I’m more comfortable with magic than I am with science. Married to a science guy, I work harder to be interested in science. It gives us something to talk about. When I find narrative nonfiction that tells a compelling story, I’m thankful … and intrigued. I’m particularly happy to find books that feature lesser-known aspects of science, thereby taunting my curiosity.
Do you know the Lives of … series, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated with disproportionately big heads by Kathryn Hewitt? First published in 2013 and now in paperback for less than $10, I had a ball reading Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought). It reminds me of People magazine in tone, leaning toward gossipy aspects of these most curious of people past and present but balanced by the right amount of tantalizing information about their work (for many of them, their obsession). And you may not have heard of many of these people.
For instance, William and Caroline Herschel, brother and sister, earned their living as musicians until they had sold enough of their handmade telescopes (they used horse dung for the molds!) and their catalog of newly discovered heavenly bodies attracted the attention of England’s King George III, who paid them both a salary.
The gossipy part? Apparently William was a bossy guy who didn’t have his sister’s well-being at the top of his priority list. During a long night of astronomic observation, Caroline’s leg was impaled on a hook but he couldn’t hear her cries of pain. He was concentrating hard!
After each profile, there are “extra credit” points that didn’t fit into the narrative but they’re awfully interesting.
Don’t you love this tidbit about Grace Murray Hopper, computer scientist? “When Grace Murray Hopper was seven, she took her alarm clock apart to see how it worked. Her parents were impressed—until she took apart seven more. They limited her to dismantling one clock at a time, but they fully supported her education.”
Do you know the work of Chien-Shiung Wu, Zhang Heng, and Edwin Hubble? There are more familiar scientists as well, people like Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein, Rachel Carson, and George Washington Carver.
This book supports curiosity, investigation, and the pursuing of dreams … your kids will enjoy these three- to four-page biographies even if they’re more inclined to magic than science.