Staff Review: "Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math"
Jeannine Atkins has another excellent book to follow Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science. The women she focuses on this time include Katherine Johnson and Vera Rubin. Each poem is a small moment in the girls’ lives. I especially love the last lines of so many of the poems. They feel hopeful and end on an upward note. “She charts what’s known in the sky, dipping a quill in ink,/recording the sizes, colors, and locations of stars/on paper that turns a brighter white as the sun rises” are the closing lines in the poem “Minding the Heavens” about Caroline Herschel. And in “The Gray Cat and the Green Chair” about Hertha Marks Ayrton, “Wrong answers point ways to right ones.”
The poetic language Atkins uses gives power to everyday moments as well as the breakthroughs in research and celebrations these women experienced: “Houskeeping/looks endless, but she starts by sweeping ashes/from the hearth, taking flint from the tinderbox./She strikes it on steel, fans the sparks.”
This book, like Finding Wonders, makes poetry out of something I usually find to be so technical and dry. It makes me see mathematics in a new light: “Math seems to set forces on paper,/still as sleeping birds just before they soar.” The sections can be read separately—but once you start, I bet you will want to read the whole book!
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