Title: QUEEN OF PHYSICS: How WU CHIEN SHIUNG Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
Written by: Teresa Robeson
Illustrated by: Rebecca Huang
Sterling Children’s Books, 2019
For ages: 5 and up
Themes/topics: physics/physicists, stem, atoms, beta decay, women in science, Chinese Americans
In China, in the small town of Liuhe,
the Wu family celebrated the birth of a child.
The child was a girl.
What would become of her?
Meet Wu Chien Shiung, famous physicist who overcame prejudice to prove that she could be anything she wanted.
“Wu Chien Shiung’s story is remarkable—and so is the way this book does it justice.” —Booklist (Starred review)
When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she earned the admiration of famous scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer and became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honors.
Winner – 2020 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature Picture Book!
An NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended book!
Why I highly recommend this book:
Wu Chien Shiung was born in a small town in China in 1912, at a time when “girls were not sent to school, not considered as smart as boys, and certainly not encouraged to be scientists.” Luckily for Chien Shiung (which means “courageous hero”) her parents DID believe girls should go to school and strive to make a difference in the world. Through perseverance and a passion for math and physics, Chien Shiung excelled, traveling farther and farther from home to pursue her dreams. Eventually she traveled to the United States where she researched beta decay at Berkeley and then Columbia University.
With clear and engaging language, Robeson does a fabulous job of portraying Chien Shiung and her physics research. Chien Shiung faced enormous prejudice because she was a woman and because she was Asian. But she persevered, and continued to deepen her understanding of beta decay, leading to several important findings. And while she was overlooked for the Nobel Prize a heartbreaking three times, she was fittingly called the “queen of physics” by Newsweek magazine. I found this book fascinating and beautifully illustrated! Highly recommended biography of a woman who deserves widespread recognition.
Further Reading/Resources: Be sure to read the extensive backmatter, which includes additional details about Wu Chien Shiung’s life and an informative glossary. Also check out this list of physics classroom resources from the National Science Foundation: https://www.nsf.gov/news/classroom/physics.jsp
(For a colossal collection of picture book reviews, please visit this page on Susanna’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)