Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Marie Curie: A Brilliant Life

Marie Curie: A Brilliant Life

Elizabeth MacLeod
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Kids Can Press, 2004   ISBN: 978-1553375708

Marya Sklodowska was a shy, clever little girl who lived with her parents and her siblings in Warsaw, Poland. Marya’s father taught science and mathematics in a high school and even when she was quite young she loved the instruments that he used to teach these subjects. At this time, in the 1870’s, Poland was under Russian rule and Pole’s were treated badly by their Russian masters. Marya grew up dreaming of a day when her people would be free, and she hoped too that one day she would be able to do something to make her family and her people proud.

Because they had so few opportunities for a good education Marya and her sister Bronya agreed that they would both work hard to send each other to university in Paris. First Marya was the one who stayed in Poland and worked so her sister could go to Paris. During this time she developed an interest in science and when it was her turn to go to Paris, she decided to study physics at the Sorbonne.

Despite the fact that she was very poor, Marya did very well in her studies getting degrees in Physics and in Mathematics. She then needed to find lab space where she could carry out her experiments and this was when she met Pierre Curie, a successful scientist. The two fell in love and when they married they began a partnership which ended up with Marya, or Marie as she now called herself, getting two Nobel Prizes. Pierre helped Marie with her experiments, supported her when she discovered the element Radium, and helped her to figure out how Radium could be used to help people who were sick.

This engaging and interesting biography perfectly combines accounts of Marie’s personal life with descriptions of her significant scientific achievements. The science is explained in a manner which is easy to follow, background being provided to give Marie’s discoveries their proper context. On each double page spread there is a page of text with a quotation, and opposite there is a page of annotated photographs and illustrations. Readers will be able to look at pictures of Marie and her family, pictures of her world, copies of her writings and much more. The result of this format is that one feels as if one is looking at an old scrapbook, and as one looks at the pictures one gets a very real sense of what Marie’s life and her world was like.