cover image Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science

Jeannine Atkins. Atheneum, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6565-6

Writing in free verse, Atkins (Borrowed Names) reaches back into the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to the girlhoods of Maria Merian, naturalist and scientific illustrator; Mary Anning, fossil hunter; and astronomer Maria Mitchell, all curious girls whose childhood passions led to groundbreaking work. Each grew up in a deeply bonded family and had a strongly supportive father; each fought quietly and determinedly against the obstacles of being a girl with unusual interests. In a closing note, Atkins explains that while she carefully documented the women’s adult achievements, writing in verse gave her the liberty to fictionalize details of their younger years. The result is a sensory depiction of daily life in earlier centuries—“the cottage smells of laundry soap and herbal tonics”—and a credible development of three sympathetic characters. Evocative similes abound (“a silkworm silently spins/ a silk cocoon around itself,/ like a dancer twirling/ or a baker frosting a tall cake”), building an increasing ambiance of “finding wonder” in the world. In addition to the author’s note, a selected bibliography and Atkins’s thoughts on other science biographies are provided. Ages 10–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Sept.)