Born September 20; married; children: one son, one daughter. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A. (art history). Hobbies and other interests: Reading, traveling, flying trapeze.
Home—Eden Prairie, MN. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Formerly managed an art gallery in Minneapolis, MN; worked in children's publishing.
Children's Book of the Month Club Best Nonfiction Book designation, and Smithsonian Notable Book designation, both 2000, and Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children designation, and International Reading Association (IRA) Children's Book Award, both 2001, all for Girls Think of Everything; Minnesota Book Award, IRA Honor Book designation, and Outstanding Science and Social Studies Trade Book for Children designation, all 2002, all for The Sky's the Limit; New York Times Notable Book designation, 2004, for Madam President; Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, 2007, for Team Moon.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.
The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
Madam President: The Incredible, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics, illustrated by Douglas B. Jones, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.
Bye Bye Nellie Bly, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
In her books for younger readers, Catherine Thimmesh encourages children to realize that women can do and be anything they want to be. In titles such as Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by
Women and Girls, and Madam President: The Incredible, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics, she introduces a wide range of accomplishments made by women from all walks of life, utilizing a prose style geared particularly for middle-grade readers.
In Girls Think of Everything Tharp profiles a dozen females—two girls and ten women—each of whom changed the world with an invention. For example, Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper, although she never received credit for it; Ruth Wakefield created the Toll House cookie when she threw some small chunks of chocolate into her cookie dough; Bette Nesmith Graham invented Liquid Paper to deal with secretarial mistakes; and Becky Schroeder's need to write in the dark led her to develop Glo-paper, which can be used for that purpose. Interestingly, Thimmesh points out, Schroeder became the youngest female ever to be granted a U.S. patent. Citing the author's "fresh, breezy" approach, Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper recommended Girls Think of Everything as a "very attractive, informative book." In Horn Book a critic noted of the work that Thimmesh aptly illustrates how "necessity, ingenuity, and luck all play a part in successful inventions."
In The Sky's the Limit Thimmesh focuses on exploration rather than invention, celebrating the skills and curiosity of women and girls who are both famous and lesser known. British writer and artist Beatrix Potter, internationally known for her children's books, is included because of her nature studies and her discovery that a lichen (a type of plant) is made up of both a fungus and an algae. Jane Goodall, the behavioral scientist renowned for her work with chimpanzees, is profiled as well. Also featured is a group of eighth-grade students from Spokane, Washington, who devised an environmentally safe way to help local farmers sidestep allergic complications that had been troubling them. Noting the scrapbook-style format used in The Sky's the Limit, Cooper reported that "the best thing about the book … is Thimmesh's sparkling writing style."
Women in positions of power are the focus of Madam President. Here Thimmesh writes "with uncommon brio," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, in telling the tales of twenty-three influential women ranging from Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Susan B. Anthony to Sandra Day O'Connor, Condoleezza Rice, and Benazir Bhutto. Featuring caricature-style illustrations by Douglas B. Jones, Madam President is "a lively introduction to the political achievements" of its subjects, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In School Library Journal Elaine Fort Weischedel noted the inclusion of "an impressive list of source material and a time line, and in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Elizabeth Bush recommended Madam President for its balanced portraits. "Thimmesh's messages are clear," stated Bush. "Women have the political wherewithal to hold executive office."
Thimmesh returns to her theme of exploration in her award-winning Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon, which focuses on the historic moon landing made by American astronauts in 1961. Beginning with the design and construction of Apollo's command module the Columbia, she goes on to describe the people who constructed the space suits worn by Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts, as well as the staff at NASA who oversaw the safe launch and reentry of the ship. According to Horn Book contributor Vicky Smith, Thimmesh's inclusion of "an extraordinary amount of primary source material aids in giving specificity" to the book's many stories, and her interviews with flight directors, engineers, navigators, seamstresses, and many other actors in the space drama "authenticates the narrative." Noting that Team Moon "has the feel of a public television documentary in its breadth and detail," a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that Thimmesh "maintains a conversational tone, and tackles and explains tough topics" in a manner that sustains reader interest. "This dramatic account will mesmerize even readers already familiar with the event," asserted School Library Journal reviewer John Peters, "and also leave them awed by the level of care and dedication it took to surmount so many daunting technological challenges." In the opinion of a Kirkus Reviews writer, Thimmesh's "beautiful and well-documented tribute will introduce a new generation to that triumphant time."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, p. 1373; March 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls, p. 1148; October 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Madam President: The Incredible, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics, p. 327.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2004, Elizabeth Bush, review of Madam President, p. 111.
Horn Book, May, 2000, review of Girls Think of Everything, p. 339; May-June, 2002, Betty Carter, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 351; July-August, 2006, Vicky Smith, review of Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon, p. 471.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 266; July 1, 2004, review of Madam President, p. 638; May 15, 2006, review of Team Moon, p. 524.
Kliatt, March, 2005, Nancy Chrismer, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 34.
New York Times Book Review, October 17, 2004, Cokie Roberts, review of Madam President, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 98; August 2, 2004, review of Madam President, p. 70; April 17, 2006, review of Team Moon, p. 190.
Reading Today, June, 2001, review of Girls Think of Everything, p. 17.
School Library Journal, April, 2000, review of Girls Think of Everything, p. 155; May, 2002, Ann G. Brouse, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 177; November, 2004, Elaine Fort Weischedel, review of Madam President, p. 174; June, 2006, John Peters, review of Team Moon, p. 188.
Science and Children, March, 2001, Lisa M. Nyberg, review of Girls Think of Everything, p. 34; February, 2003, Judith Hechtman, review of Girls Think of Everything, p. 16; March, 2003, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 38.
Science Teacher, March, 2003, Cynthia Roepcke, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 54.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2004, Sopie Brookover, review of Madam President, p. 332.
Catherine Thimmesh Home Page,http://www.catherinethimmesh.com (May 15, 2008).
Children's Literature Network Web site,http://www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org/ (March 2, 2005), "Catherine Thimmesh."