Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins

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Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins (InfoSoup)

This compelling verse novel tells the story of three girls who grew up to be women who made their own personal mark on science. There is Maria Merian, a girl born in 1647 who loved nature. Through careful observation, she discovered the metamorphosis of butterflies. Her artistic talents also helped document the life cycles of insects. Born in 1799, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone curiosities in England. When she saw a huge creature in the rocks, she discovered the first of the many fossils and dinosaurs she would uncover during her life. Born in 1818, Maria Mitchell grew up helping her mapmaker father in Nantucket. Exploring the night sky together, she spent years looking through her father’s telescope before discovering a new comet. All of these women battled societal expectations and familial pressures to become the scientists they were.

Atkins uses verse to directly tell the stories of these girls, the way they were raised and how they grew to become scientists. Readers unfamiliar with them will be amazed that they were able to reach such prominence in the time periods they lived and that their fathers were the ones who allowed them the freedom to learn and explore. These women demonstrate that through tenacity and determination one can become exactly who they were meant to be, despite almost everyone disapproving. The tales are inspiring and insightful.

Atkins has chosen three women whose stories work particularly well together. There are commonalities between them even though they span more than a century and involve different types of scientific endeavors.  The strong focus on faith in all of the stories shows the way that scientists even today must reconcile their religious beliefs with scientific truths. Faith is handled with a frank sincerity here, an important part of family and life, but also something that can be personal to an individual.

Beautifully written, these brief glimpses of amazing women in science will introduce new sources of inspiration to young readers. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Boys and Reading

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Two of the largest studies of reading habits of children in the UK have been recently completed.

They show that boys of every age typically read less thoroughly than girls, no matter what sort of literature they are reading. They tend to take less time to process what they are reading and skip parts as well. Finally, they also choose things to read that are too easy for them.

Though boys read nonfiction more than girls do, the studies demonstrated that boys are not any better at reading nonfiction as thoroughly as girls are. There is also no relationship to socioeconomic status seen in the studies.

Topping said: “What you need is teachers, classroom assistants, librarians spending time with a child to talk about choices in reading; possible suggestions for more challenging books in the context of what they are interested in.

“We are not saying read hundreds of classics and that everything will be all right. They need to read challenging books in a subject in which they are interested.”

Details on the large studies can be found in The Guardian.