Maria longs to be an astronomer -- wish that burns as brightly as a star. But girls in the nineteenth century don't grow up to be scientists, especially those who are needed at home. Each night when her papa sweeps the sky with his telescope, Maria sweeps the floor below, imagining all the strange worlds he can travel to from the rooftop of their Nantucket home.
Then one night Maria finally gets her chance to look through her papa's telescope. For the first time, she beholds the night sky stretching endlessly above her, and her dream of exploring the comets and constellations seems close enough to touch.
Loosely based on the childhood of Maria (pronounced ma-RYE-ah) Mitchell, America's first woman astronomer, and illuminated by Deborah Lanino's star-swept illustrations, here is an exquisitely told story of a girl who yearns for adventure beyond her limited circumstances, and sets out to follow her heart.
This poetic picture book imagines the childhood of Maria Mitchell, America's first woman astronomer. Like Hopkinson's previous heroines (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; Birdie's Lighthouse), Maria (pronounced ma-RYE-ah) possesses determination, a questioning spirit and a gentle heart. Though Maria helps her mother care for her eight siblings and keeps tidy their home on Nantucket Island in the early 1800s, she never loses her infectious love for the stars, a passion she inherited from her father. When her brother Andrew asks her to run away with him to a life on the sea, Maria determines, "I will be an explorer, but I want to sail the sea of stars." The author plants the seeds for Maria's later accomplishments (the first professor of astronomy at Vassar; a co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Women) in the first-person narrative: "Each constellation is a patchwork of stories/ passed down from the beginning of time." Lanino (The Littlest Angel) augments this powerful image with an equally potent rendering of Maria's rooftop communion with the stars, her eyes wide as the celestial configurations illuminate the sky. The artist closes the distance between earth and stars with the warmth and softness that permeate each illustration. This lilting story, combined with closing notes on both Mitchell and astronomy, will likely ignite further interest in its passionate protagonist. Ages 4-8.