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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Deep Diving Into Accuracy and Art: A Video Premiere of Barbara McClintock Discussing Nothing Stopped Sophie

NothingStoppedSophieI have this terrible habit of too-early enthusiasm. I frequently tell myself that reviewing a book too early is a bad thing. It invites the reading public to forget about the book before its publication date, after all. But there are times when a book is so good that I just can’t contain myself. Such was the case with Cheryl Bardoe and Barbara McClintock’s Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of the Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain. I reviewed it in January of this year, a full half a year before its publication today. And why did I love it so dearly? The reasons are manifold. One is that when women are featured as mathematicians in picture book biographies, they are almost always computer scientists. Sophie Germain was a full-throttle mathematician in the purest sense of the word. I find this book remarkable and exciting. And now, I’m going to premiere the video that tells you how Barbara McClintock made the art, in the artist’s own voice.

In this video you’ll see and hear how the pop art of Robert Indiana influenced the numbers in this book. You’ll see how McClintock incorporated collage for the first time in her working life. You’ll also hear how experts in sound vibration theory influenced the accuracy of the art and how Ms. McClintock may have a future as a forger if this whole illustrating children’s books thing doesn’t work out. And, finally, her undying, everlasting love of double stick tape. This is a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at the amount of work it truly takes for an artist to provide both an artistic sensibility and a kind of historical accuracy to the art. If ever you have wondered the degree to which an artist has a responsibility to factual analysis vs. art and style, this video can serve as a kind of primer on the subject.

Take it away, Barbara!

Many thanks to the kind folks at Little, Brown for allowing me to present this video.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing this video. What a wonderful glimpse into Barbara McClintock’s process! It’s fascinating to watch her reject the dull images that an illustrator MIGHT have created to show a mathematician at work, and see them develop into those fantastical but entirely understandable images that depict Sophie’s passion for numbers. I can imagine lots of young math-averse readers yearning to like math. . .because of these brilliant illustrations.