Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, June 10, 2022

Breaking Through the Clouds Written by Sandra Nickel


Breaking Through the Clouds: the sometimes turbulent life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson
Written by Sandra Nickel; Illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia
Abrams. 2022

As I am writing this review, I see stratus clouds. They are close to the ground and completely cover the sky but do not produce rain. 

What kind of clouds are out your window right now? 

In this picture book biography, readers discover the life of Joanne Simpson, the first woman to receive a doctorate in meteorology. Joanne’s lifelong work, the study of clouds, led her to make a cloud model. The first of its kind. The model is used to make the weather predictions we depend on today. 

Joanne Simpson was born in Boston, Mass on March 23, 1923. Left on her own to explore the world, Joanne sailed solo at age ten and received her pilot’s license at age sixteen. During World War 2, she taught weather to officers going to war. When the war ended, Joanne was out of a job. Yet, she had fallen in love with the science of weather and wanted to become a doctor of meteorology and study clouds.

“When the men at the university heard Joanne’s plans, they laughed. Clouds were only currents of air filled with tiny beads of water, no more important than steam lifting off their coffee.” 

An even though no one would support her dream, stubborn Joanne taught herself about clouds, calculus, and studied the works of others. She went to Woods Hole in Cape Cod and, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out more about Joanne’s exciting life. 

Garcia’s illustrations, rendered in gouache, incorporate blue into every one. They are warm and show a very determined Joanne going through her life.

An author’s note, timeline, and selected bibliography is also included.

A great addition to your biography section and books on weather.

Click here to visit the Abrams site for more information about Breaking Through the Clouds.

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