Pocket Bios: Anne Frank, Frida Kahlo, & Marie Curie (Al Berenger)

Hello, friends! Our books today are three more from the Pocket Bios series by Al Berenger: Anne Frank, Frida Kahlo, and Marie Curie.

As with previous installments in the series, each book walks the reader through a concise look at its subject’s life, including notable events, works, and accomplishments. Each page focuses on a different event or time period, accompanied by an illustration on the opposite page, and all three books include backmatter with maps, timelines, and more.

As with the three that we reviewed for Black History Month, these biographies are fairly well-done (if occasionally faulty) primers for these remarkable women. Curie’s is strongest, covering her quest for education despite her gender, her romance with Pierre Curie and their work together, her two Nobel prizes, and her premature death (though little effort is given to describing her actual work). Kahlo’s is also quite good for the same reasons, but suffers greatly from not showing her actual art, romanticizes her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, and completely ignores her open bisexuality. And while it tries to capture her indomitable spirit, Anne Frank’s is a mess in terms of tone; illustrations of Hitler surrounded by saluting Nazis, or of Otto Frank weeping despondently over the deaths of his daughters, portrayed in the series’ bright, bobble-headed character style is cringingly inappropriate. As with previous books in this series, these aren’t bad as primers, but picture book biographies have been done far better for each woman. Otherwise, the lengths aren’t bad, even for small bookworms, and JJ enjoyed them okay. I would say skip Frank’s, but Kahlo and Curie are Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Marie Curie (Demi)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Marie Curie by Demi, a comprehensive look at the life and scientific contributions of the brilliant Madame Curie.

Born in Poland to a family of scientists and educators, Marie was fascinated by science at a young age. Despite an often-difficult childhood, she studied and worked to help fund not only her own college education in France, but her sister’s as well. It was at school at the Sorbonne that she would meet Pierre Curie, a fellow scientist who immediately recognized Marie’s brilliance. The two fell in love, married, had two children, and worked tirelessly on their research into radioactive elements. Marie would go on to win two Nobel Prizes (one with Pierre and one on her own), becoming the first person to do so. And while her work would ultimately lead to her demise, her contributions to science and medicine would save lives and change the world.

Listen, it’s pretty hard to mess up biography of Marie Curie, one of the greatest scientists of all time, and this one does okay. The descriptions of Marie’s early life – her academic excellence from toddler-age, her work-study arrangement with her sister, her early days as a researcher – this was all fascinating. But around the midpoint, the story begins to meander to the point that it became confusing, especially for younger readers. Tangents like a section covering the Radium Girls or the very technical aspects of separating pitchblende seemed tacked on. The folk-art inspired illustrations are quite nice, placing simple characters against brightly-patterned backgrounds, but a scene that accompanies Pierre Curie’s death disturbingly includes his corpse. The length is okay for slightly older bookworms, but JJ was clearly bored by the end. A biography that begins with promise but ultimately falls apart, and simply not the best we’ve seen. Not for us.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie (Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie, written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Frau Isa, a gorgeous, inspiring and moving little book about the famed scientist.

Little Marie was never quite what people expected of girls in her time: instead of a princess, she longed to be a scientist. However, girls were not allowed to attend college in her country – but that wasn’t going to stop her. Marie moved to Paris to study physics and chemistry, becoming a top student, despite studying in a completely new language! Paris is also where she met Pierre Curie, who would become the love of her life. They both loved science, and even won a Nobel Prize for their work together, Marie being the first woman ever to do so. After losing Pierre to a tragic accident, Marie focused on her work, developed x-rays to help the injured and sick, and won another Nobel prize. Marie never let her hardships define her, and become one of the greatest female pioneers science has ever known.

This is our second Little People, Big Dreams book, and it is just as stirring and beautiful as the first. Marie’s life is condensed to its most crucial events and themes, creating a storybook-like narrative that moves at a brisk pace but is no less impactful. The art here is strikingly gorgeous, using a soft, muted palette to frame Marie’s life of passion, triumph, and loss, and there are a few spreads that are truly, heartbreakingly remarkable. The length is perfect for even tiny bookworms, and JJ absolutely adored it. These are a marvelous treat, and we love reading them. Baby Bookworm approved!