Asha and Baz Meet Hedy Lamarr
Asha and Baz Meet Hedy Lamarr
Baz pointed to the sign above the huge entrance gate. “Film Studios,” he read.
“Why would the magic stick send us to a film studio? Movies aren’t video games. We need to code a video game!” he said.
“The magic stick sent us here for a reason,” Asha said. She put the magic stick in her pocket for safekeeping. She looked down at the writing in the sand. “Hedy Lamarr. 1941. We need to find someone named Hedy Lamarr.”
Just then, a guard stepped out of a little office to the side of the entrance gate. He began walking toward them. “Hey, you two! Are you the background actors for the big movie? You’re late!” The man pointed at them.
“Actors?” Baz repeated. “No, we aren’t actors.”
“Shhh!” Asha elbowed him. “Yes sir, we are actors. Sorry we’re late. We had a long trip.” (Pp. 12-13)
Asha and her best friend Baz are assigned a Code Challenge by their teacher, Ms. Wilson. They must “Create a computer code that tells a virtual frog how to get from the start point to the finish point. The only way the frog can cross the water is by jumping on different-sized logs.” (Pp.1-2) The only problem with this task is that each row of logs floats in a different direction. If they make a mistake, their frog lands in the water, and their game is over. The challenge proves to be very difficult.
Asha and Baz are frustrated, and they decide to use their magic stick once again to get help for the coding challenge. The first time they used the stick, it took them to 1957 where they met Mary Sherman Morgan and learned about rocket power. This time, the magic stick tells them to look for “Hedy Lamarr, 1941.”
Asha and Baz find themselves in Hollywood, California, at a film studio. Ms. Lamarr is a famous actress, and Asha and Baz pretend to be actors in order to contact her. They are fascinated by all the aspects of making films. They see carpenters building props, sound engineers arranging microphones, and others involved in filming, set design, and costumes. When they finally find Hedy, they ask her to help them with their coding exercise. She has never heard of coding but reveals that she loves inventing. She tells them, “Inventing is one of my favorite things.” (p.18)
Hedy is fascinated by science, and she is very aware that the Nazis and Adolf Hitler are currently waging a war in Europe. She wants to help the war effort against the Nazis because she was born in Austria which has been invaded and she still has relatives there. Hedy tells Asha and Baz that she and her friend George Antheil are working on a way to prevent the Nazis from endangering ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean by blocking radio frequencies on these ships. They have invented a technique called frequency hopping which will help torpedoes hit Nazi ships.
Hedy faces many challenges in getting her invention into production. She is not respected by her director or other people in authority. Despite her obvious intelligence and skill, her director says, “Who ever heard of an actress being smart.” (p. 49) Hedy realizes that men do not respect her knowledge and capabilities, but she works hard on her inventions and in raising money for war bonds to help the war effort. She inspires Asha and Baz to use her frequency hopping technology to solve their Coding Challenge.
This early reader is the second in the “Asha and Baz” series from Common Deer Press, the first being Asha and Baz Meet Mary Sherman Morgan. The two friends are enthusiastic young scientists who enjoy doing research and finding answers to difficult problems. This time, their magic wand takes them back to meet Hedy Lamarr, a famous actress and inventor, who, along with her partner, George Antheil, invented frequency hopping to help with the war effort against the Nazis in World War II. This communication system has become an important feature in today’s Wi-Fi technology. The invention was never used by the US Navy, but today it is worth about 30 billion dollars
Readers who enjoy time travel will be intrigued by this novel. The black and white illustrations give readers more information about the events, and the short chapters and accessible vocabulary make this a novel which will appeal to a wide variety of readers. The narrative provides an interesting look at movie making in the 1940’s, as well as a look at the invention of frequency hopping. There are several topics addressed in this novel, including coding, stereotyping, misogyny, innovation, female empowerment, determination, patents, film production, war bonds, and warfare in World War II. The Appendix gives readers additional information about the life and accomplishments of Hedy Lamarr as well as some inspiration about how to become an inventor. Both male and female readers will look forward to new books in this series about science and technology!
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, resides in Toronto, Ontario.