This “evocative and beautiful” (School Library Journal) novel “vividly imagines the lives of three girls” (Booklist, starred review) in three different time periods as they grow up to become groundbreaking scientists.
Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. Through careful observation she discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented her findings in gorgeous paintings of the life cycles of insects.
More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. To him they were merely a source of income, but to Mary they held a stronger fascination. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past.
Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell helped her mapmaker father in the whaling village of Nantucket. At night they explored the starry sky through his telescope. Maria longed to discover a new comet—and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did.
Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.
Writing in free verse, Atkins (Borrowed Names) reaches back into the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to the girlhoods of Maria Merian, naturalist and scientific illustrator; Mary Anning, fossil hunter; and astronomer Maria Mitchell, all curious girls whose childhood passions led to groundbreaking work. Each grew up in a deeply bonded family and had a strongly supportive father; each fought quietly and determinedly against the obstacles of being a girl with unusual interests. In a closing note, Atkins explains that while she carefully documented the women's adult achievements, writing in verse gave her the liberty to fictionalize details of their younger years. The result is a sensory depiction of daily life in earlier centuries "the cottage smells of laundry soap and herbal tonics" and a credible development of three sympathetic characters. Evocative similes abound ("a silkworm silently spins/ a silk cocoon around itself,/ like a dancer twirling/ or a baker frosting a tall cake"), building an increasing ambiance of "finding wonder" in the world. In addition to the author's note, a selected bibliography and Atkins's thoughts on other science biographies are provided. Ages 10 up.