Alary, Laura. The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2022.
Two hundred years ago on Nantucket, a little girl grew up with parents who believed both boys and girls should be educated. Her father was a schoolteacher and an astronomer and her mother had been a librarian, so it is not surprising that Maria and her nine siblings were encouraged to learn and think for themselves. Maria, a daydreamer, grew up to become a teacher and a librarian who loved challenges. When the King of Denmark offered a prize to the first person who could find a new comet, Maria determinedly looked through her telescope night after night until she spied a new comet. She won! Now she was famous and was soon invited to be a professor of astronomy. Maria spent the rest of her life encouraging her students to explore the skies and ask questions. Additional biographical information and a bibliography accompany this picture book cheerfully illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Highly recommended for readers 8 to 14 years old who enjoy true stories about historical figures.
P.S. The author’s combination of short and long sentences – and sentence fragments – creates a lovely rhythm for reading aloud. So lovely that it almost seems a shame to read the story silently. But the style of font is unfortunately not so lovely: the print is too serious and too small for the pictures. But that’s a minor fault compared to the beauty of the illustrations and the flow of the words. If you want a happy story that encourages patient persistence, read this book.
Another picture book about an astronomer…
McCully, Emily Arnold. Caroline’s Comets: A True Story. New York: Holiday House, 2017.
Caroline Herschel was born in Germany in 1750. Her father and brothers were musicians but she – being a girl – was kept busy doing housework. Everything changed when she was 22 years old. She joined her older brother in England and became a professional singer and then an assistant to her brother, who had become an astronomer for King George III. Later, she also earned a salary as an astronomer for the king. Before she died in 1848, she had discovered 8 comets and become a star among scientists.
Quotations from Caroline’s diary are embedded in this incredible story of the first woman to discover a comet. The gently old-fashioned pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations enhance this picture book biography for readers 9 years old and up.