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Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed…

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science

by Jeannine Atkins

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These prose poems give us a glimpse into the lives of three young girls who challenged their times and made amazing contributions to science. Growing up in Germany in the 1600s, superstitions make it difficult for Maria Merian to study natural creatures such as caterpillars, with locals believing they come from mud (not eggs) and that "even a good girl may turn / into a witch . . ."

Mary Anning is raised in England in the 1800s and learns to uncover small fossils from her father. But what happens when she finds the imprint of a huge "sea dragon," challenging the idea that the earth is only 6,000 years old and with no mention of animals like this in the Bible? And is spending time searching for fossils worth it when her family is starving?

Maria Mitchell grows up on Nantucket Island in the 1800s. She is financially better off than the first two girls and has a chance to study the stars, but struggles against parts of her Quaker upbringing. And having enough food doesn't prevent people she loves from leaving or dying.

Jeannine Atkins has done an excellent job researching the lives of these three young girls who would one day turn into remarkable scientists. The poetic structure and language keep the material from becoming too heavy-handed or dense, a bonus when dealing with scientific concepts.

The book begins with a quote from Maria Mitchell and I'll use it to end here:

"We especially need imagination in science. It's not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry." ~Maria Mitchell, astronomer ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Oct 14, 2017 |
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science is perfect for inspiring any young girl that she can make great contributions to the world of science. The book brings three scientists to life by taking you into their every day life. ( )
  DanielleVoit | Sep 21, 2017 |
First of all, look at this wonderful cover. Three girls, faces hidden, as these unfamous/unknown women would become. The white sketches around the edges represent the science that each studied.

Weirdly, I liked this even though it is written in blank verse. This is the first book I've read like this and it would never be my first choice, but it seems to work here. It might be that using blank verse to tell a science story employs both parts of my brain. I like literature and science and to get both at the same time is pretty cool.

The three girls are Maria Sibylla Merian from the late 1600s in Germany; Mary Anning from the early 1800s, in England; and Maria Mitchell from 1800s America. Nice balance of eras and countries, and subjects - creatures, earth and sky.

Maria Sibylla Merian was the Painter's Daughter who studied caterpillars and moths and butterflies. Recognized that caterpillars were born from eggs, and documented the life cycle of insects. With her painting background, she also painted the life cycles. Merian travelled to Suriname with her eldest daughter to study bugs in other countries. Nobody in those days just travelled like that.

Mary Anning was the Carpenter's Daughter who became expert at finding fossils in the rocks along the shore in southern England. Desperately poor, Mary sold her fossils but then was the first to find a full body dinosaur fossil. Uneducated, she never got any respect and just 'found' the fossils, but she knew as much as anybody about the creatures she found. I knew quite a bit about Anning because I read Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. (I highly recommend!)

Maria Mitchell was the Mapmaker's Daughter who loved to study the night sky and discovered a comet. She broke away from her Quaker background eventually, and became a teacher of astronomy at Vassar.

They all had father's who encouraged their daughter's search for knowledge. They all followed their passion for knowledge. They all were remarkable.

Once again, she takes her time sweeping her telescope,
slowly as a painter shifting the tip of her brush,
or a girl scanning stones. Beauty rambles more than it rushes.
There's always more than what's first seen.

This is a sample of the blank verse - not so hard to read. It made me even more impressed with the author and how she managed to tell these three stories in such a unique way, short but thorough. (Each biography is only about 60 pages) ( )
  raidergirl3 | Mar 26, 2017 |
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"A biographical novel in verse of three different girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists"--

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