The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs

Fiona Robinson. Abrams, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2551-7
British botanist Anna Atkins used cyanotypes—photographic paper that turns blue in the sun—to publish the world’s first book of photographs in 1843, a compendium of her extensive dried seaweed collection. Appropriately, the layered artwork in this picture book biography by Robinson (Ada’s Ideas) is worked almost entirely in shades of blue, with the occasional red or yellow accent (a poppy, a ladybug, the sun’s rays). Robinson’s doll-like, romantic figures—Atkins has large eyes and round, rougelike spots on her cheeks—could skew sentimental, but the biography is detailed and informative. Atkins was lovingly reared and educated by her widowed father, and the two share a rich, loving partnership of teaching, plant collecting, and mutual encouragement as Anna grows into adulthood. A scientist friend introduces the pair to cyanotypes, and Anna sees that the medium will allow her to share her collection widely. “To my dearest father,” reads her dedication (and Robinson’s as well), “this attempt is affectionately inscribed.” A valuable biography of an early female scientist—and a rare portrait of a father-daughter collaboration. Ages 6–9. Agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary Management. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2018
Release date: 02/01/2019
Genre: Children's
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