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News & Reviews

Updated: May 24, 2021

Williamina Stevens Fleming: Astronomer




(Harper Collins Publishers)

(pub. 1.19.2021) 40 pages

Author: Kathryn Lasky

Illustrator: Julianna Swaney

Character: Williamina Stevens Fleming

Overview: "Ever since Williamina Fleming was little, she was curious, and her childhood fascination with light inspired her life’s work. Mina became an astronomer in a time when women were discouraged from even looking through telescopes. Yet Mina believed that the universe, with its billions of stars, was a riddle—and she wanted to help solve it.

Mina ultimately helped to create a map of the universe that paved the way for astronomers. Newbery Honor–winning Kathryn Lasky shares her incredible true story."

Tantalizing taste:

"But the most unfair thing was that Williamina and, later, other women astronomers were never allowed to look through a telescope for 'health reasons.' Women, the men said, were too fragile. In the unheated observatory dome, they might catch cold!

So what the women saw were the glass plates that recorded the spectra. The plates were removed from the telescope's spectrograph and like film were put in a chemical bath to develop. Gradually the lines would appear. It would remind Mina of the magic that transpired in her father's darkroom back in Dundee, Scotland."

And something more: Kathryn Lasky writes in the Author's Note: "When I discovered that in the late nineteenth century there was a team of women at the [Harvard College] observatory known as the 'human computers,' I was intrigued. Harvard had never been welcoming to women... These women ultimately laid the groundwork for twentieth-century astronomy... I just knew I had to tell their story, but I decided to focus on Williamina. To travel across the ocean from Scotland, then to be abandoned by her husband and raise a child on her own in a foreign country - what a poignant story!"

Thank you to Second Star to the Right Bookstore in Denver, Colorado,

for featuring our MAYA LIN - ARTIST ARCHITECT OF LIGHT AND LINES picture book biography and other kidlit books "in celebration and tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history and are instrumental in its future success."

The True Story of the Bronx Zoo's First Woman Zookeeper



Neal Porter Books

Holiday House Publishing

(pub. 8.4.2020) 48 pages

Author: Candace Fleming

Illustrator: Julie Downing

Character: Helen Martini

Overview: "Fred and Helen Martini longed for a baby, and they ended up with dozens of lion and tiger cubs! Snuggle up to this purr-fect read aloud about the Bronx Zoo's first female zoo-keeper.

When Bronx Zoo-keeper Fred brought home a lion cub, Helen Martini instantly embraced it. The cub's mother lost the instinct to care for him. 'Just do for him what you would do with a human baby,' Fred suggested...and she did. Helen named him MacArthur, and fed him milk from a bottle and cooed him to sleep in a crib.

Soon enough, MacArthur was not the only cub bathed in the tub! The couple continues to raise lion and tiger cubs as their own, until they are old enough to return them to zoos. Helen becomes the first female zookeeper at the Bronx zoo, the keeper of the nursery." Tantalizing taste:

"At the zoo, she turned the glass-paneled cage into a cozy home. Blankets. Bottles. Boxes of toys. Good thing Helen brought them all . Then peeking around the partition, she watched her babies play. She called them back for naps and snacks and cuddles."

And something more: Candace Fleming writes in A Quieter Kind of Hero: "[Helen Martini] was indispensable. In her two decades as the 'animal nursery keeper,' she cared for hundreds of babies, including a chimpanzee, two orangutans, three gorillas, a ring-tailed lemur, a pair of ocelots, a skunk, a sea lion a little of common marmosets, a round-tailed ground squirrel, an addax, a sika deer, and a long-eared hedgehog from Cyprus. The nursery, admitted Helen, often looked 'like Noah's ark.'"

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

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