Wonderful

17 Nov

The White House’s glass ceiling didn’t shatter last week, but girls and women will continue to fight for their place in society, world, business and academia. It can be helpful to look back at girls and women who defied convention for inspiration, and Jeannine Atkin’s Finding Wonders: Three Girls who Changed Science can help.

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Publisher’s Summary:A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew 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.

As I read each section, my mind went to other books I have read about these three women of science.

Margarita Engle wrote an excellent picture book about Maria Merian.

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Publisher’s Summary:In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.

This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.

Several years ago, I read an excellent adult fiction book about Mary Anning, by Tracy Chevalier.

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Publisher’s Summary:On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.

Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.

Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.

Finally, local author, Deborah Hopkinson also published a picture book. Hers was about Maria Mitchell.

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Publisher’s Summary: Maria’s wish burns as brightly as a star. Maria longs to be an astronomer and imagines all the strange worlds she can travel to by looking though her papa’s telescope. One night Maria gets her chance to look through the telescope. For the first time, she sees the night sky stretching endlessly above her, and her dream of exploring constellations seems close enough to touch.
In this story, inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer, “viewers will find the cobalt-blue nights, lit with constellations that make imaginary (and actual) pictures in the sky, every bit as attractive as Maria does.”

 

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