Small town girl makes it big in this starlit picture book biography that budding astronomers and those seeking inspirational female role models will definitely want to read.
Little Maria was born and raised on the tiny island of Nantucket. The child with an eye for detail was curious and loved to explore her island home. Although she struggled with schoolwork she was always determined and when father needed someone to assist him study the night sky, Maria was the answer. Captivated immediately, every night she stood on the rooftop and looked out through a telescope, watching and wondering and learning. One magical day she saw an incredible sight…a comet that had not been seen before. A discovery that would make her famous and be known as America’s first female astronomer…
Somewhat naively I had never heard of Maria Mitchell but I have now and I strongly encourage everyone to read this brilliant example of how to create a picture book biography. This incredible story of Maria Mitchell - astronomer, educator, activist - is a breathtaking piece of literacy. Featuring lyrical text and stunning, starlit illustrations, it will captivate and dazzle young readers just like the night sky captivated a young girl from Nantucket.
From simple beginnings to one of the most respected individuals in her field, this is an inspiring read of literally reaching for the stars. Rich in details and filled with information, including names of stars, planets and celestial phenomena, it is a joy to watch Maria’s passion for stars unfurl. From the first time she marvelled at the night sky and made friends with ‘stars that shone as if punched into the black with a whalebone needle’ to the time spent working on sailor’s navigation devices with her father; her teaching days where she shared her knowledge with others to becoming a librarian and devoting every non-working hour to studying more about the night sky.
Persistence, determination and hard-work underpinned Maria’s life and she excelled at a time that was extremely challenging for women, especially women trying to be respected and gain an equal footing in STEM fields. Maria not only made a place for herself in astronomy but would provide the pathway for other women to follow. The detailed back matter highlights several key events, achievements and contributions in Maria’s life including her distinguished career and her activist efforts; it is a brilliant source of further information for the curiously minded.
It is essential that underrepresented figures get their time in the spotlight and books like this are a must-have in the classroom. This celebration of important STEM and astronomy achievements of a woman in history gets a massive recommendation from me. An important story for children to hear, especially young girls who want to follow in Maria’s starry footsteps.
If you are ever in Nantucket I believe that the house that Maria grew up in, which is now a museum, is well worth a visit. You can peek into her bedroom and gaze up at the roof where she once stood, eye to a telescope, helping her father and making notes about the skies above. If you’re lucky enough to be there on the 1st of August then you can see the royal medal she received for her comet observation.
Recommended for 7+.