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LISTENING TO THE STARS by Jodie Parachini Kirkus Star


Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars

From the She Made History series

by Jodie Parachini ; illustrated by Alexandra Badiu

Pub Date: April 1st, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-8075-4563-8
Publisher: Whitman

An Irishwoman and a radio telescope change astronomy forever.

“Does the galaxy have a sound?” asks the first line of this elegant biography. “Is it loud and full of thunderous booms? Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?” Though written in prose, the narrative has a poetic sensibility, building a suspenseful read-aloud from the events of Burnell’s life. First having to fight her way into “the boys’ class” in the 1950s so she could learn physics, then later working to mount acres upon acres of wires to help construct a telescope, the young Jocelyn depicted exudes curiosity and enthusiasm. A showstopper of a spread celebrates the radio telescope’s 1967 completion: Precise technical lines appear in silhouette against a dusky, ethereal sky. Text and pictures work together to explain how a pulsing sound wave comes from a neutron star—a discovery that Burnell made after analyzing “three miles of paper.” Well-chosen similes illuminate fundamental concepts, backed by Badiu’s rich, celestial blues and purples. Frank discussion of the sexism Burnell faced leads into a hopeful note about her efforts to support young women in astronomy. Backmatter provides plain-language scientific definitions, a contextualizing author’s note, and recommended reading on women in physics. Burnell is depicted as White, all of her colleagues and mentors appear to be White men, and just one of her students (circa 1974) has brown skin.

As gorgeous as it is informative.

(glossary, author’s note, recommended reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-10)