Review of Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
by Janice N. Harrington; illus. by Theodore Taylor III
Primary    Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills    48 pp.
11/19    978-1-62979-558-4    $18.99

This picture-book biography of renowned African American entomologist Turner (1867–1923) begins with a signature quote: “The study of biology trains the powers of observation.” And it is that very power of observation that led the young Turner to ask questions: “questions that itched like mosquito bites, questions that tickled like spider webs, questions you couldn’t just shoo away!” Harrington aptly incorporates the scientific method as she highlights Turner’s lifelong scientific curiosity and his major entomological discoveries. What shines through is his “indefatigable” (a word used several times, and beautifully defined in context) grit as he searches to find out, for example, if bees can identify color and if spiders make intelligent choices when weaving webs. According to Turner, “biology could help people see the connections among all living things” — a belief that gave him hope as he experienced racial prejudice and violence in the early-twentieth-century South. Read this aloud to capture Harrington’s strong voice, with her powerful cadences and well-chosen repetitions. Taylor’s accompanying clean-lined digital illustrations spotlight the scientist at work, from time spent in the lab “peering through microscopes” to his experiments in nature and exploring the outdoors. Appended with an author’s note, a timeline, source notes, and a bibliography.

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

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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