Review of Remembering Rosalind Franklin: Rosalind Franklin & the Discovery of the Double Helix Structure of DNA

Remembering Rosalind Franklin: Rosalind Franklin & the Discovery of the Double Helix Structure of DNA
by Tanya Lee Stone; illus. by Gretchen Ellen Powers
Primary, Intermediate    Ottaviano/Little, Brown    40 pp.
2/24    9780316351249    $18.99

Stone’s dedication—“For anyone who did something awesome and didn’t feel the love”—sets the reparative tone for this picture-book biography of scientist Franklin (1920–1958), whose Photo 51 cracked the DNA code while competing researchers James Watson and Francis Crick took the credit (and the 1962 Nobel Prize). As she weaves science and history, Stone unravels dual mysteries centering on the double helix: how the “secret of life…makes you—YOU” and how a “twist of fate” triggered Franklin’s posthumous recognition. Powers’s watercolors perfectly blend representative and expressive styles. Realistically rendered characters and period details set the story in its mid-twentieth-century milieu, while experimental techniques offer evocative visual commentary; for example, when Franklin argues with Watson and Crick, blue watercolor blotches disrupt the tidy floral border and explode the ground beneath them. Although Stone opens by warning, “This true story doesn’t really have a happy ending,” Powers’s accompanying fairy tale–esque castle, adorned with scientific instruments, foreshadows a time in which readers are empowered to interrogate the historical record and reclaim the stories of little-heralded figures. An author’s note explains the Matilda Effect, a historical pattern in which men take credit for women’s work.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shelley Isaacson

Shelley Isaacson teaches children’s literature at Simmons University and Tufts University. She holds an MA in Children’s Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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