Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Maria’s Comet

Maria’s Comet

Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:  Deborah Lanino 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 1999   ISBN: 978-0689815010

Maria’s Papa is an astronomer. Every night he goes up onto the roof of their house and he looks at the night sky through his brass telescope. Maria’s Papa explains that the stars only seem like specks of dust from earth because they are so far away. In actual fact each star is a “giant spark of fire,” it is a sun which burns as hot as the sun which warms the Earth. He sees all kinds of wonderful things through his telescope and most of all he likes to look for comets.

While Papa gazes up at the stars Maria sweeps the floors in the house below. Maria likes to imagine what her father might to looking at. She imagines what she might see if she could “catch hold of a comet’s tail.” What a journey she would have. But of course in real life she has to help take care of her eight brother’s and sisters. She has to help in the house and do hours of chores.

When she can Maria goes up into the attic with her brother Andrew to look at books and to imagine what it might have been like to be one of the early astronomers. When Andrew decides to leave Nantucket Island to go to sea Maria begs him to stay but he is determined to go. He asks her to go with him but Maria decides that instead of being an explorer of the seas, she will be an explorer of the night skies.

Inspired by the true story of Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer, Deborah Hopkinson tells a wonderful story of a young girl who dares to dream and who lets her imagination take her to the far reaches of the universe. With a lyrical minimal text Deborah Hopkinson manages to convey Maria’s love of learning and her eagerness to discover all she can about the universe. At the end of the story there is an Author’s Note in which Hopkinson tells her readers more about Maria Mitchell’s work and her life. There is also a section in which astronomy terms are explained.