Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins — Book Recommendation
April 19, 2017
Back in January, I posted about verse novels. I’ve recently read another verse novel that I want to share with readers of The Starborn Revue.
Although not directly related to the arts, it uses the art of poetry to bring the world of science to vivid life, truly making STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, Math).
That book is Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins.
Title: Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science
Author: Jeannine Atkins
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction based on Fact
Audience Age: 10 and up
Themes/Topics: Girls in science, scientific discoveries, girls in history
A trumpet blares from a church tower at curfew.
Maria hears the footsteps of the night watchman
beyond her bedroom window. His torch casts
a brief, striped glow through slats in the shutters.
Synopsis: Through vivid verse stories, Jeannine Atkins tells us of three girls who lived at different times, who each saw the natural world around them differently than others in their society, who made great discoveries, and yet have gone practically unnoticed. Their insights and findings have helped change the way we view the world, and yet most of us don’t know their names.
When Maria Sibylla Merian, who lived from 1647 to 1717, was a young girl, people believed insects somehow emerged fully formed from mud. Maria thought differently, and carefully observed the life cycle of butterflies from egg to caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly, painting accurate and detailed depictions of each stage.
Kids who are fascinated by dinosaurs may find it hard to believe that there was a time when people didn’t know dinosaurs had existed. One of the first people to discover and study fossils and dinosaur skeletons was a girl in England, Mary Anning, who lived from 1799 to 1847. She helped pave the way for the paleontologists and their discoveries today.
Maria Mitchell, who lived from 1818 to 1889 in New England, was a pioneering astronomer and educator. She made sure other young women had the education she had to struggle for, by first teaching them, then launching the scientific careers of some of them.
Each of these young women made amazing strides in scientific thought, and Jeannine Atkins has brought them to life in this verse novel. I found their stories fascinating, and the way Atkins told the stories was vivid and compelling. I could feel Maria Merian’s awe as she realized that caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies. I was frustrated right along with Mary Anning as her brother got credit for finding the dinosaur skeleton that she had discovered. Telling their stories in verse somehow brought me in closer to the heart of each girl than the many words of a prose novel would have.
I highly recommend this book.
For Further Enrichment: Read more about the book and find links to further information at the author’s website.
There are excerpts from an excellent interview with the author at the website Poetry for Children.