This post is a review of the children’s book Marie Curie’s Search for Radium (Science Stories) by Beverly Birch and Christian Birmingham (pp. 40).
As you can surmise from the title, this book focuses specifically on Marie Curie’s discovery of Radium. As such, the text skips most of the life of Marie such as her childhood, early education, and even any insight into her marriage and children.
The book begins with Marie being interested in X-rays. Through her study of X-rays Marie finds out about rays that come from uranium. This led Marie to wonder if other elements emit electricity. She decides to test this with the help of her husband’s electrometer.
She soon begins to find other elements that emit electricity in the air. She calls this rays radiation or radioactive rays. Eventually, she discovers two new elements polonium and radium. To find these elements she had to sift through huge amounts of pitchblende a mineral in order to concentrate the radium or polonium. Radium is million times more radioactive than uranium. As such, Marie was actually slowly poisoning herself through her research.
After years of work, Marie had a thimble size amount of radium to share with the world. The blue liquid actually glows in the dark. Another sign of how dangerous it was without Marie knowing.
The visuals have an impressionistic feel to them. In many ways, a younger child can determine what is happening just from looking at the pictures.
The book seems to narrowly focus. Marie’s husband comes out of nowhere as if she was magically married somehow. In addition, the book leaves out some of Marie’s most impressive achievements such as the fact that she won two Nobel Prizes. In fact, Marie first Noble Prize was shared with her husband and Antoine Becquerel. It was the research done with Becquerel that led to Marie’s future work with radium and a second Nobel Prize. This is never stated in the text. A passing reference is enough for such monumental achievements
This book would be a reasonable read for older elementary students. However, the book need will require supplemental materials and or instruction in order for the students to truly understand the impact and influence Marie Curie had in science.