Friday, September 9, 2016

FINDING WONDERS by Jeannine Atkins

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm for Roundup. I know she'll have something wonderful to share with us!

I'm delighted to share with you today the latest from Jeannine Atkins -- Finding Wonder: Three Girls Who Changed Science, new from Atheneum Books for Young Readers and already sporting some lovely starred reviews. And how gorgeous is that cover?! Congratulations, Jeannine!!

It's another beautiful verse novel about real women, in the spirit of her much acclaimed and beloved-by-me Borrowed Names. Jeannine knows these girls, and by the end of the book, the reader does, too.

So who are these three girls? Maria Sibylla Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell. While they are from different places and time periods, they all found wonder in the world and helped us to understand better the workings of metamorphosis and fossils and the night sky. Read on for an excerpt from each girl's story! The book also includes a note from the author, some suggestions for "reading past these pages," and a bibliography. Great for wonder-ers of all ages!

MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN (1660, Frankfurt, Germany)

In the attic, a silkworm silently spins
a silk cocoon around itself,
like a dancer twirling
or a baker frosting a tall cake.

does the silkworm get dizzy,
making a spoon-sized bit of sunlight
where self and home are one?
Can watching what caterpillars become
show Maria where they came from?
How long must she wait
to see what will emerge?

MARY ANNING (1809, Lyme Regis, England)
After the Storm

The next morning, birds slice a way through blue sky.
Mary and Joseph find broken ledges
covering the spot where the sea dragon used to be.
Joseph spits and walks away.

Tears fill Mary's eyes. But she knows
where to dig. She has time.
She pries away fallen stone,
smashes what can't be lifted,
sweeps off dirt and rubble,
hoping the sea dragon is underneath
and uncrushed.

For weeks she works alone, heading out
straight after breakfast, stopping only
to pet friendly dogs along the way.
She misses her brother, even the arguments
about who first saw a face in the cliff.
Seeing isn't a race,
but is as layered as the rocks.
It's gone, Joseph says, when stopping by
late one afternoon. It's no use.

I'll find it, she says, though she's uncertain
as she pries and shovels. Her shadow blends
with Joseph's and lengthens into the cliffs.
Dragonflies dart as they do before darkness.
She sweeps away dust with a light hand.
Rocks aren't as permanent as they look.

MARIA MITCHELL (1831, Nantucket, Massachusetts)
Playing Planets

Schoolmasters don't make much money, so Father ears more
by walking around the island to take measurements for maps
that mark shorelines and shoals. Maria suspects he also asks
relatives for news of Andrew, who disappeared last week.

While Father is gone from his school room, Maria arranges
primers, chalk, and slates. Taking out the wooden spheres
to give an astronomy lesson, she remembers Father holding
the largest ball, bringing the sun to their parlor.
The children ran around him like orbiting planets, taking turns
as Saturn, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Uranus.
Holding a baby, Mother was Earth.

Maria loves how planets take measured places in the sky,
but also hold mysteries. Once, she wished she could be a comet,
soaring close to the sun to be seen,
appearing as if from nowhere
among the whirls of sisters and brothers,
her father steady in the center.

Thank you, Jeannine, for writing this book. You are an inspiration! xo


  1. Thanks for the heads-up on this, Irene. I'm definitely going to look for it!

  2. Gorgeous language and fascinating historical figures! What could be better?

  3. Jeannine is one of our fellow New England SCBWI members, so I'm extra excited about seeing her book - thanks for sharing!

  4. Another beautifully written book by Jeannine. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. :)

  5. I love how the concept of wonder ties these three stories together. I'll definitely add this one to my reading list. Thanks!

  6. I'm SO excited for this book!! Can't wait to share it with patrons. So inspiring and beautiful.

  7. Thanks for this wonderful peek into the lives of these three women and this delightful new book. I hustled over to my library site to request it. It's on order, and I'm #6 in the queue. Can't wait to share it with my book club members.

  8. Irene, thank you so much for posting, and lovely friends and readers for the kind comments. It is so much fun seeing a book move into others' hands!

  9. I loved Borrowed Names, will be sure to get this one, too, Irene. I've read about Mary Anning, but little of the other two. I love how Jeannine makes the characters come alive in her poetry. Thank you!

  10. Thanks for the preview! I'm anxious to read this one!

  11. Thank you, Irene, for giving us this peek into Jeannine's lovely new book. It's one I'm really looking forward to reading!

  12. What beautiful word choice. I will be keeping my eye out for this one. Thanks for sharing, Irene!

  13. Lovely, just lovely. I also loved Borrowed Names. I'm impressed with the trio structure to these books. What led to three women in each? I would love to know more about how Jeannine put this book together. I would love a behind the scenes peek at her process.

    1. Oh, I'm not sure you would really love a behind the scenes peek -- so long and slow and messy! -- but thank you for the thought and kind words! Three - that important number in folk lore and myth -- felt right to me: there are few enough to look from one to the other, and there's no lining up to measure or balance.

  14. How fabulous. I am especially feeling the pull of Mary Anning's story.

  15. Great blending of History, Science, Poetry and Art! And yes! Love that cover art! Thanks so much for sharing this...oh, the flexibility of this!

  16. Jeannine has a way of bringing people back to life. And I am so grateful. "Seeing isn't a race." Amen. So much wisdom in each line. xx


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