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Henrietta Levitt was the first person to discover the scientific importance of a star’s brightness—so why has no one heard of her? Learn all about a female pioneer of astronomy in this picture book biography.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born on July 4, 1868, and she changed the course of astronomy when she was just twenty-five years old. Henrietta spent years measuring star positions and sizes from photographs taken by the telescope at the Harvard College Observatory, where she worked. After Henrietta observed that certain stars had a fixed pattern to their changes, her discovery made it possible for astronomers to measure greater and greater distances—leading to our present understanding of the vast size of the universe.
An astronomer of her time called Henrietta Leavitt “one of the most important women ever to touch astronomy,” and another close associate said she had the “best mind at the Harvard Observatory.” Henrietta Leaveitt's story will inspire young women and aspiring scientists of all kinds and includes additional information about the solar system and astronomy.
About the Author
Robert Burleigh is the award-winning author of many books for children, including The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn, illustrated by Barry Blitt; Night Flight, illustrated by Wendell Minor; Black Whiteness, illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop; and Sylvia’s Bookshop, illustrated by Katy Wu. His many other books include Hoops; Stealing Home; and Clang! Clang! Beep! Beep! He lives in Michigan.
Raúl Colón has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a children's biography of Henrietta Leavitt, who worked at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. She made an important astronomical discovery that allows us to accurately calculate the distance to a certain type of star that varies in brightness in a regular way, wherever it may be. Henrietta Leavitt is one of my favourite astronomers so I was delighted to discover this book existed. However, on reading the book, I found it characterised by sloppiness and lack of attention to detail. The explanation of Leavitt's work is sufficiently unclear that it will only be undestood by those who already know what she did. The explanation is simplified to the point where it is wrong. Children are unlikely to understand Leavitt's work. The assertions that adult Leavitt enjoyed reading the biographies of famous astronomers and that she liked "to repeat to herself her favourite 'sky-words': asteroid, cosmic dust and eclipse' are odd. No mention of these habits is made in other biographies and information about Leavitt's personal life is sparse. Whilst the former habit is plausible, the latter is peculiar and I was left wondering whether this is a little-known fact or an invention of the author. The page devoted to Leavitt's education is misleading. The illustration depicts Leavitt the lone female in class of men. Zeal to explain the difficulties that women in general encountered in getting an education and pursuing careers in astronomy masks the fact that Leavitt graduated from an all female college. The illustrations condemn the mediocre text. They are characteristed by lack of fidelity to the science they are trying to depict. The picture of the telescope at the Harvard Observatory seems to be suspended from the wall by means of a single metal bar, not attached to the floor by a complex steering mechanism as it should be. On the page that describes Leavitt looking at the Big Dipper, the stars in the picture are not the Big Dipper. Why not? The double page spread inserted part way through the story with the portaits of Copernicus and Galileo and sketches of various galaxies and planets is entirely superfluous and intrudes on the story like an ad break. I intended to buy this book for many of the young children in my family to introduce them to Leavitt. However, the book is so poor I will not be giving it to any of them.