Burleigh weaves imagination and information to sketch the life of a female scientist and illuminate her achievements.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt, born in 1868, was a graduate of Oberlin and of the school that would become Radcliffe. Her interest in astronomy led her to work for many years in the Harvard Observatory. Although women were prevented from taking part in many facets of academic exploration, Leavitt made a major discovery within the parameters of her assigned work. Though little is known of his subject’s life, Burleigh posits an early interest in the stars that may help to engage young listeners. The conversational text moves quickly, taking readers from dreamy child to dedicated researcher. Sophisticated vocabulary and complex concepts, as well as the variety of supplementary information Burleigh provides, from quotations about the stars to brief information about other female astronomers, suggest that this would be most useful as supplemental material in a science curriculum. Colón’s watercolor, pen and pencil illustrations extend the text as, for example, when the sideways glances of Leavitt’s college peers effectively convey just how unusual her interests and accomplishments were for the time. They also capture the fascination and beauty of starlight, which seems almost to twinkle at times. The current educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM) will likely increase interest in biographies about women’s achievements in these fields.
An artful and inspiring effort. (quotations, afterword, author’s note, glossary, Internet resources, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)