Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Women's History Month - featuring Meteorologist Joanne Simpson - 3.02.22

Breaking Through the Clouds:
The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson
written by Sandra Nickel
illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia
published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

When you think about women who have made a difference in our world, there are some adjectives that just don't fit:  quiet, demure, follower.  Take Joanne Simpson.  In her own words she would have said, you have to be stubborn.

I found the world "turbulent" in the subheading of this book to be so interesting.  That's, of course, a word I use to describe something that is unpredictable, something that might shake things up.  But after reading this picture book biography, I understand why that word was selected.  Take the very first line of the book, "By the time Joanne was five, she had discovered her mother didn't much care where she was."  This tumultuous relationship continued and left Joanne with alone time, often spent in her boat or flying a small plane, getting lost in the clouds.  Clouds became Joanne's obsession and lead her to her adult career.  Studying under renown meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby. Joanne got a "crash course" in meteorology and then taught officers getting ready to fight in WWII.  However, she still wanted to know more about those clouds.  

Joanne had to make many concessions in order to continue her studies, but finally after a breakthrough study of cumulus clouds, Joanne received her doctorate of meteorology.  

You would think that would be enough to convince everyone to always give Joanne a chance, but this was the 1950s, which meant Joanne still had to persuade and convince, in other words be stubborn, in order to continue to learn and study.  It seemed that every time she figured something out, her plans were shot down.  Up and down.  But like cumulus clouds that keep returning, so did Joanne.  Finally, she was able to convince Rossby to allow her to have access to his large computers and she was able to complete a cloud model that scientists were able to use that now give us the terminology we hear on weather reports today: "partly sunny skies, showers in the morning, expect blue skies in the afternoon."

I enjoyed the backmatter and gaining additional information about Joanne's life in the author's note and included photographs.  There is a timeline that helps readers visually plot out some of Joanne's greatest achievements.  Also included is a selected bibliography.

Whether you have students studying the weather or you want to turn the spotlight on someone new for Women's History Month, Joanne Simpson would be an excellent person to study!

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy!

More about author Sandra Nickel:

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at To learn more, visit


Twitter:  @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks


Check out the trailer and other cool resources here!


  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful, wonderful review Michele! And thank you especially for spreading the word about Joanne!

  2. This one looks great! I love the illustrations, and really loved Sandra's The Stuff Between the Stars. Thanks, Michele!