Elem. – The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell

Alary, Laura. The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell. Kids Can Press, 2022. Unpaged.  978-1-525-30348-7. $18.99.  Grades K-3.

This picture book biography is the story of a female pioneer in the fields of both astronomy and education. Maria Mitchell was born on Nantucket Island in 1818. Her father was an astronomer/mathematician and her mother a librarian. As Quakers, they believed in the equality of all people and so they encouraged their daughter’s quest for knowledge.  Maria’s father taught the young girl how to use and repair a telescope and nautical instruments. She recorded all her observations in a notebook. As a young woman, she opened a school for the island children and then became a librarian. One day Maria learned that the King of Denmark was offering a prize for the first person to find a new comet. The young astronomer spent hours on the roof searching the skies with her telescope and her perseverance paid off when she sighted one. Maria left for Europe, where she received many accolades and gave lectures to scientific societies. Vassar, a new women’s college, offered her the position of Professor of Astronomy and she accepted. At that time, some opposed college education for women, but Maria was not deterred. She took her students outside to observe the stars and encouraged them to question everything. In the author’s note, Alary provides more details about Mitchell’s life and points out that she was a “woman of firsts”- first female astronomer, scientific consultant hired by the US government, and among the first college professors. Rooney’s artwork is done in collage and has amazing detail.

THOUGHTS: Young inquiring minds will enjoy reading about this scientist who faced challenges and never stopped asking questions. Perfect as a read aloud and for STEM units. This is a must-have for elementary collections.

Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
92, 921, 520.92

Elem. – The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

Lang, Heather. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest. Calkins Creek, 2021. 978-1-68437-177-8. Unpaged. $18.99 Grades 2-5.

From childhood Meg was always interested in nature, opting to spend time outside studying plants. As an adult she moved from her Elmira, New York hometown to Australia where she pioneered rainforest studies. In 1979, she invented a slingshot harness allowing her to study trees from the canopy of branches sitting up to one hundred and fifty feet tall. From dizzying heights Meg studied the rainforest in ways scientists had not previously attempted prior to her invention. Nearly a decade later, Meg was instrumental in developing plans for the first canopy walkway making rainforest ecology accessible to more people and fostering an understanding of its importance to Australian citizens. In her quest to learn even more about rainforests,  Meg joined a team in Cameroon who launched a hot air balloon permitting the scientists a view from the top of the canopy. It was here that Meg realized conservation as her next calling. She began traveling the world, pioneering conservation preservation projects in Cameroon, Western Samoa, and Ethiopia. Mesmerizing full color digital illustrations saturate every page with rainforest scenery. Animals, plants, trees, insects and birds emphasize the biodiversity of the rainforest. Leaf-shaped text boxes nearly blend into the scenery, rewarding a close reading with  additional facts about the rainforest.

577.34 Rain Forest Ecology          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Picture Book

Elem. – Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret

Keating, Jess. Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret. Tundra Books, 2020. 978-0-735-26508-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

From the time she was a young girl, Marie loved being outdoors. From feeling waves splash on her toes to discovering boulders, trees, and bird calls, she was fascinated by the world around her. But, girls were not supposed to have outdoor jobs involving rocks, mountains, and sunshine, and they weren’t supposed to dream of becoming explorers or scientists. When men enlisted during World War I, women like Marie had their chance to study science. Marie learned as much as she could about earth science and geology, and she secured a job in a New York laboratory. When men returned from War, they were sent on ocean research trips, but Marie had to stay behind. As her male colleagues sent back box after box of measurements, Marie used the data to create a map of the ocean floor. She’d found a way to be an explorer, even if she had to stay in her small office. After weeks of plotting data, Marie discovered a giant rift valley on the bottom of the ocean floor: a long crack with mountains on both sides. Her colleagues made her redo the map, and even then, no one believed her work was accurate. Jacques Cousteau sent cameras to the bottom of the ocean to prove her wrong, but instead, the cameras captured the evidence revealing Marie was actually correct. Today, she’s credited with mapping the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge, and her maps have been displayed at the Library of Congress. Katie Hickey’s watercolor and pencil illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily blues, yellows, and greens, gorgeously capture the spirit and perseverance of this unsung scientist. Two pages of Author’s Notes and Questions and Answers provide further insights about Marie Tharp and her legacy.

THOUGHTS: Share this story of female resilience and determination as part of STEM units or during elementary morning meetings. Also a great choice to recommend to girls who are interested in outdoor pursuits such as rock collecting, bird watching, and exploring.

526 Mathematical Geography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD