Caroline's Comets: A True Story

illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. 40p. bibliog. chron. glossary. Holiday House. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823436644.
PreS-Gr 3—This picture book biography tells the story of Caroline Herschel, who became the first female professional scientist employed by George III. Readers learn of her childhood love of stargazing, the illnesses of her youth, and the struggles she faced as an unmarried woman attempting to earn a living. Expansive, hand-drawn illustrations enhance the text. Rich, starry nighttime spreads alternate with vividly colored scenes on a white background. The text is wonderfully accessible to younger audiences, but 18th-century culture is not directly explained and may need to be discussed with children while reading. Herschel's family's singular dependence on her as their scullery maid, for example, may recall "Cinderella" to the minds of some youngsters or prompt questions about the way Herschel's family treated her. Also note that the focus here is on Herschel's life rather than on what a comet is or why it is a significant find. Pairing this title with materials on comets, stars, and astronomy would provide solid scientific context for the study of space. Herschel and her brother William's foray into telescope building is a highlight of the volume, as it demonstrates the process of learning through scientific experimentation. The use of italicized first-person excerpts from Herschel's recollections works well here.
VERDICT Purchase where early elementary—level science biographies are needed.

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