Review of What Miss Mitchell Saw

What Miss Mitchell Saw

by Hayley Barrett; illus. by Diana Sudyka

Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.

9/19    918-1-4814-8759-7    $17.99

e-book ed.  978-1-4814-8760-3    $10.99

Born in the early part of the nineteenth century “on the fog-wrapped island of Nantucket,” Maria Mitchell was a learner, expanding her educational horizons from her family (“Father taught Maria to use a telescope”), to her neighbors, her town, and eventually encompassing the heavens. Her passion was always the night sky, and in 1847, at age twenty-nine, she became the first person to sight a comet through a telescope, garnering international recognition from the scientific community and a medal from the King of Denmark inscribed with her name and (printed in Latin): “Not in vain do we watch the setting and the rising of the stars.” Sudyka’s gouache illustrations, filled with swirls of motion, help convey a sense of wonder about the heavens. An ink-black sky shining with stars, planets, and other celestial phenomena creates a vast, unexplored space, just waiting to be understood. The pictures also occasionally nod at Mitchell’s religious upbringing, splashing across a spread, for example, words of wisdom from her Quaker father: “Thee must wonder. Thee must watch closely. Then will thee see and know for thyself.” “A Bit More About Maria Mitchell—Astronomer, Educator, Activist” and an author’s note are appended.

From the September/October 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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