Marie Curie by Nell Walker

The Blurb On The Back:

Discover the fascinating story of MARIE CURIE a trailblazing scientist who discovered two radioactive elements.

Did you know that Marie studied science at a secret university? 

Or that she invented portable x-ray machines that helped save many soldiers’ lives during the First World War?

Packed with facts, photographs, illustrations and more, DK Life Stories take you beyond the basics to find out all about history’s most amazing people.  

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order MARIE CURIE by Nell Walker from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Nell Walker is a writer with a Master’s degree in Creative Writing.  This fascinating biography of Marie Curie for readers aged 7+ covers her childhood in Poland (where education opportunities were restricted), her work on radioactivity and marriage to Pierre and role in the development of x-ray machines.  Charlotte Ager’s sensitive illustrations work well alongside photographs and Walker clearly conveys a woman of remarkable spirit and ability.

Walker takes a straight forward, linear approach to Curie’s life, starting with her childhood in Warsaw and her family’s background.  I came into this book not knowing a great deal about Marie and given the young readership this book is aimed at, I was surprised by how much information Walker gets in here.  In particular, I hadn’t known that Curie’s academic studies were delayed due to a law prohibiting women from studying at university and that she’d been driven to use a secret university to continue her learning and then had to work to support her sister’s studies in France before she was able to follow her.

Walker’s writing is very fluid, moving through Curie’s studies in France, her relationship and marriage to Pierre, her studies into radioactivity and the difficulties she faced as an academic (including how Pierre had to demand she be co-credited with their Nobel Prize).  Given that the book is aimed at readers aged 7+, the language is relatively simple but she gets across a lot of complicated ideas, with small boxes of side text giving explanations of particular ideas or terms.  Walker gets across the difficulties that Curie faced, the strength and determination she had to overcome them and also her dedication to science and her love for Pierre (who himself was a remarkable man in how much he supported her).  At the same time there’s a real sadness reading this as a grownup because we know now how dangerous radioactivity is and how it would have affected both Marie and Pierre’s health.

The book makes excellent use of illustrations, combining photos of Marie and her family with some wonderfully sensitive illustrations by Charlotte Ager, which make great use of blocks of pink and lime green.  There’s a timeline of key events in Curie’s life at the end of the book, together with a quiz, a glossary and biographies of key people in the book.  I would have liked a suggestion for further reading about science or Curie but that is a very minor gripe.

All in all, I thought this was a really good read and a real tribute to a truly remarkable woman and a great way of getting young readers interested in both history and science.   

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