Determined Dreamer: The Story of Marie Curie

Image of Determined Dreamer: The Story of Marie Curie
Release Date: 
February 27, 2024
Balzer + Bray
Reviewed by: 

There are many children’s biographies about Marie Curie, so this one called Determined Dreamer: The Story of Marie Curie, had to bring something new to the table in order to get published. Marie’s story includes her two sisters and how Bronya wanted to become a doctor. She was older and went to Paris first since women couldn’t earn college degrees in Poland. Long before that, Marie grabbed Bronya’s book and read it at age four. “It’s only because it was so easy!” she explained. Marie stayed in Poland and helped earn money for Bronya’s education. She got a late start in Paris at the age of 24. She lived alone in a cold room while at school. Why didn’t she live with Bronya?

In college, “girls were outnumbered almost a hundred to one.” “Sometimes her only meal was a cup of hot chocolate with a piece of bread or an egg and fruit.” These details make the biography shine. The explanation of what Marie studied is detailed. “She wanted to answer questions such as: Could radiation be measured? Were there other substances, besides uranium, that gave off these mysterious rays?” Her husband, Pierre, supported her work, unlike most men of the era. He helped by building a “delicate instrument” to “precisely measure the energy given off by uranium.” He gave Marie a place to set up a makeshift laboratory in the college where he taught.

Some of the concepts explained are a bit much for six year olds, but a nine year old might be inspired by all that Marie went through to become a scientist. The art shows the details of Marie’s life: sleeping in a cold attic with all her clothes piled on top of her, the warm library where she studied, riding bicycles with Pierre, her many hours of work in the lab, the ordeal of having to stir pots of boiling pitchblende in vats as big as she was, and her working with the glowing dishes of radium. A nice detail is that “one-tenth of a gram of pure radium was about the weight of one Cheerio or a small coffee bean.” Did the world have Cheerios back then?

A sad image by the illustrator shows Marie and her two daughters at the cemetery after Pierre was killed in a traffic accident. Another image shows Marie training young women to drive and operate mobile X-ray units during World War I, including her daughter, Irene.

The cover is dark blue with glowing radium and the end papers are a minty green. The bright art on a white background goes well with the subject matter: the children and adults of the 1800s, plus the last illustration showing the children of today. The last sentence is a good one. “But remember, she [Marie] began, just like you [page-turn], as a child who wanted to learn.”

There is an author’s note, two pages of timeline, a short bibliography, and source notes showing all quotations. This is a great pick for any science classroom, with no need to limit it to the nine year olds and younger.