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Scientist biographies

Berne, Jennifer  On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
Gr. K–3    48 pp.  Chronicle

Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. Berne and Radunsky — in a gorgeous piece of bookmaking — use the “biggest, most exciting thought Albert had ever had” as the focal point for their homage to the great physicist. Berne’s simple text shows the adult Albert’s child-friendly inclinations (ice-cream walks, an aversion to socks), while Radunsky’s spontaneous line work creates a sense of movement that perfectly mirrors Albert’s endless search for answers.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Physics; Einstein, Albert; Scientists; Nobel Prize

Burleigh, Robert  Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer
Gr. K–3    32 pp.  Simon/Wiseman

Burleigh brilliantly imagines details in the life and work of Henrietta Leavitt, a turn-of-the-twentieth-century astronomer whose studies as a “computer” of star patterns at the Harvard College Observatory led to significant discoveries. Paired with Colón’s striking illustrations of the serious and scholarly Leavitt, this is a rich portrayal of a woman’s determination to follow her unlikely dream of scientific exploration. Websites. Bib., glos.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Leavitt, Henrietta; Scientists; Women—Astronomers; Women—Scientists; Astronomy—Stars

Electric BenByrd, Robert  Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
Gr. 4–6    40 pp.  Dial

Byrd divides Franklin’s life into seventeen whimsically labeled double-page spreads covering topics ranging from his fascination with electricity to his ideas for social progress to his diplomatic roles. Informative, exploratory, nonpandering text is set on attractive pages; spot art and larger illustrations provide information and present a visual record. Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, this book shimmers with excitement, begging to be read. Reading list, timeline. Bib.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Inventions and inventors; Statesmen; Franklin, Benjamin; Scientists; History, American—Revolutionary War; Electricity; Diplomats; Printing

Johnson, Sylvia A.  Shaking the Foundation: Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution
Middle school, high school    88 pp.  Twenty-First Century

In this thoughtful history of both Darwin and his theories of evolution, Johnson explains how the scientist lived and worked, religious and scientific challenges to his theories, and American legal challenges to evolution that continue in contemporary times. Numerous historical photographs and scientific illustrations, many from scientists of Darwin’s time, greatly enhance the text. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Darwin, Charles;  Scientists; Evolution; Natural history

Ottaviani, Jim Feynman
Middle school, high school    266 pp.  Roaring Brook/First Second

Illustrated by Leland Myrick. Color by Hilary Sycamore. Richard Feynman was a brilliant theoretical physicist and an individualist of the highest order. The first-person graphic novel format is ideal for telling his story, and Ottaviani and Myrick do a spectacular job presenting their remarkable subject — even unto clear explanations of complex physics. Their enthusiasm infuses every aspect of the book, from the riveting opening scene to the aptly spirited and opinionated bibliography.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Feynman, Richard; Scientists; Physics; Atomic bomb; Graphic novels; Cartoons and comics

From the September 2013 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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