The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything:  The Story of Maria Mitchell by Laura Alary, illustrated by Ellen Rooney

The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything:  The Story of Maria Mitchell by Laura Alary, illustrated by Ellen Rooney.  Kids Can Press, 2022.  9781525303487

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review):  4

Format: Hardcover picture book

Genre:  Biography

What did you like about the book?  This is a beautiful and accessible picture book biography good for any reader or listener who is able to sit still and follow a direct narrative.  It is printed  on lovely thick paper with paint and paper collage illustrations that give the story texture and depth.

Laura Alary’s text starts out with young Maria collecting objects and ideas that intrigue her. The message to young readers is to follow their curiosity: pick things up, examine them, ask questions, and record observations.  Who knows what a childhood interest will lead to?  Children are to be encouraged to be interested in the world.

Maria’s father is shown teaching her how to look at the stars and take measurements with the tools available to them.  He also gave her a corner of their busy house to use as her own study, showing respect for her thinking and writing. This may encourage parents to share with their kids what they know, and for kids to ask their parents what they can show them.  

Maria Mitchell questioned everything. This book encourages readers to think and question and try many different paths,  It highlights the benefits of curiosity and persistence.  Children need to know that people are not born astronomers or fashion designers or fabulous athletes; instead they succeed because they have an interest and put in the time and practice necessary to acquire skill and expertise. (It helps to have the support of family and community.)  This biography is a celebration of learning by doing, looking, wading, climbing, and writing.

An authors’ note in the back adds historical context.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  There’s a bit of an old-fashioned feel to the book that appeals greatly to me (an adult) and I wonder how children will receive it.  

To whom would you recommend this book?  Kids ages 7 or 8 and up.  This would be a nice addition to any school unit on scientists or careers.

Who should buy this book?  Elementary school libraries and public libraries. 

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State:  Robin Shtulman, Athol Public Library, Athol, MA

Date of review:  May 6, 2022

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