a mix of those things so I didn't want it to be a book of just people in lab coats. The more you are exposed to what the options are, the more [empowered you are] to write your own narrative. That's why I included resources in the back.
LOAM: How did you choose the featured scientists?
SARA: Some of the scientists were women that I looked up to during my own science journey like Drs. Sylvia Earle and Ashanti Johnson and so I wanted to tell their stories more! They were really excited about it. Some of the others scientists were from connections I made when I worked in Rhode Island.
LOAM: Why is exploring the environment through art important to you?
SARA: Both science and art are about creativity. Being a scientist and designing experiments is a really creative process. A lot of the women in the book have their own creative pursuits outside of their science work!
Part of my interest in science was growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and wanting to learn about everything growing beneath the water. Time spent in nature as a kid truly spurred this interest in how the world worked in me. And I think that's a really important way that science and art interact—because at the end of the day, both are about understanding how things work.