An inventive look at a pioneering woman whose intellectual passions culminated in published works of beauty and scientific...

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THE BLUEST OF BLUES

ANNA ATKINS AND THE FIRST BOOK OF PHOTOGRAPHS

Robinson examines the life of Anna Atkins, whose childhood love of the natural world propelled a unique career.

Born in England in 1799, Anna was raised by her scientist father after her mother’s death. Father abets Anna’s fascination with nature, fostering her scientific education. She becomes a botanist, collecting, cataloging, and illustrating British flora. The pair moves to London, where Father works at the British Museum. Anna marries John Pelly Atkins and continues work on her pressed-plant herbarium. Father’s retirement occasions the family’s return to the Kent countryside, where father and daughter explore their mutual zeal for a new technology: photography. Introduced to the cyanotype, whose chemical reaction produces permanent images, Anna harnesses the technique to share her botanical collections, producing several books under the demure nom de plume “A.A.” As little is known of Anna’s early life, Robinson’s present-tense narrative imagines childhood scenes. Historical context highlights the British mania for worldwide plant collection (but does not connect it to imperialism) and the sexist constraints on women and girls pursuing career paths. Illustrations utilize the cyanotype’s distinctive blue and white, with touches of red and yellow. A note details Robinson’s process, including digital manipulation of Atkins’ cyanotypes. (Other backmatter includes an author’s note, cyanotype instructions, bibliography, resources for Atkins’ works, and illustration credits.) The effete, white-skinned figural depictions, which infantilize the adult Atkins, detract from the otherwise handsomely designed package.

An inventive look at a pioneering woman whose intellectual passions culminated in published works of beauty and scientific verisimilitude. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2551-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Science at its best: informative and gross.

DO NOT LICK THIS BOOK

Why not? Because “IT’S FULL OF GERMS.”

Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.

Science at its best: informative and gross. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17536-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders.

THE BIG BOOK OF THE BLUE

Denizens of the deep crowd oversized pages in this populous gallery of ocean life.

The finny and tentacled sea creatures drifting or arrowing through Zommer’s teeming watercolor seascapes are generally recognizable, and they are livened rather than distorted by the artist’s tendency to place human eyes on the same side of many faces, Picasso-like. Headers such as “Ink-teresting” or “In for the krill” likewise add a playful tone to the pithy comments on anatomical features or behavioral quirks that accompany the figures (which include, though rarely, a white human diver). The topical spreads begin with an overview of ocean families (“Some are hairy, some have scales, some have fins and some are boneless and brainless!”), go on to introduce select animals in no particular order from sea horses and dragonets to penguins and pufferfish, then close with cautionary remarks on chemical pollution and floating plastic. The author invites readers as they go to find both answers to such questions as “Why does a crab run sideways?” and also a small sardine hidden in some, but not all, of the pictures. For the latter he provides a visual key at the end, followed by a basic glossary.

A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65119-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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