A tale of astronomical accomplishment.
Born on the island of Nantucket, Maria Mitchell grows up among the dunes and knows the local whaling vessels and shopkeepers by name. Illustrations rendered in gouache, watercolor, and ink initially depict her island world and move on to the endless sky she later studies. Because of her hardworking nature—she perseveres at school despite finding it challenging—her mother suggests her father take her on as an astronomy assistant. This leads Maria to learn the stars, planets, and celestial events by name as well, as she begins to “sweep the sky” with her telescope. Later on, she notices a new glow—a comet! At the advice of her father, she reports her discovery, which earns her a gold medal from the king of Denmark and worldwide recognition. While the text has a nice flow and a poetic feel, the meaning of the specialized vocabulary introduced is not always evident. Though the illustrations of an all-white cast in old-fashioned garb set the story squarely in the past, the time frame is not presented until the final notes, and readers unfamiliar with women’s history may be unaware of how unusual Mitchell’s accomplishments were if they miss them. Still, this is an engaging story of women’s history and astronomy that may inspire readers to further biographical research and exploration of STEM.
An involving addition to the women-in-STEM shelves. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)