It’s 1930, and an 11-year-old girl in Oxford, England, is about to make history.
McGinty first introduces readers to young Venetia Burney attentively listening to a school lesson about the solar system and quickly establishes Venetia’s voracious curiosity across disciplines. The elegant yet accessible text is packed with historical tidbits that contextualize her scientific contribution without overwhelming readers (for example, the fact that her well-connected grandfather had a friend in the Royal Astronomical Society who shared Venetia’s idea with the Lowell Observatory astronomers). Third-person present-tense narration draws readers into the exact moment when, upon hearing that a ninth planet has been discovered, Venetia suggests a name: “she knows that this planet, so far from the sun, must be frozen, dark, and lifeless…like…the underworld ruled in Roman myths by Neptune’s brother, Pluto.” Haidle’s layered, semiopaque washes of blue-gray ink with rusty red accents impart a gravitas that supports the significance of Venetia’s contribution and, echoing sepia-tone photos, emphasizes her place in history. The muted color palette somewhat obfuscates skin tones, but most people, including Venetia, appear white. The constellations on the endpapers immediately introduce the connection between mythology and astronomy that inspired Venetia, while stylized maps and diagrams of the solar system will enthrall readers of all ages.
An inspiring and beautifully illustrated tale made all the better by its historical foundation. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)