Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Nonfiction Women

Astronomer Who Questioned Everything, The

The Story of Maria Mitchell

by (author) Laura Alary

illustrated by Ellen Rooney

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Women, Science & Technology, Astronomy
Recommended Age
4 to 8
Recommended Grade
p to 3
Recommended Reading age
4 to 8
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Perfect for fans of STEM, this inspiring picture book biography tells the extraordinary story of pioneering astronomer Maria Mitchell.

Maria longed to travel beyond her small island of Nantucket. But she wasn't sure how. Her father taught her to look to the stars for guidance. If you knew how to read them, he said, the stars could tell you where you were, and where you needed to go. They spent hours scanning the night sky together through a telescope on the roof. Maria learned how to use astronomers' tools to measure and track time by the stars. But what could she do with her skills? Then, one day, she heard that a prize was being offered to the first person to find a new comet. Could this be the opportunity she was waiting for?

This absorbing picture book biography by Laura Alary tells the fascinating, though not well-known, story of a remarkable nineteenth-century woman scientist and women's rights advocate. After winning that prize for discovering a comet, Maria Mitchell would go on to become the first professional female astronomer in the United States, first female member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and one of the first female college professors. Beautifully illustrated with lovely textured artwork by Ellen Rooney, this is a well-told story with a teachable STEM component, supporting both science and social studies curriculums, that supports a growth mindset. It's also a wonderful guide sure to inspire readers to find their own way in the world. It includes backmatter that further describes Maria's impressive life and achievements.

About the authors

Laura Alary believes in writing stories that make us bigger on the inside. Born in Halifax, she earned her B.A. with Honours in classics at Dalhousie University before moving to her current home of Toronto, where she completed a Ph.D. at University of St. Michael’s College. Laura has worked as a lecturer, a library assistant, and a music specialist in Montessori classrooms, all the while writing books and raising her three children. Laura’s most recent title is What Grew in Larry’s Garden, which won the IODE Jean Throop Book Award in 2021. 


Laura Alary's profile page

Ellen Rooney is an award-winning designer, artist and children’s book illustrator. Her textural mixed media artwork combines many traditional art techniques, like pencil drawing, painting, printmaking and collage, often combined with digital techniques. She is the winner of the 2021 Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize for Grandmother School. Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.


Ellen Rooney's profile page

Editorial Reviews

... will inspire many readers to dream, to wonder, and to collect. It will inspire readers to reach for the stars.—CM Magazine

An inspiring account of a notable early role model who pursued a STEM career despite sexism.

Kirkus Reviews

... a truly charming read that proves amazing things can grow in both our garden's and our lives when tended with human kindness and patience.—CM Magazine (Praise for What Grew in Larry's Garden)

An inspiring account of a notable early role model who pursued a STEM career despite sexism.—Kirkus Reviews

Mitchell's story is well-told in this book. Whimsical mixed-media collage enhance the narrative of her life.—Children's Literature

[A] gentle narrative celebrating diligence, problem solving, and community ...—Publishers Weekly (Praise for What Grew in Larry's Garden)

A well-told and attractive addition to biography collections, ideal for introducing famous astronomers, female scientists, or other pioneers in STEM fields.—School Library Journal, starred review

... rich in detail and whimsy ... This title is a positive addition to a historical personage whose attitude is still a role model today.—Canadian Children's Book News

Other titles by Laura Alary

Other titles by Ellen Rooney