Review of All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World

All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World
by Lori Alexander; illus. by Vivien Mildenberger
Intermediate    Houghton    94 pp.
8/19    978-1-328-88420-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-03619-7    $9.99

In the prosperous city of Delft, in seventeenth-century Netherlands, Antony van Leeuwenhoek was a cloth merchant. But even without formal scientific training, and possessing abundant curiosity and technical skill, Antony became instead interested in lenses and magnification. He went on to create the most advanced microscopes in the world, eventually amassing a collection of over five hundred, each affixed to an individual specimen. He was secretive about his cutting-edge technology, which allowed him to be the first person ever to see many varieties of microbes — which he called diertgens (little animals), translated into English as “animalcules.” Alexander’s excellent, accessible overview of Leeuwenhoek’s life gives upper-elementary chapter-book readers a feel for both the person and the historical context. Well-chosen quotes from Leeuwenhoek’s letters reveal the sometimes tentative but ultimately persistent pioneer and reflect a time when scientific inquiry was open and encouraging to those with the means to pursue their passions. Mildenberger’s cartoony illustrations, both spot art and full-page drawings, include intricately rendered details of the people, places, and microbes of Leeuwenhoek’s world.

From the November/December 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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