Alicia, growing up in the 19th century on an Australian dairy farm, rankles at the restrictions placed on girls. Her brothers are like swallows, she thinks, free to come and go as they please--while she is like one of the cows plodding through a life of chores, cooking, and needlework. Alicia gazes out at the heavens at night and dreams of the mysteries of space. Much happier are her days at school, where she's particularly good at math and science. When John Tebbut, an amateur astronomer who discovered the ""Great Comet"" of 1861, comes to speak, he recognizes Alicia's intelligence and invites her to visit his observatory. Alicia's father is characteristically silent about his daughter's gifts and the invitation, but when the men and boys are asleep, Alicia's mother takes her to look through the ""Star Man's"" telescope. Alicia takes a look at the heavens, and suddenly feels her horizons expand. This lovely book, based on an actual historical figure, doesn't feel like a lesson, though it contains all the elements of one. Instead, Crew (Angel's Gate, 1995, etc.) focuses on a child's dreams and the moment when she realizes that her fate is in her hands. Spudvilas's glowing oil paintings capture Alicia's expressions, conveying, with the text, a message of affirmation.