The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie

Blackstone. Apr. 2023. 350p. ed. by Schmidt, Bryan Thomas & Henry Herz, eds. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781665047036.
Gr 9 Up–Mixing the fantastical with the historical, Schmidt and Herz have collected 16 short stories surrounding the life and times of Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize–winning scientist. Each writer uses one segment of her life, whether it be her childhood, experiments and discoveries, or her marriage and children, to blend factual and fantastical imaginings of a curious woman living in a man’s world of science in 1800s Europe. Readers should not be fooled—this is not historical fiction nor is it a nonfiction collection of her life but a wide-ranging, genre-bending exploration of Curie, using her name but playing loose with most of the facts. This approach makes it hard to categorize and contextualize. Several of the short stories include a “science note” at the end of the story about what was real; more often, the stories are not based in fact and that is distracting, while also appearing disingenuous to her greatness as a scientist, though the editors state that this is not their intent. Their intent is to inspire a new generation of STEM thinkers by blending it with speculative fiction. That value is recognized with the skilled pen of Jane Yolen, who writes four verse pieces interspersed in the collection, which injects a seriousness to the fantastical elements.
VERDICT This falls short in totality. Preferred reading goes to nonfiction about Marie Curie rather than this collection loosely inspired by her life.

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