________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004


Marie Curie: A Brilliant Life. (Snapshots: Images of People and Places in History).

Elizabeth MacLeod.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2004.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55337-571-8 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55337-570-X (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Curie, Marie, 1867-1934-Juvenile literature.
Chemists-Poland-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Grace Sheppard.

*** ½ /4


When Marie began studying uranium, she knew it was one of 70 elements chemists had discovered. (An element is a substance, such as gold or oxygen, composed of only one type of atom.) Could she find uranium-type rays coming from other elements? One by one, she checked – and found that the element thorium also gave off rays.

Next Marie analyzed rocks that contained more than one element. As she expected, most of the uranium-type rays were given off by the rocks called pitchblende. This was because they contained uranium or thorium. But to Marie’s surprise, pitchblende gave off more radiation than she expected. She knew she wasn’t wrong – she’d checked her results 20 times. What was causing this extra radiation?


Elizabeth MacLeod is back with another winning biography of a famous scientist. MacLeod was nominated for the 2004 Silver Birch Nonfiction award for Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius, another title in the “Snapshots” series from Kids Can Press.

     MacLeod’s writing is, as always, easy to read, and she has great material to work with. Marie Curie’s life was full of “firsts,” triumphs, and tragedy. MacLeod’s real strengths here are the pacing of the story (so much information must have been challenging to condense) and her clear explanations of scientific terms. Because the explanations occur naturally in the text, there is no need for a glossary for terms such as “element” (see excerpt, above).

     As with the other books in this series, this book’s 13 topics are presented in 2-page “chapters” which include a main body of text as well as captioned photographs and drawings. The layout is consistent, with the text information on the left-hand page and the illustrations on the right. Red arrows point from captions to their accompanying illustration – this helps to avoid confusion on the busy and interesting pages. The layout is extremely appealing, and the coloured background of the pages really brings the black and white photographs forward.

     MacLeod includes a succinct and easy to follow timeline of Curie’s life. Also appended are an index and a list of the museums that celebrate Curie’s discoveries.

     An excellent addition to any biography collection, this book will appeal both to researchers and browsers.

Highly Recommended.

Grace Sheppard is a Children’s Librarian with the Ottawa Public Library in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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